When You’ve Been Looking For a Long Time

June 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

In this job market, long-term searches are becoming increasingly common. As the monthly jobless statistics indicate, the number of job seekers who have been looking for six months, a year or even more is higher than at any other time in decades. And because the government typically stops tracking those who have been searching for a job after their unemployment benefits run out, it’s unclear how many searches go on past a year or 18 months, and also how many “discouraged” job seekers there are out there who have stopped actively looking for work.

I’ve heard lately from a number of journalists and other professionals stuck in this situation, and they tend to be not only frustrated and anxious about their searches but sometimes peeved at others who though well-meaning  just can’t seem to understand their angst. And it’s difficult to know how to help those mired in a long-term search. Though you want to be upbeat and supportive, often your standard advice seems shallow and pointing to those with similar skills who have landed well can seem counter-productive (and a little mean-spirited, even if your intentions are good).

Hiring experts, though, have some suggestions for ways to try to reinvigorate a long-term search, as well as tips for friends seeking to support a job hunter who has been at this for a long time. These include:

*Set new deadlines. Nearly all job seekers give themselves deadlines for finding a job — within three months to six months of a layoff, by the end of the summer, before the unemployment insurance ends, for instance. But if you’ve blown past these deadlines, you need new ones, and ones that are realistic and help you move forward. For instance, it may be smart to say that you’ll take a part-time or temporary job for now and spend the rest of your time taking some online courses to polish your skills so that you can have a job in your field by the start of the new year. Giving yourself new deadlines can help you give your search a fresh start. And then reevaluate those deadlines as they come closer and extend them if necessary — especially if you’re on the right path.

*Hit the “pause” button in your job search. If you’ve had no luck finding a job in your field, it may be time to get off what has become a dead end and head down a new road. But before you start looking for a job in a new area, give yourself a break. If your unemployment insurance has run out and you’ve depleted your savings, take a job, any job — in retail or sales, for instance, where professionals can often get hourly work; or temporary work — to pay the bills while you reevaluate what you want to do and how you plan to search differently this time. If you have some financial cushion, take some time off from the search — a sort of vacation from the job hunt — while you do free-lance or other work you enjoy, and from a perch where you can rethink things. Ask yourself what hasn’t been working, what you really want to do, and whether you have the skills to do it. Think big-picture, and ask yourself and those close to you lots of questions about what you think might be the right fit for your expertise and talents. It’s tough out there, but often those who aren’t securing jobs may be shooting too high or for the wrong kind of positions for their skills and expertise.

*Get professional help. And, ala the advice columnists, I’m not necessarily talking therapy, though if you’re depressed (and who wouldn’t be after a long and frustrating job search?) it’s important to see a medical professional. There is also help for job hunters. Find a low-cost job search skills course offered by your local community college, a community association or the state (or D.C.) government. Or talk to others who are hunting about forming your own support group. If you’re a friend of someone who has been looking for a long time, don’t only offer them advice or support but help them help others in this situation — it will energize them and studies have found that job hunters do much better when they have the support of others in their situation.

*Do something good for yourself in your non-job-hunting life. Distracting yourself from your job search — even for a few hours — may help energize things and take some of the sting out of long-term unemployment. Volunteering, in particular, has emotional and intellectual benefits. Find an organization that needs your help, join (or start) a book club, go back to a physical activity that you enjoy. During this time, try (hard as it may be) not to think about your job search or your career, and focus instead on this activity or endeavor. And friends of the long-term unemployed should help in this cause and should show interest in these activities, instead of starting conversations with “How’s the job search going?”

*The following piece on cnnmoney.com — about how some employers won’t consider anyone who isn’t currently employed — is getting a fair amount of attention in the work-search world, including in online chats among recruiters. Some say it’s poppycock — that they’ll consider good candidates who have lost their jobs — while others say they tend to agree. The good news for journalists is because of the rampant dislocation in our industry (which often had nothing to do with performance) this tends to be less true. Though it does underscore two things about job hunting: the cliche about it being easier to get a job when you have a job still holds some currency, and there is often a layoff or buyout “discount” applied in hiring. Food for thought:


*Here are some good leads to start off the work week:

*The National Protection and Programs Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security has an opening in D.C. for a deputy assistant secretary for communications:

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Communications
National Protection and Programs Directorate – Washington, DC
Communications) for Cybersecurity and Communications… cyber and communications capabilities. The incumbent has responsibility over the communications mission… $119,554 – $179,700 a year
From usajobs.gov

*FINRA in Rockville is looking for an associate director for HR communications (this position includes editing and writing):

Associate Director- HR Communications
FINRA – Rockville, MD
maintain master HR communications calendar; write and… communications work, including message development, communications planning and customized communications
From WSJ.com/Careers

*This next opening looks like it might be interesting for a transitioning journalist, especially one with knowledge about education — the National Education Association (NEA) in D.C. is looking for an organizational specialist in membership and organizing:

Organizational Specialist (Membership & Organizing) #H025, AFSE
National Education Association (NEA) – Washington, DC
and mutually-developed projects. Excellent communication (both oral and written), interpersonal, and… public relations, communications, and/or legislative…
From National Education Association (NEA)

*The Agriculture, Animal and Plant Inspection Service in Riverdale, Md., part of the Agriculture Department, has an opening for a supervisory communications specialist:

Supervisory Communications Specialist
Agriculture, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service – Riverdale, MD
internal communication and training needs in BRS;… education, training and experience with developing and implementing integrated communication strategies… $89,033 – $136,771 a year
From usajobs.gov

*PDS Tech is hiring for a six-month position in D.C. for a Web content producer/editor:

Web Content Producer / Journalist / Editor (5031) – GZ
PDS Tech, Inc. – Washington, DC
This 6 month assignment in D.C. does not require a 4-year degree or a security clearance…however there will be a background check and a drug screen. We are… $55.35 an hour
From sologig

*The Environmental Defense Fund in D.C. has an opening for a Web managing editor:

Web Managing Editor
Environmental Defense Fund – Washington, DC
As the Web Managing Editor you will work with the… of our key Programs and editors, develop a high-level online communications strategy that leverages our…
From JobThread

*The Alliance to Save Energy in D.C. is looking for a vice president of communications:

Vice President, Communications
Alliance to Save Energy – Washington, DC
Communications and Operations Team: CommunicationsCommunications and Operations, the Vice President for Communications serves as the chief communications… $110,000 – $140,000 a year
From RetiredBrains

*Freddie Mac in McLean has an opening for a strategic communications director:

Strategic Communications Dir
Freddie Mac – McLean, VA
all-employee communications and announcements. Develop integrated communications strategies and plans and oversee execution of all communications for assigned…
From Freddie Mac

*On the Hill, Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat from S.C. who is the Majority Whip in the House, has an opening in his office for a press secretary:

The Office of the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives is seeking a Press Secretary. Qualified candidates should have strong writing and editing skills, experience working with the media, ability to multi-task and meet tight deadlines, strong organizational skills and Hill experience. The Press Secretary will be responsible for, but not limited to, drafting statements and press releases, responding to press inquiries, scheduling interviews, preparing briefing memos and talking points, managing website and new media content, conducting research, managing interns, and publishing daily clips. Interested applicants should email a resume and two writing samples to whippressjob@gmail.com.

*And last but not least today, POLITICO in Arlington is offering one-year fellowships, starting Oct. 1,  to promising reporters interested in developing expertise in political and congressional news coverage:


Happy hunting!



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