How are we helping the long-term unemployed?

Long-term unemployed

By Sharon Graham.

Although the average duration of unemployment in Canada is about five months, many Canadians face an extended search. Since the start of the recession, the number of individuals who have been looking for work for over a year has more than doubled – and it seems that this number is still rising. A strong support system is crucial to success for those who find themselves in a protracted job search. We need to do what we can to help with current concerns and potential ramifications.

Career transition can be stressful for any job seeker, and when the search is prolonged, it becomes increasingly difficult. There is a stigma associated with being unemployed for a long period. Employers tend to favour candidates who are active in the workforce over those who have not worked for a while. As the search progresses, the unemployed person feels less “in touch” with the working world; camaraderie from colleagues dissipates and business relationships weaken. With time, financial resources deplete, support from family members wanes, and the situation becomes dire. This can seriously affect an individual’s mental health, well-being, and family situation.

Leaders in the Career Development industry are working towards ensuring that the needs of the long-term unemployed are adequately addressed. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) determined that almost 175,000 long-term unemployed are having difficulty rebounding from the recession. The OECD attributes this primarily to a “skills mismatch” in the labour market and they are calling on governments to find new ways to help the long-term unemployed find jobs or be retrained. Those in an active search for a while are generally open to career change and flexible in terms of relocation. With enhanced transferrable skills and career support, they will be in a better position to find and keep new work.

A new Canada Job Grant Program, as it currently stands, would shift $300 million in funding away from critical employment services for those who are unemployed but not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. This will have serious implications for the long-term unemployed. Sareena Hopkins represented the Canadian Council for Career Development (CCCD) at a Round Table hosted by Premiers Christy Clark (BC) and David Alward (NB) to discuss this proposed program. According to Sareena, “many delegates, including industry representatives, spoke to the need to enhance rather than reduce programming for those with low labour market attachment, marginalized citizens, and those with barriers to employability.” This program is evolving as discussions at the federal and provincial levels continue. You can read Sareena Hopkins’ complete report here.

We know that older job seekers are most at risk for long-term unemployment. Baby boomers continue to play a big part in the Canadian workforce so we can expect these statistics to climb. Our aging workforce is a concern, but the exclusive expertise that an experienced worker brings is undeniable. We must continue to allocate resources to support, re-skill, and rejuvenate those who are finding it increasingly difficult to return and reintegrate into the labour market. Here is a tip sheet you can share with someone who is struggling with long-term unemployment.

Tip Sheet for the Long-Term Unemployed

Know That You Are Not Alone – Everyone going through a job search encounters setbacks. Most people are turned down from time to time. This is expected to occur in the job search process. Do not let such unfortunate incidents dissuade you from continuing your search. Every step you take brings you closer to achieving your goal.

Break the Process Down Into Achievable Steps – The job search process can be a long and agonizing exercise. The secret to keeping focused is to break down the process into manageable steps, which you can achieve every day. By completing certain steps, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by the “big goal” of securing a job.

Make a “To-Do” List – Simply write a daily or weekly “to do” list. You can then make a check mark against every item you have completed as you accomplish that goal. The list provides you with physical and psychological evidence that you are making progress in your job search. The more progress you experience, the more positive you’ll feel and therefore the more motivated you’ll be.

Choose Quality over Quantity – It is important to avoid letting the numbers get you down during your job search. The quantity of jobs for which you apply is not nearly as important as the quality. Concentrate your efforts on applying for jobs that you really want and for which you can best demonstrate your suitability. You’ll be more satisfied with a few solid interviews where you can confidently demonstrate your fit.

Embrace ongoing Learning – Open up to the possibility of a career change. Most employers value professionals who embrace ongoing learning and development. Consider upgrading your skills through additional professional development. Engage in meaningful activities where you will learn and grow in new areas.

Reconnect with Friends and Colleagues – Networking does not have to be uncomfortable. The best way to do this is by getting in touch with people you already know. Seek out some people you would like to reconnect with and take them out for a “catch up” session at the local coffee shop. Your personal contacts will be able to help you to brainstorm and come up with new ideas for your job search.

Join a Networking Group – Networking groups can be a great source of comfort during a long job search. Consider joining forces with other professionals by meeting with them regularly. This is a great way to keep your self-esteem intact and to overcome the terrible isolation that often accompanies a job search.

Get Back in the Game – A lengthy job search can make you feel like you are “out of the loop.” To keep current, get involved in something you care about. You might want to perform some community work, volunteer your services, or job-shadow a colleague. Getting involved in the working world is a great way to rejuvenate your search while keeping your skills current.

Take Advantage of Resources – Look into programs and funding by visiting your local government-supported employment resource centre. You may be eligible to participate in a program through Service Canada, Second Careers Canada, Ontario Works, or Human Resources Development Canada.

Talk to Recruiters on the Phone – It is important to be proactive in your job search in order to stay optimistic. No matter how hard it is to take the first step, you must pick up the phone and contact recruitment firms directly. Do not get discouraged if a recruiter doesn’t have a suitable job available at the time of your call. If the recruiter knows you, you are most likely to get called when the right job order comes along.

Write Your Personal Success Story – The job search process can be a roller coaster ride with constant highs and lows. If the blues are starting to creep into your life, try taking some time to write a short “Personal Success Story”. Probe into your history and talk about an accomplishment or achievement from the past. During your next interview, you will have a great new personal success story to relate.

Catch Up on Your Thank-You Letters – If you have not been diligent in sending “Thank-You” letters to all the people who have interviewed you, this is the time to catch up. By sending a thank-you letter, you are imparting the message that you are gracious. In addition, you are once again raising your name in the mind of the interviewer.

Learn to Cope With Rejection – Rejections can crush your confidence and seriously impact your job search. Try to adopt a defence strategy. Work hard on keeping a positive attitude by regularly reading the items that you have completed on your “to do” lists, reviewing the accomplishments that you have listed in your résumé, reading your personal success stories, and giving yourself frequent pep talks. Remember that every “no” means that you are one step closer to a “yes”.

Don’t Quit – Do not ever let the rejection become so demoralizing that you’re ready to drop out of the job search process. A wave of self-pity is a normal reaction after a rejection, but it is a grave error to give up. Persist with your search so you have something new to look forward to. It’s always better to be working on a new opportunity which is on the horizon.

Take Good Care of Yourself – Make sure that you keep a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Work on recognizing the physical symptoms that signal stress. Use relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, in stressful situations. Take occasional short breaks from work. Keep to a regularly scheduled exercise routine. Make time for leisure activities such as hobbies or sports. Eat healthy meals at appropriate times. Restrict intake of alcohol, tobacco, or un-prescribed medications.

Ask For Help – Everybody needs help from time to time. If you feel your confidence slipping, ask for help. Be honest and explain how you are feeling. Sometimes, all it takes is an understanding person to listen to your concerns, provide you with support, and help you to regain your momentum. If you feel you need additional support, seek help from an experienced professional.

Tip Sheet to Combat Ageism

Sharon Graham is CANADA’S CAREER STRATEGIST and author of the top-selling BEST CANADIAN RESUMES SERIES. Founder and executive director of CAREER PROFESSIONALS OF CANADA, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment and career transition, Sharon provides career practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians.

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