The Toughest Job in America is Being Unemployed (2023)

Ask anyone who has been out of work for an extended period of time, and you will surely hear that being unemployed is far more difficult than what their last job actually demanded of them. Regardless if you are unemployed because you were downsized, fired, or laid off, the challenge of finding a new job is an uphill battle to say the least.

The Toughest Job in America is Being Unemployed (1)

Being unemployed takes a toll on the psyche, and can often leave the job seeker feeling depressed, angry, bitter, embarrassed, and in some cases hopeless. Regardless of what you hear or read, the biggest reason why you are not being called back for job interviews is YOU. It is not your resume, it is not because you are overqualified, or because the company only hires from within. There are only a few reasons why you are not getting interviews, or job offers.

You are applying for jobs that you may not the best candidate for
Sounds harsh I know, and I am sure this is going to offend many, but here is the reality you probably do not want to face. Regardless of how well qualified you may think you are, there are dozens if not hundreds of other job seekers who are also applying for the same job, and who also feel they are equally qualified. That does not mean you may not get a call back, or even a job offer, but just because you feel you are the best candidate does not mean the company will feel the same way.


You are not doing what is necessary to give yourself the best opportunity of being hired
Every week, I counsel veterans who are seeking employment, and I ask them what they are doing to get hired, and why should the company pick them out of the hundreds of candidates who are likely applying for the same job. More times than not, they tell me how qualified they are for the job based on their previous jobs, or how their time in the military makes them the ideal candidate. That may actually be the case, but that is not what it is going to get you in front of a hiring manager for an interview.

When you are out of work, finding a job is your job, and you need to work as hard and as long at it as you would if you were actually going to work each day. That does not mean visiting websites, filling out application after application, and sitting back waiting for the phone to ring. If that is all you are doing, don't be surprised if the phone never rings. So, what things can you do to best position yourself for success in finding a new job?

Stay Positive It is easy to feel as if the world is against you, or that companies aren't actually hiring, but that will get you nowhere. Get up in the morning, get dressed as if you are going to work, have your day planned out from the work you did the day before, and attack your job search the same way you would a task at work.

Be Honest with Yourself
Here is a simple question you can ask yourself when applying for any job: "Would I call me back, or hire me for this position?" I am sure without giving it much thought, you would snap to answer yes, and you know why? That's because you know what you bring to the table and the person that you are. The recruiter or hiring manager has no idea who you are, what you bring to the table, or why they should hire you over all other candidates. This brings me to my next point.


Do Your Homework
Too often, job seekers feel they will increase their chances of getting call backs if they simply apply to more and more jobs, but in reality, that can actually hurt your chances. Recently, I received a call from Timothy R., a Navy veteran who had been out of work for more than a year. Despite his master's degree, more than 20 years in the Navy, and a wealth of experience in managing large teams, Tim barely got called for interviews after applying for jobs, and when he did get called in, it rarely progressed to the next level. Tim was beyond frustrated, but what I was able to quickly identify with him was he was rarely applying for the right kind of jobs based on his skill set. Tim was so focused on finding a job that he really did not give much thought to why he was applying, if the company was a good fit for him, or in many cases, what the company even did. Before you apply for any job, you should research the company, analyze what the job requires, give an honest account of your experience against the qualifications for the job, and then decide if this is the job you should actually be applying for. Now that you have decided this is the company for you, and this is the job you should apply for, should you just apply and wait?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! You are already applying and waiting, remember? That is clearly not working for you, so what can you do next?

Job Hunting is a Contact Sport
One of the oldest sayings you hear when it comes to the job search is, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." That, to me, is nothing more than an excuse people tell themselves as to why they remain unemployed. While there is no substitute for a referral into a hiring manager from someone who works for the same company, that does not mean they have to be your close friend or family member. I tell veterans I work with to do the following, but in a professional, thoughtful, and deliberate manner: Find out who works for the company you are applying to, and in the same role you desire.

LinkedIn is a great way to do this and build your network at the same time. Most companies have a LinkedIn group, and you should definitely join it to see what is happening at the company. Ask them if you can speak to them about the position, the company, and for any advice they can give you when applying. It will not hurt if you ask them to put in a good word for you with the hiring manager for the position (you will see why later). You will be surprised how many people will be willing to assist you because at one time, they too were looking for a job, and by nature, people like to help people. During your research, you should have read about what the company does, the organizational chart, what the company does, and recent news on the company. With that information, you should tailor an email to the head of human resources of the company and include an email similar to the following:


"Dear Ms. Thomas:
I am emailing today to express my interest in the IT Administrator position with Dell. As a proud 20-year veteran of the U.S Navy, I feel my education, training, and experience make me the ideal candidate for the position. Having had responsibility for managing and maintaining the IT network for a nuclear submarine, I have thrived in more than stressful environments, and I see no reason why I would not thrive in the same job with Dell. I recognize you require everyone to apply online, and I have in fact applied to req# 34dr2234 already, but I am hoping you might take just a minute to put eyes on my resume to determine if you feel I am worthy of at least call back. I was pleased to hear that Dell was opening up a tech hub in Philadelphia as it is only 5 minutes from my home, and having an industry leader like Dell in the area will go a long way to encouraging top talent to stay in the area for employment after college. I can be reached at the following number if you feel my credentials might be a good match for the IT Administrator position, and look forward to hearing back from you in the near future. I will follow this email with a call to your office next Wednesday at 11 if I have not heard from you prior."

What have I accomplished by sending an email to the vice president of human resources? In many cases, nothing; you still may not get the job, or even a call back, but at least I know I put my best foot forward, and if they do not see me as a good candidate, I probably do not belong at that company anyway. On the other hand, I have done something that more than 95% of other job seekers are not doing when applying. I've done my homework, I have put my resume in front of someone who can make a decision to bring me in for an interview, and I have put the decision of calling me back or not in the hands of a person instead of an application tracking system that may or may not kick my resume out before a recruiter ever sees it. It also doesn't hurt that you showed some initiative and creativity in applying - and who doesn't want that in a new employee?

Of course, doing this much work when applying for a job can take quite a bit of time, but as I said earlier, when you are out of work, finding a job is your job, and you need to work as hard, and as long at it as you would if you were actually going to work each day.

Good Luck in your search.


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