News Column

Jumping Back Into the Employment Marketplace

August 27, 2013

Greg Schreiner

Companies are starting to interview workers who have been unemployed extended periods.
Companies are starting to interview workers who have been unemployed extended periods.

If you've been unemployed, is this the right time to jump back in? The short answer is yes. In our view, it is always the right time to be employed! If you are a manager or executive, unless you are pursuing an advanced degree, nursing a loved one, climbing Everest, or making a lifetime trip across the globe, what would you rather be doing than keeping your skills sharp and making an impact in your favorite industry?

The recession has been a bear. It hit everyone in one way or another. Many casualties along the way include very talented professionals whose company had to manage cash and downsized the workforce, or took a hit and had to roll back quickly. And for several years of this economic downturn there has been a tendency for companies to skip over unemployed candidates, ruling them out defacto. Is this trend over?

Recently we have started seeing employers be less pre-occupied about interviewing and hiring people who have been unemployed for a year or more. In fact just last week, a candidate we were working who had been unemployed for a year was not only offered a great job Senior Product Marketing Manager at a Networking company, but he was also offered a salary that was greater than his last position.

This trend towards less preoccupation with a person's current employment status seems likely to continue so long as the economy continues to slowly improve. That said, periods of unemployment can still be less than elegant on a resume, and require a little explanation. The key is to show a good reason for a period of unemployment. Employers typically recognize valid reasons for these, such as sabbaticals, time spent traveling, pursuing further education, or caring for a loved one. In our experience it is best to include reference to this in your chronological resume, so that no one is left guessing or makes the assumption that you've been at home on the couch watching daytime television for several months.

If you don't have the funds or didn't do the planning for a sabbatical, travel and are not caregiving, what can you do when you become unemployed? It is highly advisable to stay active within your profession. This lets employers know that your knowledge has been kept up-to-date, and you aren't one to rest on your laurels or just continually applying for jobs that have passed you over.

Staying active within your profession can be achieved by continuing your education or obtaining additional certifications. Volunteering for a professional group within your niche is another way. For example: A software developer may work on an open source project. A marketer may write guest blogs for marketing websites, or volunteer by building a marketing plan for a non-profit organization that is important to them. A sales person may research topics related to sales psychology or methodologies or compensation models that could be shared with industry groups and blogs.

Consulting is also an option, although there can be a caveat to consulting as a fallback for unemployment. "Unfortunately while consulting is a valid business endeavor, a lot of times when you see it on a resume it is code for 'unemployed'," says Leah O'Flynn, Executive Recruiter specializing in High Tech Sales & Marketing. "Employers often have the perception that 'consulting' is just fluff to fill the employment gap on the resume." Depending on your intended career path, this may or may not be as critical to you. Upper management is often groomed and formed over years of advancing positions within a corporation, and the 'consulting' piece may not be as valued.

That said, active consulting within your specialty will keep your skills fresh and keep you involved in your profession, while putting money in your pocket. Consulting is also a great way of networking and exploring new opportunities. In terms of expressing your work on your resume, be pretty specific about who you worked for, and what you accomplished during that venture.

The point is, if you are unemployed and either sitting on the couch, or appearing to do so, you will get less attention. While employers are easing up on their circumspection around employment gaps and consulting stints, you do need to be able to tell a compelling story for a prolonged period of unemployment. Your activities and accomplishments between jobs can tell a wonderful story about your character and ability. So get going!

About the Author
Greg Schreiner, Technology Recruitment Manager
Greg Schreiner recruits top talent in high tech and clean technologies sectors for Redfish Technology. An expert in understanding his client's business objectives, and matching quality talent, Greg's industry passion and expertise serve him in his tireless endeavor of ferreting out the best tech talent for his clients.

About Redfish Technology
Nationwide IT Recruiting for the High Tech Industries
Founded in Silicon Valley in 1996, Redfish Technology has been a leading provider of high tech and clean tech professional and executive talent. Partnering with growth mode companies, small and large, Redfish staffs executive functions and builds out the teams below. The company provides services nationwide and has offices in Silicon Valley, the East Coast, and Sun Valley.