A legal, yet completely slimy recruiting practice has recently come to light in the news. Apparently some companies and perhaps recruiters seem to confuse an applicant's current state of unemployment for leprosy. Having been a contractor and someone surviving in the precarious Silicon Valley Job Market, I can say this:
Anyone who feels all unemployed candidates must have brought it upon themselves is completely out of touch with the employee retention process-gone-awry.
In other words, layoffs, contract end dates, and companies going under are not necessarily reflections of one's performance. These are things that sometimes just happen, along with the phenomenon of some of a company's dimmest bulbs being able to keep their jobs while perfectly efficient ones are shown the door. Why does that happen?
Okay, complaining about this is over, so let's move on to some solutions:
- People play favorites; they want to keep their buddies & "Yes Men", and layoffs don't require a drawn-out, sabotaging performance improvement plan for people a company wants to get rid of anyway.
- Idiots aren't seen as a threat to those in power, and if they can at least get a few things done, then they're considered somewhat useful.
- Sometimes high-functioning employees are too expensive to retain for the long-run, so companies feel justified in letting them go, thinking that someone with their talent should find a great position in no time. Why pay someone big bucks to do the job when you can pay a mediocre salary for equally mediocre work?
Why should you try any of this? In this day and age, the sad truth is that nearly everyone will at some point in their career be laid off, need to take contract work for a brief time, or work for a company that goes belly up. So, should you find yourself in that situation, you can at least keep your head and résumé held high.
- Become a freelancer/consultant. See what sort of work you can pick up in the meantime that pertains to your field/goals. Put it on your résumé and confidently explain what you've been doing to keep your skills set sharp.
- Volunteer at a company in your area of interest (make sure to secure a cr*ppy day job to help pay the bills or collect unemployment while you do this). At least you're doing something, not to mention the networking you can do there!
- Last resort (only if you can swing it financially): Go back to school, but keep on networking! Don't think that you can hibernate in the classroom and the job market will magically come back to life by the time you graduate.