Economic Woes and Work Breaks

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

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Examine the statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports double-digit unemployment in the US. The Great Recession presses on, affecting millions both employed and unemployed. Those unemployed are finding it takes longer now to secure a job than ever before. As periods of unemployment drag on, many job seekers worry about the impression the gap in employment will have on prospective employers. What will hiring managers think if they see you’ve been out of work for nine months or a year or more?

Many job seekers believe an extended period of unemployment is a commentary on their professional value or performance. If that were true, it would mean over 10% of the population has been sidelined because they are poor workers. When stated in those terms, it becomes obvious unemployment is not a personal reflection on a job seeker’s abilities, value, or intelligence. In this recession, unemployment is simply a comment on the economy. Companies have to cut budgets and payrolls are most affected.

As a job seeker, once you get your mind around that perspective, you won’t find the period of your unemployment quite so intimidating. It’s not your fault you were laid off! Unemployment is not some kind of negative mark against you. It’s life. It happens. Staying mentally positive and not seeing unemployment as some sort of unspoken black mark on your record is very important to the success of your job search.

Attitude is everything. Job search is marketing, and to market/sell something well, you have to believe in it and have a positive attitude. Ask any sales person and he will tell you that to really sell well, it is vital to believe in the product and approach the sales process with a can-do mentality. That principle applies when marketing your professional skills and experience in a job search. You have to believe you are valuable. If you are unemployed and think you are unemployable because of that fact, then you are. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Additionally, your attitude will bleed into your resume and cover letter if you allow it. If you are negative about your job search, you will unintentionally communicate negativity in your job search marketing. If you are positive, it will also show. When addressing a date gap on the resume, think first of your attitude. Do you see a date gap as a bad thing or something neutral? How do you think an employer views date gaps?

In today’s economic environment, date gaps are common, especially recent date gaps. What is the best way to handle date gaps on the resume or in the interview? There are several strategies that work well.

It’s no big deal. If you have been unemployed for six months or less, it is reasonable to not address the last six months on the resume at all! You can simply list the dates of your last job in years only, with the current year being the last date on the resume. Employers know how long job searches are lasting in this recession, so it’s not surprising or unusual. Start trying to overly explain the gap of the last few months, and you will seem frantic on paper which raises concern. The following is an example of desperate over explanation:

2009 – Present        Employment search following involuntary lay off as a result of negative economic conditions and complete collapse of construction industry. First time in 15 year not fully employed. Had perfect attendance and outstanding evaluations for entire career.

Be brief and positive. Many people take the opportunity of unemployment to pursue further education or professional development. Sometimes, a period of unemployment can be a well-timed sabbatical that can be addressed briefly yet positively in the resume. Bringing that information into the resume can serve as a positive. See the following techniques:

2009 – Present        Pursuit of PMP designation. Expected completion May, 2010.

Career Note:  Professional sabbatical to care of terminally ill parent, 2008 – 2010.

2009 – Present        Full-time study to complete Master of Science – Accounting. Graduation expected August, 2010

Date gaps become problematic when they are extensive and unexplained. If you have a ten-year gap in your employment, it should be addressed because it stands out like a sore thumb. If you don’t give an explanation, you allow the reader’s imagination to run wild, and naturally, the worst case scenarios will spring to mind. When that happens, you allow the date gap to overshadow your qualifications for the position. A straightforward approach to the elephant in the room is usually the best strategy for minimizing any negative impact, either real or imagined.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Outsourced Employees: What to Expect When Working Abroad

There has long been a stigma regarding Americans outsourcing American jobs abroad – but now it seems that we are outsourcing our employees as well.

Hannah Seligson of the New York Times reported earlier this week on a growing trend among American graduates: finding jobs in China when there seem to be no jobs to be found in the U.S.

“Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.” She reported, adding “They are lured by China’s surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.”

To get a first hand opinion on the topic, we decided to talk to Matt Hidayat, a 2007 graduate of UCLA with a B.A. in International Development Studies, about his experiences working abroad shortly after graduation. One year ago, he decided to take on a temporary position at a private educational company in Korea.

Hidayat cites lack of jobs at home as the main motivating factor for agreeing to work overseas. “After applying for jobs in the U.S. for 3-4 months, I decided to look elsewhere. I just couldn’t find a job here that would pay me the kind of starting salary I needed to live on my own.” Hidayat says he had reservations about going abroad, but when he found a job with a promising paycheck, he jumped on the opportunity.

This trend for recent graduates to broaden their career search outside of the realm of their homeland is understandable, and many would call it a smart approach to a pressing unemployment issue. For some, embracing a job opportunity abroad has the potential to turn into an invaluable experience, allowing them to grow personally and professionally. The benefits are obvious and will often include enhanced skills, a wider perspective, and a stronger resume.

