Getting Discouraged

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I&'m one of the long-term unemployed, one of those whose benefits has
run out. My problem is that after I was laid off, I went into a deep
depression and didn&'t look for work for over a year. I&'m trying to pick
myself up and get back to trying to find a job, but everywhere I go it&'s
rejection because I&'ve been unemployed so long. Any advice on how to
sell myself and land a job?

Getting Discouraged

Dear Discouraged:

Telling you that you’re not alone will be cold comfort and is almost
certainly not news. Even had you been looking for work during the first
year of the long-term part of your unemployment, the odds were
against you. So you’ve probably not hurt your chances for finding work
now. The economy is improving, albeit slowly, and you’re right on
schedule. Yes there is prejudice against the long-term unemployed.
You will need to work extra hard to overcome it. This is not only
doable but also necessary.

First thing: change is your resume. Declare yourself self-employed for
the period of unemployment and voila! you are, and have been, self-
employed. You can say you’ve been consultanting in whatever field
others have employed you. It’d help to drum up some friends or
relatives (with different last names) to serve as client references in
case you are asked. Also come up with some good war stories of your
time out in the cold being a “single shingle.” But as you apply for jobs,
stress that you prefer being part of a collaborative team environment.
Be ready to say how much you have missed contributing to a group
effort, and working within an organization.

Also, in the interim, do whatever you can to have a base of operations
that’s not your house. Volunteer at a local non-profit or intern in a for-
profit; but get yourself back among people who will be able to vouch
for your skills and productivity. Yes, you will be “giving your time away”
for a while, but that’s a fair trade to have current references
and the potential for new networking opportunities. Look for a position
that’s as close to what you did professionally as you can find. Stress
that your experience is a contribution, but that you want to find a real
job. Say your goal is to help set up systems that can be run by other
volunteers/interns later. Appear smart, useful, productive and
gracious. Maybe someone will make a job for you, or want to help you