In April 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate was 14.8%. This was the highest record of unemployment since such data began to be recorded back in the late 1940s. A month prior, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) was signed into effect on March 27, 2020, as a response to the new viral crisis. This act provided families, small businesses, and employees with the economic assistance they needed to survive the pandemic.
The CARES Act included $150 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that states with populations of 500,000 or more could take from to meet COVID-related needs. The most notable part of this relief act was that it allowed states to extend unemployment benefits to those who needed them by up to 13 weeks. It also extended to those who would ordinarily not be covered for unemployment.
The benefits provided under the CARES Act are set to expire on September 6, 2021. While the unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing since January 2021, the rise of the new Delta variant has Americans concerned about the continuation of their long-term unemployment and how that will continue to affect their job search moving forward.
To answer this question, we researched the most prominent hiring managers and recruiters to find out what their best advice is for handling long-term unemployment. Here’s what they had to say.
There was a stigma around unemployment for a long time. Often looked at as lazy, the perception of unemployment has changed over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is especially true as people were forced to stay at home due to decisions outside their control or choosing to leave the job force to care for their child’s education.
So how do you combat this? Well, according to John M. McKee, a job coach and founder of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, “don’t hide the fact you’ve been unemployed.” In fact, he recommends avoiding the term altogether. Per McKee, you’re not out of work, you’re just not receiving a paycheck. He recommends that applicants talk candidly about the work they’ve performed and what they've learned while stating that they’re now looking for a paid opportunity.
In a year where personal hobbies reigned supreme, Ryan Healy, co-founder of Brazen Careerist recommends staying active during periods of unemployment to show hiring managers that you’ve been productive. Per Healy, “it doesn’t really matter what you do — volunteer, blog, freelance or take online educational courses.”
Angela Copeland, a career expert, echoes Healy’s sentiments, stating that volunteer work on a resume “...provides them with additional information about your personal interests outside work, and allows them to get a better sense of who you are.” Copeland mentions that this is especially helpful if you’re changing career fields as volunteer work can show a potential employer that you’re interested in the field that you’d like to switch to.
Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t utilize your professional connections. Professional networking leads to opportunities, and for Erin Peterson, a global leader in human capital consulting, networking is one of the biggest advantages to getting back into the workforce. Per Peterson, “the worst thing you can do when you’re unemployed is to stay at home and isolate yourself.”
Peterson further elaborates, “Join a support group for job seekers at a local church or synagogue. Volunteer and network, network, network.” The emphasis on networking can’t be understated as you can establish connections in your field that may help you get your foot in the door with a potential employer.
Searching for a job can be a long and draining process that isn’t always fruitful. That being said, you might not be doing everything correctly, and if you are, you might want to consider changing directions. While you might feel like you’ve put in the leg work and really tried to get out there, career coach Dr. Marty Nemko says you should assess your job search situation and be honest with yourself.
Nemko says there are several things you should be doing including job searching 30 hours a week, being active in a professional organization, sending proposals to potential employers after interviews, and chasing down warm leads. “If you’ve done all of those things and still aren’t getting a job, you probably need to change your job target to a more in-demand job title or a lower-level job,” says Nemko.
Being unemployed can be very difficult on your mental health. Between losing a job and the stress of trying to find a new job can weigh heavily on the mind. Despite all of this, CEO, Founder, and Executive Recruiter Jack Kelly says it’s important to keep your head together while dealing with unemployment.
Kelly says that while losing a job can be devastating and that it’s important to grieve and process losing your job, you need to move beyond that to keep moving and land a job.
“Once you’ve come to terms with the job loss and the circumstances that led up to it, commence an attack plan,” says Kelly.
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