According to Hidayat, his work experience in Korea greatly enhanced his basic managerial and organizational skills – clearly useful traits for the job market. Another benefit is that working in a completely different culture forces people out of their comfort zones, and employers will likely recognize that and applaud them for it.

Interviewing for the New York Times, Jonathan Woetzel, a partner with McKinsey & Company in Shanghai, said that while work experience abroad was not an automatic ticket to a great job back at home, “At McKinsey, we are looking for people who have demonstrated leadership, and working in a context like China builds character, requires you to be a lot more entrepreneurial and forces you to innovate.”

But don’t pack your bags and work clothes just yet. While there are clear benefits to taking up work opportunities abroad, there are potential drawbacks as well. While at first glance overseas jobs may seem like a perfect replacement for lost employment opportunities at home, it’s important to keep an eye on the differences between the two. Each country has its own employment peculiarities, and career specifics that are standard in the U.S. may not apply elsewhere.

“One piece of advice that I would give to people looking at jobs overseas is to review your contract before you decide on a job.” Warns Hidayat, “Cultural differences abound and you should make sure of the benefits that you may take for granted in the U.S. Being familiar with the vacation time, sick days, and reviewing the policies of the company that you are planning to work for is a good idea, no matter the country in which you plan on working.”

Another thing to keep in mind is the economic climate abroad. A foreign job implies a foreign wage, and sometimes quite a lot can get lost in translation. In Hidayat’s case, the difference worked against him. He started out making a very decent salary by US standards, but the Korean won depreciated while he was still working abroad and Hidayat lost 20% of his wage in the process.

When asked if he would repeat his foreign work experience, Hidayat gives a clear and simple “No.”

However when asked to elaborate, he sounds a bit more optimistic. “There are definitely some good, high paying jobs abroad and it is possible to have an excellent experience.” Says Hidayat, “But the reality is no one wants to go outside the country for a job unless they have to or unless they’ve never been abroad. And I’ve had a chance to travel quite a bit before this so that wasn’t the case for me. But if it’s the first time you’re leaving the country, then you can and should take it as an adventure, rather than a career opportunity.”

Here at Doostang we agree that career experiences abroad can be very beneficial when searching for employment in the U.S., whether you decide to head for China, Korea, Europe, or to another part of the world. Just make sure you do your research ahead of time and consider all sides of such a daring career move. So if you’ve in the mood to expand your horizons, you can always check out some of the jobs abroad we have posted on Doostang.

And sometimes it’s not necessary to make that intercontinental leap. Doostang successfully matches top university grads with some of the best positions in finance, consulting, media, technology, and advertising every day, and new jobs are constantly being added. So if you’re feeling fed up with the job market and are about ready to skip town because of it, give Doostang a test run and let us know what you think. With over 7,500 premium jobs and 550,000 members, we’re confident that we can help you create meaningful connections and discover jobs that help you to get hired and stay ahead.

Happy Job Hunting,

Your oh-so-multicultural Doostang Team

Job Search Got You Down? Words of Wisdom from the “Funemployed”

It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the unemployed nation by storm: Funemployment. Defined by Urban Dictionary as “The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life”, funemployment (or ‘paycation’ as it is sometimes called) has become a buzzword to describe a subculture of atypical ex-employees who have somehow waded through the shock and horror of joblessness and ended up alive and kicking on the other side.

Searching for a new job can be daunting at times, there’s no doubt about that. The seemingly endless stream of applications and dead-ends is enough to leave any member of the newly idled workforce ready to throw in the towel and start making under-funded videos on YouTube. But for a select few, this dreaded suspension from traditional employment has morphed into a unique opportunity to step away from the 9-5 lifestyle.

But seriously.  The national unemployment rate climbed to 9.7% in June, the highest it has been since the 80’s. In light of this, there’s one piece of advice we would all like you – the best, brightest, and most innovative unemployment force America has ever seen – to take away. Keep your cool, step back, and breathe. In the words of Monty Python: always look on the bright side of life. Pick up something that you’ve always wanted to pursue but never had the time for. Learn how to skateboard, join a knitting club, start a blog, or play matchmaker for your sister’s awkward oldest son.

Staying calm and taking advantage of your down time by doing things you love not only saves you a lot of stress, but makes you more attractive to potential employers when you finally do decide to don your suit once more.

So what will you do to stave off the post-layoff blues? In the end, it’s up to you. But whatever you decide, this is one Doostang team that is with you all the way.

Until Next Time,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Doostang