Being long-term unemployed is hard enough but there is the double whammy of the stigma attached to the status too.
Some employers reject candidates outright who, through no fault of their own, haven’t worked for over a year. However there is a way back to work if you take the right approach according to our panel of experts.
*The* most important thing you can do to boost your chances on the jobs market after a long spell away is to update your skills.
Enrol on - and complete - one of the many free courses available and you’ll see a ripple-effect of positivity. This includes a huge lift to your confidence and morale, as you’ll be meeting and learning alongside people in the same situation as you, and practising professional skills in a safe place.
This extra training will help convince a potential employer that you have the drive and commitment to succeed, as well as having tangible and relevant skills.
Retrain for free
Register with a job centre that works alongside sector-based academies. These are funded by the Government and have a remit to get people back into work. They typically team up with companies that offer jobs to candidates who have been on a suitable training course.
Academy-run courses teach technical skills necessary to the job, such as health and safety but also softer skills like conflict management.
If you’ve been out of work for a long time, it’s absolutely vital to explain the reasons why to employers. So whether you’ve brought up a family, felt unwell, went travelling or simply been unlucky in the jobs market, explain your absence in a few sentences.
Employers understand CV gaps, and your explanation immediately transforms you from being a statistic into a human being with a personal story, and most employers are happy to give a good person a chance.
Consider what attributes and skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving you can bring to a company; then back these up with an evident passion for the role and the organisation.
Being genuinely interested in the company and role will help you stand out against the crowd in a competitive job market.
Consider temporary work
This is often a very good way of getting a foot in the door and securing a permanent post later on. It’s also an easy way to network and make contacts, which can be beneficial in the future.
For people on benefits, this can be a hard choice to make as it’s currently difficult to sign on and off without losing money. Anyone choosing this route in the interests of gaining work experience will impress a future employer at a future date, and be sure to flag up any financial sacrifice you have made.
Consider unglamorous sectors
The UK waste management and recycling sector is set to grow by 7% by 2014, according to Environment Minister, Richard Benyon. It’s hardly glamorous but there are many unskilled and entry-level jobs that can lead to other jobs down the line.
Drivers’ mates jobs are often offered on a temporary basis: the biggest qualification you can have for this role is a good attitude. There are equivalents in other sectors up for grabs too, so look out for them when you’re searching for jobs.
Contact a former employer
If you have a former employer who you got on well with, get in touch and see if they’ll meet you to have a chat about the sector and work possibilities. Explain that it’s just a fact-finding mission as you’ve been out of the workplace, as it takes the pressure off them.
As well as finding out the latest trends from someone in the industry, the experience of dressing for work and having a professional conversation may help you get into a set routine while applying for jobs.
Plus there’s always the possibility that your former employer may know of a vacancy that’s just right for you.
Get back into the work habit
Get used to working with other people and at someone else's pace again.
Voluntary work, whether it’s helping out at a school, charity or church, will get you back in the habit of being at a certain place at a certain time. Experts often say the most essential skill for getting back into work, and keeping a job, is the discipline of setting an alarm clock.
Get a mentor
Mentoring can be a fantastic way to get valuable feedback, learn new skills and get tip-offs about possible jobs.
There are many schemes around, especially to support young people, who have not had access to jobs during the recession.
Volemploy and Forum of Private Business are two organisations that match professionals with young unemployed people to try and raise their skills. It shows commitment and looks great on your CV.
Reading industry trade publications will help you stay current, so you understand the relevant practices and latest trends in your profession. This shows potential employers you’ve made the effort to keep up-to-date with the industry, and will lead to an easier re-entry into the workforce once an offer is made.
Volunteering, in your industry or within your area of expertise in another industry, is another way to ease the transition back into full-time employment.
Thanks to our panel:
Steffan Edwards managing director of Smart Development, pre-employment agency
Huw Real, operations manager, Smart Development
Jessica Chivers, career coach
Keith Lewis, managing director, Matchtech