Hope for the Job Seeker
August 21, 2017 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My partner has been unemployed for a year now and I want to be as encouraging to him as possible. How can I help?

Last year my partner was let go of his position at a tech company. Unfortunately, that was his 4th layoff in as many years (eliminating position, downsizing, downsizing, merger). It's now been a year since the layoff and while he's trying to keep himself busy, it's hard not to feel pretty hopeless after a year of nothing. He's had (seemingly great!) interviews, but nothing pans out. He is currently enrolled in a Master's degree program (in Org Leadership) to help boost his knowledge/skills, but still nothing. His background is mostly Help Desk type positions and would like to be a team lead or manager, but can't even get a nibble on the non-manager positions.

This encouragement is not only for him, but for me too-- I'm worried that he may be hitting a cycle of un-/underemployment and how that effects our goals and attitudes for the future. How do people move forward from unemployment? What steps can he take? If you have a hopeful story of the good after extended unemployment, please share!
posted by thefang to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can only offer feedback on the last sentence: I am currently in my seventh year of employment after 19 months of unemployment prior. I can say it leaves you with a useful sense of frugality and appreciation for what most people normally take for granted, and helps divorce you from materialism even further.

If it helps for diagnostic purposes, I think the frequency of layoffs -- despite evidently not being his fault -- is probably what is problematic for him this time. Many people don't bother to look at layoff causes and will merely say "four layoffs in four years = risky." I'd say that's likely the poison pill on his resume.

If there is another field his work can translate into, I would suggest he try that -- merely to get some longevity at a new position. Or if he can get work at a temp agency.

Failing that, if he/you have the funds, I'd see if you can retain a resume doctor. Not "doctor his resume" -- this is someone who polishes.

Finally, they say that every single time you apply nowadays, you need to adapt your resume so it contains the keywords within the job advertisement -- so that you can get past the automated screeners many agencies/corporations have in place.

I truly wish you luck.
posted by WCityMike at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he's getting interviews, but not beyond that, I wonder if there's something that's getting badly handled at that point - where he's maybe having trouble articulating the layoffs well, or if there's something in the reference checks that's going badly.

The first one can be fixed with practice - I did a lot of figuring out how to explain the arc of my career in ways that were accurate but sounded reasonable in interviews.

On the other hand, it's also entirely possible to do a bunch of great interviews and just come in second a lot. Especially in a competitive field. My last job hunt, I had 14 interviews, one offer, and maybe would have gotten to another if I'd not pulled out.

I was out of a work for a year before that job (some of which was academic hiring cycle timing, which complicated some things.) My interviews really picked up when a significant volunteer project I was working on came off well (in March of that year, when I'd been unemployed for about 9 months) and I had something I could talk about energetically and enthusiastically. I got hired for the job after that in late May.

Concrete school-related projects or activities might give the same effect, but it was the 'can talk about this sort of related skills thing with confidence and obvious enthusiasm' that really helped.
posted by modernhypatia at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Agree with WCityMike that hiring a resume pro is hugely helpful. It really accelerated my past two job searched. MeMail me if you'd like a rec. It's pricey, but worth it.

One thing that helped me, mindset-wise, during an extended unemployment period, was to only do job-searching stuff during "work hours." It's really easy to feel like you should be spending 100% of your time looking for a job, but that's not realistic. If it's after 5pm or on a weekend, unless he's got an interview the next day or something, it's totally ok to enjoy leisure time.
posted by radioamy at 4:03 PM on August 21, 2017

Is he willing to switch industries? Is he good with people? I work in F and B/hotels and we are always longing for people who aren't burnouts or teenagers or drunks. He could be a concierge, front desk, host, room service person (harder) waiter (considerably harder, assuming no exp) or any number of things based on your area, his other skills, and his ability to learn quick and be reliable. It could at least get some funds coming in and get him out of a rut. Hell, dishwashing jobs in restaurants can be pretty zen. Mefemail me if you want pointers on how to get hired in that sector with limited experience, I've helped a couple people break in over the years.
posted by vrakatar at 4:10 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

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