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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Consider Carefully Your 'Necessities' Between Jobs

In this day and these economic times, periods of unemployment are becoming a more frequent experience to white-collar employees, pink-collar employees and blue-collar workers. These jobless periods -- also known as "resume gaps" -- might be voluntary or a decidedly unwanted event. Either way, their occurrence establishes a minimum of two goals for the affected worker: successfully modifying one's personal life to the new status and ensuring that the time spent unemployed does not reflect poorly on one’s ability to work hard and perform a position to a future employer's satisfaction.

Just because potential employers are growing more accustomed to gaps in applicants' resumes doesn’t mean they’ve stopped inquiring as to how you spent your time during the period of unemployment—the average period of which has now reached nearly nine months. In fact, on some job boards, open job postings have specifically excluded the unemployed under the assumption that individuals out of work for longer periods of time have a more difficult time readjusting to the demands of the working world.

Steps to Take

Here are some suggestions to help an unemployed worker navigate his or her period of unemployment without unnecessarily accruing more debt or tarnishing a resume or work history:
  • Establish a budget based upon your new financial circumstances and live within your means. Your debts, family obligations and the presence of other wage earners in the household can make this a fairly painless exercise or a difficult one. It remains immediately necessary, however, to help ensure that an unemployed worker and his or her family retain access to the necessities of life, such as housing, food and transportation. Secondary, but still urgent, involves figuring out what other alternatives may be available and how soon the family has to act to procure financial necessities, including temporary stipends, unemployment funds or other means.

  • Work with your employer's human resources department to determine the cost and requirements of maintaining health insurance through their COBRA program. If this isn’t an option, investigate purchasing a temporary health insurance policy to protect you financially in the event that you have an accident or develop an illness. Health care and prescription medications are enormously expensive to purchase without some type of insurance and can quickly overwhelm the resources of most middle-class families.

  • If an unemployed worker can continue to market his skills, even in a voluntary capacity, he might establish himself as a consultant. In order to fully function in this role, he should have a small number of business cards printed with his name, contact information and position. If able, individuals in this situation should build their own websites and begin or update their LinkedIn profiles. Consultants should record the names and contact information of any individuals or companies they might work for or with for tax purposes. Further, potential employers might ask for these details during an interview in order to verify a consulting claim.

  • If affordable, an unemployed worker can take a class or return to school to make him better qualified in a competitive job market.

  • Unemployed workers should volunteer for a social agency in a position similar to either the one they recently left or one they might wish to garner in the future. Substitute this volunteer work in the place of where one's resume gap would be—along with an explanation of the volunteer/work obligations—while continuing active job search activities.
Finally, Be Positive

Although no one can guarantee the length of unemployment a worker might experience or the quality of the work eventually located, vocational rehabilitation specialists repeatedly encourage job searchers to remain positive and upbeat. Prospective employers have a large number of potential employees from which to choose and will be drawn not only to those best qualified, but also to those who demonstrate a positive, "can-do" attitude.

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