Why unemployment has a six-month shelf-life

You've got six months before unemployment starts to count against you, according to the ILM.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Official figures out this week showed that a record 300,000 people were made redundant last quarter. And to add to these unfortunate people’s woes, new research from the Institute of Leadership & Management suggests that employers are reluctant to hire people who’ve been out of work for at least six months. With the jobless count likely to keep rising, probably topping the 3m mark next year, it’s clear that there will be more people chasing fewer jobs. So getting back into work won’t be easy. Speed – not to mention up-skilling – may be of the essence...

The good news, according to the ILM, is that employers won’t hold it against you if you’ve just been made redundant. Its survey found that 84% of managers disregard an applicant’s employment status altogether, on the basis that it’s not a good indicator of ability in the current climate. And you can see the sense in that: the axe has fallen so widely in the last year that all sorts of people, at all sorts of levels, have found themselves laid off as firms have cut costs. So it’s quite possible that perfectly well-qualified candidates will have suddenly found themselves without a job.

Unfortunately, the picture changes if you’re still unemployed six months later. At that point, some employers consider you as ‘long-term unemployed’, and in nearly 30% of cases, will be less likely to hire you. This stigma is hardly new – but the bad news is that it doesn’t seem to have gone away, despite the extenuating circumstances of the recession.

So what can you do to avoid this fate? Well, the simple answer is to get on with making yourself a more attractive candidate. Rather than sitting around and hoping something turns up, the ILM suggests studying for a relevant professional or academic qualification, as well as keeping up with the latest developments in your industry. That way, if you do manage to get an interview, you can wow your recruiter with your new skills.

Volunteering is another viable option, it says – but make sure it’s close to home. Employers seem to be slightly suspicious of overseas programmes, which seems a bit of a shame (perhaps they’re worried that hanging out with a load of over-privileged school-leavers is unlikely to teach you much, not unreasonably). And gap years are also very much frowned upon: this might seem like a terrific opportunity to go somewhere hot to find yourself, and then come back home when things have perked up a bit. But you might find it hard to convince a future employer of the value of this year on a beach...

In today's bulletin:

Goodwin offers to reduce pension pot as borrowing soars
BA pilots' union agrees to swap salary for shares
H&M looks to buck retail slump with designer Choos
Why unemployment has a six-month shelf-life
Race to improve diversity bearing fruit

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