We’re on much better footing, economically speaking, than at any time in the past seven or eight years. The Great Recession officially ended in June of 2009, and yet, six-and-a-half years later, we’re still feeling the effects. Though unemployment is down, and the economy is humming again, there’s still one big hang-up — a lot of people remain out of work.
The long-term unemployed, and the discouraged workers among them, are the ones who have really suffered as a result of economic turbulence over the past decade. Many people saw their jobs disappear, never to return again. Some of those jobs were shipped overseas, some were automated, and some were simply made redundant by changing tastes. There are a lot of reasons for these shifts, but the bottom line is that people who have wanted to get back to work are still having trouble finding a way to do so.
Just look at the ranks of the long-term unemployed. As of September 2015, 2.1 million people were among the long-term unemployed, and the labor force participation rate was 62.4%. That’s fairly low, but there are numerous reasons for it. These are the numbers politicians are constantly citing as evidence that the economy is still on shaky ground.
For a lot of people, these numbers are irrelevant — they just want to get back to work.
Whether it’s age, a lack of skills, or larger economic shifts, there are a lot of reasons many would-be workers are finding themselves out of the labor pool. And when you’re down on your luck, and face months or years of rejection from employers, it can take a real toll.
So, for these individuals, finding a path back into the workforce is the chief objective. The problem: that path is hidden — or finding it, at least, is much more difficult than it used to be. That’s why we’ve made a short, four-step action plan to help out.
These are four ways you can get back on your feet, start getting back into a routine, and get your mind and body retrained for work. It may not be ideal, in many cases, but for some people, following these steps may do wonders. It’ll feel like a step backward, but just think of that as a way to get a running start back into the labor pool.
When you’re unemployed, you’re not getting paid. So, you may as well put your time and skills to work by helping out in your community — even if you’re still not getting paid. Volunteering will get you out of the house, help you establish a routine, and help you make additional contacts. People like to see others who are willing to help out, and if you have the time, volunteering can help secure you a ticket back to the work force.
Take a look at community bulletin boards, both virtual and physical, or think of some organizations you’d like to help out. There are hundreds out there, each with needs that you can help fill. You may even end up learning a new skill for free. Volunteering will get you back into the habit of going to work, give you a resume booster, and help you expand your contacts list.
Why not put the skills you do have to work for you — in mercenary fashion? There are tons of opportunities for freelance work thanks to the Internet, and now, almost anyone can find a side-gig of some kind. If you can write, edit, draw, or even consult on any number of topics, there’s probably a space for you in the freelance economy.
In fact, the entire economy might be shifting more in this direction, toward mini-businesses or services offered by freelance entrepreneurs. We recently talked all about it with the CEO of Time Etc., one such company helping to facilitate that shift. Take a look around the web, and see where you might be able to find some work, and start to earn again.
3. Get active — and add it to your resume
Getting active can mean just about anything, and volunteering or freelancing counts. What employers don’t like to see is someone who has been sitting idle for a long period of time. That’s why it’s key to get active, in one way or another, and make sure that you’re putting that on your resume. If you’ve been out of work for months, or even years, it’s going to be a red flag for a hiring manager. They’ll have questions as to what, exactly, you’ve been doing with your time (even if you’ve been trying desperately to find work).
Volunteer, freelance, or explore other opportunities to put your time to good use. Then, make sure you’re making it clear on your resume that you’ve been busy — even if it’s not in a full-time or professional capacity.
4. Make job hunting your current profession
This is the most important thing: if you don’t have a job, your job is to find a job. That means when you are not taking care of family duties, volunteering, freelancing, or taking care of other responsibilities, your time is spent looking for work. Think of your job search as your full-time gig. This is what you do, until you find what you’re looking for. And be tenacious.
To get back into the workforce, you need a job. Any job. It may not be fun or ideal in any sense, but getting back to work is much better than remaining idle. And it’s the first big step toward getting back onto the career trajectory you want.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger