Figures published earlier this year suggest that 30% of unemployed people in the UK have been without a paid job for 12 months, and are therefore in the realms of long-term unemployment. An estimated 400,000 have been unemployed for over two years. Meanwhile 28% of graduates have failed to secure full-time employment three and a half years after finishing university.
Being unemployed for long periods of time can make you lose confidence, and as the gap in your CV between jobs widens, it can become even more difficult to find work.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. If you’re in a long-term job-seeking rut, then it’s worth taking note of our pick of relevant schemes and advice.
Long-term unemployment is a huge, national problem – you are definitely not alone. To address and help ease the problem, the coalition government has put a number of schemes in place that you may benefit from. Each has different qualification criteria, so for more information on employment issues, Directgov has extensive advice.
- The Work Programme – This is a ‘welfare-to-work’ programme. Aimed at employers, it provides incentives to encourage them to employ job seekers through a series of payments, with further rewards if they give a registered job seeker a permanent job. There are bigger payments for those who need most help finding a job, i.e. the long-term unemployed, increasing their chances of finding work.
- New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) – If you’re fed up with trying to get someone else to employ you, there is always the option of employing yourself. This scheme has been set up to help unemployed people set up self-employed businesses. There are Enterprise Clubs available to where you can research and discuss your business idea, and help make it into a viable business pitch. If the proposal is approved, the scheme will continue to dispatch benefit payments for six months, as well as giving a start-up loan and access to experienced mentoring support to help out along the way.
- European Social Fund – Funded by the European Union, this is for those who are unemployed and have had particular trouble getting back into work, catering for job seekers with disabilities, older workers, single parents, ethnic minorities, ex-offenders, or those who have been affected by drug/alcohol abuse. The fund provides extra support in the form of helping with CV writing, organising pre-employment work placement opportunities, and helping to gain extra skills such as health and safety qualifications.
Come interview time, you’ll always be asked what you’re doing now, or what you’ve been doing since your last job, and “Nothing” isn’t the best answer to come back with. While searching and applying for jobs is a time consuming process, try to fit in some CV-boosting activities around it.
- Voluntary work – Volunteering is a good way to show your willingness to work, helps you gain experience in your chosen sector and gives you something to talk about at an interview. Even just a couple of weeks here and there will help. Directgov has information on volunteering while looking for work, and to browse for available posts, Do-it is a UK organisation run specifically to help prospective volunteers find a position.
- Blogging – It’s free, it’ll help improve your all-important IT skills and it’ll give you a creative communication outlet and a break from sending job applications. You can write about a hobby, your take on culture and events, or perhaps document your search for a job. It also shows you have been using your time productively, and you never know which potential employers might be impressed when they read it. Easy sites to start off with are WordPress and Blogger.
- Hobbies – Be it photography, baking, running… stamp collecting – being unemployed is a great opportunity to start something new. Having a hobby to add to your CV and talk about at an interview shows prospective employers that you have a well-rounded personality, and gives you something to talk about.
The old rule still counts; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So, it only stands to reason, if you make yourself ‘know’ more people, then you’re increasing your resources to find a job.
- Social networking – It’s not all posting photos and ‘liking’ statuses, social media sites are a great way of connecting and communicating with people on a personal and professional level. As such a large percentage of people have Facebook and check it regularly, you can keep up to date with any job openings your family and friends might know of. Twitter gives you the chance to connect with businesses and industry links, interacting with their tweets and getting yourself noticed. And on Linkedin, you can build your own business profile, citing your experience and allowing you to connect to professionals you have worked with.
- Job clubs – The government is supporting job/work clubs, but a number have been set up separately by individuals to try and overcome the difficult job market by gathering a group of people in the same situation to help and support each other. The idea of job clubs was first born in the north east in 1984 to address long-term unemploymen; now they’re nationwide. GB Job Clubs is a registered Christian charity site that supports the national network of job clubs, helping churches and community groups set up new ones, while providing a directory of existing clubs.
GB Job Clubs executive director Chris Neal says “Long-term unemployment can destroy your self esteem, leave you depressed and in totally the wrong frame of mind to apply for jobs. I facilitate three Job Clubs and have seen the ‘self help’ ethos work to tremendous effect; around 80% of our members find work within three months.”
If your CV isn’t getting you interviews, or your interviews aren’t getting you jobs, it’s worth sitting down and trying to work out why.
- CV checks – Is everything relevant, spelt correctly and specifically tailored to the job you’re applying for? Not mentioning how much you love helping and interacting with people for a customer service job will leave the employer wondering why you’re applying. Directgov has some detailed tips and advice on CV writing.
- Reference checks – Are your references on your CV the best people to give an opinion on you? Make sure they’re as recent, relevant and reliable as possible, and perhaps agree with them in advance what they will say to prospective employers who’ll be contacting them.
- Interview checks – Setting up a mock interview with a careers advisor and getting them to give you feedback may highlight anywhere you’re going wrong; simple things like a looking scruffy, not making eye contact or excessive fidgeting are all unnerving to interviewers.
- Job checks – Are you qualified enough for the positions you are applying for? Do you fit all of their criteria? If not, you may have to apply for jobs further down the ladder and work your way up once in employment.
Moneymagpie spoke to Steve Wood, who set up the website White Collar Unemployed UK. Steve had been unemployed for some time, and wanted a career change to move into web design. He set the site up out of frustration when he felt he was not receiving adequate help from the Job Centre for white-collar industries. He hoped to share the information he had found and build a supportive community around it. From the act of making the website, Steve also taught himself the skills he wanted to learn.
As a past job seeker, Steve advises that in order to find employment, you need to be flexible and open to change. “I spent 38 years in the electronics and semiconductor industries,” he says. “Now I am doing web design and internet marketing. I basically had to start from scratch again.”
With the ethos that if the help isn’t there, help yourself, Steve also advocates starting your own business, or at least joining a local job club. “If there isn’t a job club near you, start one,” he asserts. “There is a wealth of knowledge and skills out there in the white collar unemployed community – you can help each other.”
While there’s a lot of advice and support out there to help with long-term unemployment, the most important and most challenging factor in securing a job is down to you – keeping positive and keeping active.
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