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Jun 192009
US Whig poster showing unemployment in 1837

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Today around the world thousands of people just like you are losing their jobs.

It’s an enduring, if unpalatable fact that due to the economic circumstances we’re living through workers are being made redundant through no fault of their own. That’s generally accepted, and being made redundant in itself won’t necessarily tarnish your impeccable employment record. But when it comes to your CV, just how much leeway do you have? What’s an acceptable gap between periods of employment, and when does the dreaded label of "long term unemployed" start to rear its head?

Six months! That’s the magic number, according to research carried out in Britain recently.

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) surveyed more than 1,000 managers on the topic. The results show that being unemployed doesn’t carry the stigma that people losing their jobs so often fear. At least not at first. In fact more than 80% of them said that the current employment status of applicants was completely irrelevant, as they didn’t consider it an accurate reflection of ability or performance given the current climate of mass redundancies.

But there is a limit to this benign outlook: spend six months or more out of work and a quarter of employers say they’d be less likely to give you a job, considering you to be "long-term-unemployed" at that point. Of course it’s not as cut and dried as that: studying for relevant vocational or academic qualifications, getting involved in voluntary work or perhaps pursuing your own entrepreneurial enterprise in the interim can bridge the gap, and demonstrating that you’ve been keeping up-to-date with developments in your industry while out of work can also help your credibility.

The ILM also warns those who’ve lost their jobs against splashing some of their redundancy cash on an extended career break; managers typically described candidates taking a gap year to travel or volunteer overseas as "unattractive" in the poll.

"Unemployment isn’t necessarily an indicator of ability, especially in the current climate when hundreds of talented individuals are being made redundant through no fault of their own," explained Penny de Valk, chief executive of ILM. "The good news is that most employers will treat unemployed applicants exactly the same as other candidates.

"The research shows that it is important for job seekers to try and get back to work as quickly as possible. They should use their time not only job hunting but finding ways to put themselves in front of the competition. The most effective way for job seekers to boost their future employment prospects is to play to their strengths, freshen up their knowledge and skills and keep up to date with developments in their sector," she added.

When you’ve been made redundant, picking yourself up and getting into the right frame of mind to look for work can take time – and in one of the most competitive job markets in decades finding a new job can be a long and drawn out process. So start early, and stay focussed. It’s tough out there — and that six month window identified by the ILM could slam closed much sooner than you think!

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Oct 152008
“Adult Education” cover

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Taking an extended period of time off work isn’t that unusual. People do it all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common situations are parents staying at home to raise a family, caring for relatives at home, recovering from illness or injury, studying, spending time overseas or taking early retirement.

Whatever your reasons for taking time out from work, over time your circumstances will change and you may find yourself wanting to re-enter the workforce. The thought of returning to work after a period of absence can be simultaneously daunting and exciting.

Sure, work will throw up a slew of new challenges, give you the opportunity to test yourself, to channel your talent and ability in new directions – but it will also bring additional responsibility, and after so long out of work you may find your confidence flagging. Will you be able to cope with the transition….

It’s important to remember that while some of your work-related skills may have dulled over time, you can always re-hone them. You are still the same person, and have all the same strengths that you had before – only now you have a suite of new skills and experiences that you’ve picked up along the way. A lot of those skills will transfer seamlessly to the workplace, so essentially you have more skills and experience behind you now than you ever had before.

If you feel your skills are outdated consider retraining. Many community colleges run adult education courses that can help you pick up the skills you need to broaden your employment horizons. State organisations like FAS ( can also help, and offer courses specifically tailored to help people get back to work. Talk to your local FAS office for advice on identifying and acquiring the skills you need.

As well as examining your skills you’ll also need to consider what sort of employment you’re looking for. Do you want to work part time or full time? How will your work fit in with your family arrangements? Do you need flexible working hours? Do you want to work in the same field as before, or are you looking for a change? It’s important that you have a clear idea of the kind of job you want before you start looking.

Once you decided on the type of job, do some background research on the industry. Even if you’re re-entering familiar territory, you may be surprised by how much has changed. Read a few trade magazines, look up industry websites and familiarise yourself with current trends.

When it comes to searching for a job, while tried and tested methods like scanning vacancies in the local press can yield results, it’s often easier to go through recruitment agencies. Recruitment consultants are employment specialists, and generally have a good understanding of the current employment market in their field. Many will also be able to offer valuable advice on things like polishing your CV and improving your interview technique. And don’t forget the internet recruitment sites. There are literally thousands of jobs just a mouse-click away – and you can often apply instantly online.

Going back to work is never an easy step – but it can be an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile one. Good luck!

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