Tough Love for the Long-Term Unemployed: Have You Let Yourself Become Lazy?

If you have been unemployed for more than 6 months and have no prospects on the horizon, I'm afraid it is time we had a little talk. First, know that I offer this advice with love. You are clearly not alone. There are millions of others in the U.S. that find themselves in a similar situation.

If you happen to be one of the over 1.7 million that have already felt the financial impact from the expiration of federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, (EUC) at the end of 2013, you are probably getting a little nervous. Maybe even depressed.  The Democrats in the U.S. senate will make another attempt to pass ..., but frankly, it does not look promising to me. If you are still reading, perhaps you are interested in my opinion on why some of the most  capable, even talented people I know stay unemployed too long simply because they fall victim to laziness.

I know hearing this will sting. I know that you've probably worked hard your whole life until this point and hearing the word lazy is frustrating. I could sugar coat it by saying “inactive” or “indifferent”, but they would mean the same thing: you have given up. You think you have done everything you can to get a job and now you spend more time trying to forget you are unemployed than you do looking for a job.

Do you spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, the X-Box, or Netflix? These can all be critically damaging to your career search. If you are spending more than an hour on any of these things during the time you would typically spend at work, you have become complacent in your job search. There is a cool app called Strict Workflow that can help you manage your time online. I use it myself. It helps re-direct me and limit the time I spend on social media. It essentially blocks the sites I should refrain from using during my predetermined work time with a pop up that says, "Back to work!" I highly recommend it for anyone that spends a lot of time online looking for job opportunities.

It is time to be very strict with yourself when it comes to "escape" activities. Trust me on this. It is so easy to say you're going to check Career Builder "after while". Remember, we procrastinate about the things we would rather avoid. Hit that job fair when it opens, before the booths are busy. Make phone calls on those job leads before noon. The internet is an awesome resource for your job search because you can use it any time of the day, but trust me, the people that are reviewing your resume work between 8 AM and 5 PM. If you find your resumes are getting no response, try applying to the job and then calling the company you applied to at the same time to follow up. If you catch me by phone as I'm opening up your resume, I might just take the time for a brief phone screen right then if your resume looks good. If you have made a small investment in a site like ResumeSpider, you will want to be watching for the alert that your resume has been viewed and contact the recruiter.

Look, I'm not saying you cannot have entertainment while in a job search. Being unemployed can be tough on your mental well-being and these things can all provide a positive way to escape, too. I'd much rather see someone engross themselves in Mortal Kombat than blow more of their savings on a drink at the bar. What I am saying is that when you are looking for a job, looking needs to be your job. During 8 AM and 5 PM or at the very least the hours you would typically work, all of your efforts should be spent in towards something that will help you find a job.

Everything you do during your work day should be focused on: improving your resume, educating yourself, volunteering in the community, networking with career contacts, or applying to jobs. You will stay much more motivated if you get up and get dressed as if you were going to work. This means 8 hours minimum, 5 days per week. Check out some of the awesome opportunities for low-cost or no-cost learning online. Some of the best learning institutions in the world now offer amazing courses that would be attention grabbing on any resume. I recently discovered EdX and you will find free opportunities from Havard, MIT, Berkley and more on this site.

So there it is. My dose of tough love. What will you do with it? Will you step up and get back to work? Will admit that you might have let yourself become lazy? Stop sitting around telling people how bad the job market is right now and make it your mission to prove that it doesn't matter because you refuse to let it beat you. I know you can do it. I believe in you.

Amy McDonald is the President and CEO supporting several online employment sites. She has worked in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with thousands of career seekers recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in finding a job, workplace relations, sourcing talent and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360.

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Tags: Job Seekers

Comment by Amy McDonald on February 8, 2014 at 1:07am

@Matt. It's all good. No judgement felt. Just thought I'd write another blog post within the comment at midnight. Haha. Seriously though, I see exactly what you are saying and you are so right. I can honestly say that I have not searched for a position personally since 2009. I really like what you've talked about in your reply and I may just write something on it soon. How sad is it that the technology and processes designed to make us more efficient have done just the opposite. Hmmm..wheels are turning for me. It makes me want to find a solution for that. I've always been a process stickler but there may be a bigger picture I have not considered. As always, thank you for your views.  

Comment by Amy McDonald on February 8, 2014 at 1:22am

OK..I wasn't going to, but I just can't stop now. Since you liked the GlamourShots story @Matt...you should know that when the franchise I worked for closed its doors, it was the owner that suggested I try recruiting and.. the rest is history. Hahah I don't make it up..I just comment about it on my blogs.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on February 8, 2014 at 7:13pm

Obviously this is a highly personal and complex situation and none of us really knows what others are doing, not doing and/or what they are going through or may have been through.  

As I was thinking more about this topic, it reminded me of some interactions and conversations I had a few years ago that I ended up writing about. I hope this doesn't come across as "link dropping" (not my intention at all) but the following article touches on quite a few points in Amy's original article as well as the subsequent comments. 

http://talenttalks.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/when-are-you-going-to-s...

Thoughts? 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on February 10, 2014 at 1:39pm

@ Matt: Do you have any links to statistics on time-to-hire over a long time period of years such as you mentioned? I think this would make a good topic..

-kh

Comment by Amy McDonald on February 10, 2014 at 3:53pm

Thanks for sharing @Kelly. This has prompted a lot of interest on my end. Frankly, much more than when I originally posted.I'd love to see some more statistics myself.

Comment by Linda Ferrante LoCicero on February 11, 2014 at 8:52am

To the point that some candidates have given up....they aren't even on job boards anymore. They aren't responding to jobs, their resume isn't out there, etc.  That's why we don't think they are out there.  They are off the grid.  Totally different from the 'lazy' job seeker.  You know the one....'I have six weeks unemployment left, so I'll consider an offer around four weeks from now'.  THAT is, IMO, the definition of a lazy job seeker.  The problem is that I may not have this position open in four weeks, and even if I do, I'm probably not (no, I WON'T) consider you for the position. 

This is very different from the underutilized, underqualified workers.  Essentially, we have three different categories:  not looking, waiting, and underutilized.  Either way, if candidates are serious about finding a new job, they should look at every call as an opportunity.  Meaning, don't come to the phone with an attitude!  Honestly, it isn't my fault you were downsized.  It isn't my fault you don't have a degree and are being passed over for positions.  It isn't my fault you think you're 'too old'.  I am here, right now, talking with you about an opportunity!  Let's figure out if it's a good one for you.

I can't tell you how many times I ask, 'Are you ready to go back to work?  Because it sounds like you aren't over your last position yet.'  Not to be snarky, but you'd be surprised at the responses to that question.

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