The Desk

September 5, 2011

Career Tip: Rethinking Unemployment

Filed under: Career Tips,Job Search — Yvonne LaRose @ 2:54 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Last month we took a look at explaining gaps in employment. We talked about explaining the phenomenon called “unemployment.” No matter how we look at it at first blush, being unemployed carries negative connotations.

Or does it? Perhaps we should start looking at periods of unemployment from a new perspective and with a new mind set. It’s time for us to apply a new definition to that word.

In the Bulletins, we have a special folder for Classes & Trainings where the Vocabulary Builders live. There, I ask members of that community to supply definitions to that week’s terms. Those definitions can be from a dictionary or merely how that person defines the term. The point is to begin understanding the way a particular person uses the term and learn new ways to interpret the terms while essentially growing to learn how to understand others.

At SHRM meetings, there is a time when new situations are presented to the members who are “in transition.” In other words, their last employment ended before they secured a new one. They are in a period of deciding whether to continue traveling along the same road (the same career path) or whether they want to try something new.

The trouble is there’s a huge world of jobs and careers. It takes time to identify which is the right new path to follow in order to make meaningful presentations of the existing skill sets that make a person qualified for that situation. Or it takes time to decide which skill sets should be exploited that will help to maximize capturing the existing opportunities.

Did you notice the new ways of expressing “job search” while not using the expression “being unemployed”? Can you come up with some other ways to talk about this time?

It’s actually a time of looking for a new door’s being opened so you can walk through it. Meanwhile, there are some other concepts that need to be conquered and vanquished. “Unemployed” sort of suggests that there’s a time of being idle, which is probably far from the case. There’s a danger in having that type of mindset during this period. Thinking of yourself as idle leads to conceiving yourself as not very worthy. That will in turn color the tone and style of responding to interviewing questions and downplaying yourself and accomplishments.

The other danger is forgetting about the accomplishments that are being made as well as the experience that’s still being acquired. When those are forgotten, overlooked, or discounted, they don’t get added to the resume. Allowing those situations to continue, we become depressed and are vulnerable to the least criticism about the short-term current circumstances.

Instead of talking about being unemployed, look at the things that you are doing. Projects for hire or voluntary projects with an organization are actually spontaneous work situations. Being the leader of a committee or the organizer of a project can be worthy of being mentioned. Remember to put it on your resume. But make the experience memorable. Talk about the statistics involved with the endeavor or the fact that you were the vanguard for many other sections of your group. Together, they made the organization a notable leader. You provided spontaneous counseling on some aspect or were involved in coordinating the establishment of something. Again, remember to include the statistics involved with the endeavor so that it has meaning and impact; it gained positive results over a particular period of time or at the end of the project or it caused a change for the better.

You haven’t been sleeping during this time that you’ve been away from the formal workplace. You’ve been doing things that have merit and deserve your acknowledging them – a bit like those awards that the woman kept in the linen closet. You have been active, gaining knowledge and expertise, and growing in your appreciation of various scenarios. You’ve been building character and strength during times of duress. You’ve been developing your resourcefulness. Start keeping a record of those projects, whether you consider them professional work or not, and list a few of them on your resume as part of the “Accomplishments” section. They were a type of work while you were looking for a more permanent, long-term paid situation during your transition.

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