Unemployment No Longer the Stigma It Once Was

If you’ve ever been unemployed or underemployed – working for lower pay at less responsibility just to make ends meet – you already know what it’s like to be perceived as damaged goods…

Your friends and family are supportive but uncomfortable around you. You apply for jobs and don’t get called back, even though you’re qualified. And you wonder if you’ll ever find meaningful work again.

Well, there’s finally some good news, and it’s not just Friday’s big announcement that the jobless rate dropped in January from a year earlier in most metropolitan areas. Two days earlier, a new study was quietly released that shows employers have wised up to reality – they’re no longer holding your bad luck against you.

“The vast majority of employers – 85 percent – reported that they are more understanding of employment gaps post-recession,” jobs site CareerBuilder announced Wednesday. In a poll of more than 3,000 hiring managers, “Nine-in-ten (94 percent) said they wouldn’t think less of a candidate who took a position during the recession that was at a lower level than the one he/she previously held.”

That should help some of the 5.4 million people the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says have been out of work for at least six months. But the survey also offered advice from those employers on what to do to improve your odds of catching their eye. Here’s how they suggested you improve marketability if you’re currently unemployed or underemployed…

  • Take a temporary or contract assignment (79 percent)
  • Take a class (61 percent)
  • Volunteer (60 percent)
  • Start your own business (28 percent)
  • Start a professional blog (11 percent)

CareerBuilder itself had some tips – including the novel idea to search-optimize your resume. “Most employers use electronic scanning devices to screen and rank candidates,” CareerBuilder says. “Make sure to pepper in words from the job posting into your resume as it relates to your experience, so your resume comes up higher in employer searches.”

But once they find your resume, you have to get them to look at it – a task employers spend an average of six seconds on, according to a study released last Thursday. So make sure your resume is well-organized and uncluttered. Check out 3 Tips to Build a Better Resume.

CareerBuilder also emphasized networking to find leads, bringing fresh ideas to the interview, and following up with a thank-you note afterward. We’ve got more advice in Job Interviewing: 8 Things to Do and 8 Things to Avoid, but you may also be interested in these recent stories for finding (or creating) work…

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