How to Get a New Job When You're Unemployed

At least every other week, I answer this question: “If I quit my job, will I be viewed as less desirable by recruiters?” I also hear this one: “Does the fact that I lost my job mean I’m going to have a really hard time finding a new job?”

My answer to these questions isn’t “yes!” and it isn’t “hell no.” Rather, my response is that it depends.

On what, you ask?

The ease with which you’re going to find your next job—whether you’re unemployed by choice or by circumstance—depends on several things: your attitude, the specifics of your situation, how long you’ve been out of the workforce, how current you are with your skills, what you’ve been doing while unemployed, and so forth.

There’s no magic answer to the “How hard is this going to be?” question, but here a few of the most common things that factor in, and how to manage through them as you work to land your next position:

How Long You’ve Been Out

Reality is this: If you’ve been unemployed for a long stretch (let’s say, more than a year), you’re going to face a steeper uphill climb than those who are currently employed or have recently become unemployed.

As blood-boiling and unfair as it is, some recruiters won’t even look at candidates who have been out of the workforce for long stretches of time, in large part because they assume your skills have begun to atrophy or there must be red flags about you as a candidate (otherwise, you’d have taken another role by now).

Don’t throw in the towel if this is you. We’re going to talk strategy in a second.

What You’ve Been Doing in the Meantime

Lots of times, I speak with “unemployed” people who have been doing incredibly interesting and cool things with their time—things that absolutely can be listed as current employment on a resume or LinkedIn profile. I had a client recently who insisted she hadn’t worked in several years, then went on to tell me about how she’d been making and selling jewelry for the past two years—jewelry that was so great that a national retailer had taken note and purchased some of her designs. (We promptly added that to her resume.)

Another client was pulling 30 hours a week as a marketing manager for a nonprofit but, since it was a volunteer position, she was convinced she couldn’t list it as a “job.” (You sure as heck can.)

Yet another took a yearlong sabbatical, during which time he traveled the globe with his family. While not employment, that sure as heck points to his fearlessness, a sense of adventure, and the ability to navigate all kinds of environments.

The point here is this: If you look like you’ve done straight-up nothing for the past three years, recruiters may well steer clear. Assuming you’ve got a story to tell about how you’ve used that time? Tell it.