As we may be currently living in a buyer’s market in real estate, it’s also a buyer’s market in employment. With employers cutting back due to the economy over the past few years, companies are surviving with fewer employees. For any open positions, employers have the luxury of being very picky about who they hire. Any employer is within its right to select the best candidate for the job, and as a result, people who have been out of work for some time are finding it hard to get a job. Because employers see a candidate’s unemployment as a sign of risk, many employers aren’t even considering candidates who have a period of unemployment on their résumé for interviews.
Overall, this puts the unemployed class in a tough position, because their period of unemployment will just grow, making it even less likely they’ll qualify for a job in their field. Even going back to school or switching careers, two typical suggestions for dealing with extended unemployment in the past, may not be able to help workers today as companies have a wide array of potential employees who haven’t had any type of break or switch.
In New Jersey, the state passed a law forbidding employers from posting job wanted ads that turn away unemployed workers, moving towards considering this group a protected class, like a minority. The law as it stands likely won’t help. Even if companies do not include the message in their ads, hiring managers and recruiters can still easily turn away the unemployed at a later stage in the process.
The best solution I can suggest for someone who is stuck without the ability to get hired for an extended period of time is no longer to take the extra time to increase skills or education level, but to find away to become an employer rather than rely on an employer. Start a consulting business in your field. There is always the danger of failure, but at least you’ll be continuing to work in your field, networking with people in your industry, and staying abreast of the latest trends. In most cases, you won’t need to lay out a major investment in order to become a consultant, but you will likely need to work hard to compete for clients.
It may not be immediately clear how to turn your job into your own company. You may not be doing exactly the same type of work you were doing before you were laid off, but with some thought, there will always be an answer. I understand that being your own boss requires a certain type of personality and a strong sense of self-motivation, qualities that not everyone possesses. Some people consider “entrepreneur” to be a word with negative connotations. These are obstacles that can be overcome, though.
Your own company, in place of unemployment, will look much better on your résumé, and if your business is successful, you may never need a résumé again. Turn the tables on unemployment. In this market, the employer has all the power. Rather than waiting for the market to change, become an employer — or at least a one-person company including yourself.
Published or updated July 26, 2011.