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What's taking so long?

Many job seekers are having a long stretch of unemployment before they land a new position these days. For some, it's self-inflicted. For some, it's external circumstances. And for some, it's actually a blessing.

While most people could be doing more to speed up their job search, there are many factors to be considered, and ways they should be communicating their circumstances to friends, relatives, and potential employers.

Here are some things to consider…


Now's the time! If you are to have a gap in your employment, now is the time to have it. Employers generally understand that it's been a very tough couple of years in the job market, and for the most part, don't get overly concerned about a significant current gap between jobs. Compared to times of booming job markets, like the late '90's or mid-2000's, a current gap is generally not considered to be a red flag.

The higher level, or more specialized position, the longer the search. Even during the best economies, it takes significantly longer to land a VP level position, than it does a mid-level staff position. There are fewer jobs at that level. While a large company may have what seems to be an army of financial analysts, there may be only a handful of directors and one VP. When there are fewer jobs in existence, it's more difficult to find one open, much less find one that is the right fit for your background.

At times, I talk to people who found new jobs very quickly earlier in their careers, however, have now been at their last company for a number of years and progressed to higher level positions. They are frustrated that it's taking them longer to find a new job, forgetting there are fewer of appropriate jobs out there. Friends and family are so surprised they are struggling since they consider them "so highly qualified". The same dynamics are often true with highly specialized positions as well. A "Power Supply Design Engineer" at a specialized electronics manufacturing company will have a more difficult time finding their next role than a Staff Accountant. Always consider the numbers of potential opportunities that could exist.

It may be a blessing in disguise! I've spoken to many people in the last couple of years that realized that while they did not want to lose their jobs, it worked out to be a very good thing for them. Some people were free to care for a dying parent, or ill spouse or child. Others got an opportunity to spend time and create a more solid relationship with their children while they were still young. Some found that the imposed 'sabbatical' from their careers gave them the stress-relief and rest that they didn't realize they desperately needed. And some used the time to make changes in their career direction that they would never have made if they weren't forced into a gap. Look for the side benefits in your current circumstances!

Are you doing all you can? Certainly the length of time of unemployment MAY be due to self-inflicted reasons. Are you doing all you can to move your job search forward. Are you networking effectively, preparing for interviews thoroughly, doggedly pursuing every lead, and does your attitude project a positive, inviting image? I'm often surprised that for many people, they are able to find jobs very quickly once their unemployment benefits run out. Once they don't have a 'safety net' any longer, they get much more intense and serious about their job search efforts. I find that true at every level, from non-skilled labor job seekers, to senior level executives. What would you do differently if your money were to run out tomorrow?

Employers often understand the dynamics of the current job market and the legitimate reasons you may have been taking a long time to land your next position. Your spouse, your neighbors, or your in-laws may not. Examine your circumstances carefully, determine if there's something else you can do, and be prepared to better communicate the challenges to those you talk to!


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Daly @ HypoallergenicDogFood said...

As for the spouse and in-laws that may not understand the current job market and similar things - just remind them that you are doing the best you can and that their job is to be supportive

David Hunt, PE said...

"... a current gap is generally not considered to be a red flag."


Just google "discrimination against unemployed".

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