According to an LA Times report on November 12, 2010 referencing data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15 million Americans were unemployed in October 2010. A whopping 42% of that 15 million—yes, that’s more than 6.2 million—had been out of work for more than 26 weeks.
Some of you may recall that just 2 years ago, the unemployment benefit was maxed out at 26 weeks. However, in November 2008, Congress extended that to 39 weeks and it has since grown to 99 weeks as part of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) programs.
What’s the Problem?
The gravy train may actually be ending, as the extended benefits are set to expire in December 2010. However, a consortium of unemployment advocacy groups have banded together to form an entity called The American 99ers Union, who is aggressively lobbying Congress to extend unemployment benefits through 2011—yes, another full year!
Despite the fact that joining together, forming organizations, and lobbying Congress takes away from time actually searching for a job, a deeper issue is present here. How do you address this time frame on your resume?
To give you an example, I worked with an executive-level candidate who had been with a major corporation for more than 20 years before getting laid off. She had a great severance package that provided her with about 2 years of salary. Once the severance ran out, she went onto unemployment, first for 26 weeks, then for the additional 13 weeks, and finally for all 99 weeks.
How Does This Impact My Resume?
Now, she wants to have a resume prepared that positions her as a high-caliber business executive even though she had done absolutely nothing for nearly 4 years! In an economic climate where employers have the opportunity to hold out for the very best candidates, who in their right mind would give her a second glance, much less an interview or job offer?
So What Do I Do?
How should you handle an unemployment situation? My recommendation is to not take the bait. Forego the unemployment benefits if possible and assume your job search as a full-time position. Aggressively network, cold call, and send out resumes. If you must go on unemployment, consider whether you are getting lazy in your responsibility as a full-time job seeker. If you do get lazy, call the unemployment office and ask them to take you off the rolls. You will be much better off in the long-term as well as in the short-term by making yourself a much more marketable candidate.