This is the most dreaded question for every unemployed job seeker. It seems to blame you for your unemployed status, and it puts you on the defensive. Don't rise to the bait! Often, the question is asked sympathetically. But it is still gut-wrenching.
It is both unfair and inaccurate to place all of the blame for unemployment solely on job seekers. Employers are less than perfect, too. In the current job market, technology has changed many of the "standard" practices. So it's a new ball game for both employers and job seekers.
So Why Are You Still Unemployed?
Many reasons exist for continued unemployment or we wouldn't currently have millions of people in the USA who are unemployed. These are some of the reasons:
1. You are unemployed.
Data show that, consciously or unconsciously, many employers discriminate against the unemployed, particularly those who have been unemployed for more than six months.
How to overcome:
- Carefully cultivate and maintain your professional image online -- a complete LinkedIn Profile plus visibility in the LinkedIn Groups -- that demonstrates the quality of your mind and your work. No nasty or unprofessional activity should be associated with your professional image.
- Be meticulous in your public persona and all of your correspondence with any employer - no spelling or grammatical errors.
- Be active: Volunteer in your field or something related to it, take short-term or temporary assignments in your field, take courses or training in your field
- Network actively. (More below.)
Over four million people land new jobs every month, and many of them are unemployed. Unemployment is a handicap that millions of job seekers overcome every year.
2. You may not be "putting your best foot forward" for every opportunity.
Succeeding in a job search today requires your very best efforts, and that's tough, particularly after months of job hunting! Competition is keen, so employers can be very picky. And they are being very picky.
How to overcome:
- Before you apply for any job, read and answer these four important questions first.
- Very carefully prepare your response to each job opportunity.
- Be visible and well-behaved on LinkedIn. Resist the urge to tell someone they're an idiot, to blast your former employer, and other similar things. Pretend a recruiter for your target employer is looking over your shoulder and reading what you write, because they may well see what you have published.
- Prepare very thoroughly for every job interview. Competition is too tough for you to "wing it" and be more impressive than your competition.
- Don't make any misrepresentations on your job search documents (LinkedIn Profile, Google Plus Profile, resumes, applications, etc.). It's too easy in these days of Google and social media to track down the truth.
Don't job search in isolation. MUCH has changed since your last job search (even if that was in 2013). Find a buddy, join a job club, go to one of the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Career OneStop Centers (also known as American Job Centers), or hire a well-researched job search coach (ask for and check references, first).
3. You are not doing enough networking.
When we are unemployed, we're often embarrassed. So we avoid getting out and meeting people. We even avoid family and friends. This is very bad for a successful job search.
How to overcome:
- Don't think of it as "Networking." Think of it as getting together with friends. Meeting new people. Having fun!
- Step away from your computer (after you finish reading this article), and make a call to meet a friend for coffee later.
- Contact that former colleague or boss you really liked.
- Reach out to a former classmate who might work for one of your target employers.
- Do Harvard Business School Professor Cuddy's "Power Poses" in private -- at the start of a tough day, before a job interview, or prior to a stressful networking meeting. In just two minutes, you will feel better. Seriously!
In family gatherings as well as job interviews, get more comfortable answering uncomfortable questions like:
- Why did you lose your job? Give an answer that doesn't trash your former employer. Keep it neutral, factual, and short.
- What are you looking for? NO, you can't do "anything." Help people help you by giving them keywords to remember. Tell them the jobs and employers you want next.
- Where do you want to work? Answer with your target employers -- or class of employers -- like "Big Bank A and Big Bank B or other big banks in our city." Whatever is appropriate for you. Don't try to "keep all your options open" by being vague. It doesn't work now. Be VERY specific!
Prepare your responses to those questions, if asked, and once you have answered move on to the next topic. Or, in a networking situation, tell the person exactly what you are looking for, and ask if they know anyone at one of your target employers.
Go For It!
It's an imperfect world. Don't accept all the blame for your lack of employment, because certainly most employers could improve both their process and the way they treat job seekers. Make your best efforts to find a good job, and continue to read HuffingtonPost for the latest and greatest on what is working in job search today.
More on Effective Job Search
- Party Your Way to a New Job
- 3 Bad Assumptions About Networking for Your Job Search
- LinkedIn and Your Resume: Strong Job Search Success Team
- The Simple LinkedIn Mistake That Is Killing Job Opportunities
- 10 Steps from Job Interview to Job Offer
- What 80% of Employers Do Before Inviting You in for an Interview
Follow me on GooglePlus and Twitter (@JobHuntOrg) for more job search tips. Join the Job-Hunt Help LinkedIn Group for more help with your job search. This article was original posted on WorkCoachCafe.com.
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is also a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In addition to HuffingtonPost.com, Susan also contributes to AOL Jobs, LinkedIn, YouTern.com, NextAvenue.org, and BrazenCareerist.