You have done everything they say, and you still don’t have a job.

This blog is in response to a discussion from a LinkedIn Group for job seekers. The discussion centered on the blog: The Pain of Unemployment.

One jobseeker had the courage to tell the group about his long journey to find a job. He’s well qualified, has excellent experience and education: a Ph.D. in Immunology and a 20+ years of experience. After two years, he hasn’t landed a position. He was active in his profession, writing seven papers in less than four years. Nonetheless, his company lost two contracts and he lost his job. It’s a painful place.

After his courageous comment, many people came to his rescue. “Have you networked in this area? How about this other place? Have you gone to conferences, read books in your field? Many people offered reasons for the problem such as age discrimination, the practice of hiring abroad, and so forth. This was followed by comments about adapting skill sets, seeking alternative industries, recruitment firms…the list went on and on.

So far, there have been 21 comments. I was so impressed that people want to help each other. But I was deeply humbled with this jobseeker’s patience and attitude as many well-meaning individuals inquired about his past efforts and gave potential insights that might help him. They were pooling their resources and wanted him to succeed.

As I read and re-read the comments, I kept thinking that everyone had good insights. Everyone was right. Yet, all the ideas were, in my opinion, incomplete. This is why I’m writing this blog.

* * *

Why it takes so long—it isn’t what you think.
Hiring practices have changed. That isn’t news. And they continue to change, which is why I have to update my materials and re-strategize how my clients are managing their job search every two or three months. It’s changing that fast.


The average time to employment is approximately 9 months. But there are other factors that can extend your job search.

Is the industry hiring? Changing? Adapting new technology?
If a jobseeker’s industry isn’t hiring, the time to employment may stretch out past two years. For example, in New England, the financial support industry (Business Analysts through CFOs) decreased in size for over a year. Those people had to wait until the industry started hiring and then add their 9 months to that!

There are industries that are shutting down such as newspapers and printing. There are industries that changing because of technology: retail sales is moving online. These factors play a role in extending a job search. If jobseekers do not adapt to industry changes, their job search will be extended, crippled, or disabled.

These fundamental changes can extend a job search while job seekers adapt their strategies to align with the change.


The Challenge
So adding this together, we see that jobseekers are required to keep up with their own industry, keep up with ever changing hiring practices, and learn a host of new skill sets (résumé customization, online application management, networking, working with recruiters, and the like). It’s much more than a full-time job.

Why everyone was right — and wrong.

All of the advice given to the jobseeker was good advice. They were right—as far as it went. The missing link is that a successful job search is a combination of several elements working in tandem. Leave out one part, or if the timing is off, and the length of time to employment will increase.

So when jobseekers look down the list of “must haves for a successful job search” they believe they are doing each part because THEY ARE! Again, the missing piece is how these elements work together, how they balance each other, and the timing as it relates to the hiring cycles in their industry.

What are the Job Search Success Factors?
Here are the success factors for a successful job search:

  1. Understanding your value to your industry.
    Some people have skills that may be used across several industries. Office support, business analysis, change management, human resources, and so forth. The challenge is identifying and promoting your skills in such a way as to set aside any concerns that decision makers may have about your ability to switch to their industry.
  2. Understanding your industry’s pain, and how they are dealing with it.
    Both technology and the move towards global integration are changing how businesses operate. This affects every aspect of the business. Retail sales is one example. The move to e-commerce is changing every aspect of the business. Demonstrating your understanding of your industry’s challenges will give you an edge over other candidates.
  3. Understanding how your skills bring value and how you will respond to their pain.
    This is where the hiring entity’s pain and the jobseeker come together. It is will determine the content of your cover letter and résumé, your interview preparation, and every networking activity during your job search.
  4. An ability to demonstrate (online, on paper, and in person) how your skills bring value and how hiring you will alleviate their pain.
    This is how you connect with potential hiring professionals. It is your ability to articulate a consistent message to a wide audience through different channels. This means that you can explain how and what you do to people who are unfamiliar with your industry as well as those who understand the fine points.


How do they work together?
Understanding your industry determines how your skills are needed. It influences your word choices, and the prioritization of your past experience on your résumé. It impacts your preparation for every touch point you have with your profession.

Many jobseekers believe every detail on the job posting must align with their past or they will not be considered. Yet, every jobseeker has some reason (a lack of specific experience, a gap in their employment…something) that they might be dismissed. The key is to understand the concern and manage it consistently both on the cover letter and résumé, and in person. This is a critical part of of every employment strategy.

How does timing play a role?
Every jobseeker has heard, “Getting a job is a full-time job.” With the continual changes in hiring practices, there is more work in a job search than most people ever considered.

Every industry has an ebb and flow in their hiring processes. Jobseekers often tell me, “There’s nothing out there.” I track carefully. Back in 2008, I noticed that many industries had about a three-month cycle. That means it took about three months to determine who they wanted to hire, post a job opening, select finalists, interview them, make an offer, and determine the start date.

Today, the cycles can be as short as two to three weeks. For the jobseeker this means there is “down time” when companies are sifting through applicants and conducting interviews. If jobseekers know when the cycle starts, they can schedule networking and online activities while employers are likely to be checking them out.

With so many pieces to the puzzle, understanding your industry’s hiring-cycles is critical to getting everything done.

How to get through an extended job search:
The principle is simple, but the execution requires daily care.
I try to encourage my clients with the following:

“If your job search goes longer than you ever thought possible, manage your finances, your time, and your relationships so that you have no regrets. If you can get through each day without compromise you will have succeeded. Take it one day at a time.”

You haven’t failed until you quit.
Many jobseekers are dealing with emotions of failure and self-doubt. They feel like a failure because they lost their job and again because they can’t find a job. The economic downturn has been caused by greed and poor business decisions. The process to get a job has become an industry in itself.

If you will 1) keep learning about your industry and its hiring practice, and 2) don’t stop trying; you will get a job.

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3 thoughts on “Why You’re Still Unemployed

  1. It is my opinion that what is going on for jobseekers is eventually going to hurt us all. I understand, in this employers market, that supposedly the best talent is being sought out and I understand that but I have found in this market that great talent gets passed up all the time because of current hiring paractices. I have been turned down for a position that I was perfectly qualified for because a hiring manager had a previous employee from a company I worked that did not work out. Banks will not wait for 9 months for the mortgage payment, companies will not provide you eith free energy to heat your home, and supermarkets will not give you food even if you children eat one meal a day. It is probably easier to cross the boarder and get a job than it is to be hired as a professional in todays market. Eventually this will hurt us all including business and at some point business will not be able to make up the difference in the overseas markets. It is basic economic common sense that when people are earning and spending we all prosper. So keep up the good work all and I pray that you never have to sit in my shoes.

    1. Edward,
      First thank you for posting. I say it over and over again that Jobseekers are the worst treated people in the U.S. I agree with you that this is all going to hurt us all. Your common sense approach is solid. I hope that you land a job soon.

  2. Excellent article with many useful points to share with my job seeking clients.

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