Landing the job you want can sometimes be difficult. It gets even harder when it's been months or even years since your last full-time job. While employment gaps won't automatically make hiring managers toss out your résumé, they are more likely to do so if there's not something worthwhile filling those gaps.
"The 'totally unemployed' applicant is usually given no more effort than it takes the hiring manager to toss the application into the 'not worth reviewing' pile," said Richard Alman, principal and chief career and employment strategist of career website owner and operator Recruiter Media Corporation. "It is imperative to do some work to show the potential company you apply with how you 'walk,' not just how you 'talk.'"
If you want to get back into the job force, but haven't worked in a while, a few tactics can make your application more appealing to hiring managers. Here are seven actions you can take while you're unemployed to improve your chances of getting a job. [5 Ways to Keep Your Job Search Alive]
Hiring managers love to see volunteer work on a résumé, because it shows that you've taken smart, credible steps to prove that you're a valuable worker, even without a full-time job, Alman said. But you can gain more than just skills and experience for your résumé. Volunteer work is great for you and your local community, too.
"Consider doing volunteer work to help you feel accomplished and productive," said Stacia Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises and a mentor for female entrepreneurs. "Unemployment can wear on your self-esteem. Volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose, and helping others is an instantaneous mood booster."
Attend local events
Every job hunter knows that networking is one of the most effective strategies for finding career opportunities. Most towns and communities have organizations that hold monthly or weekly events that are great for connecting with other professionals in your area.
"Find out when and where the events are, and be there," Alman told Business News Daily. "You will meet people from local businesses that are friendly and interested in their communities."
When you go to these events, Alman recommended handing out a personal calling card with your name, email address and phone number to business owners and decision makers, just in case they're looking for help now or in the future.
Get a part-time job
A part-time job during your period of unemployment can provide you with a steady source of income, as well as something useful to add to your résumé. While the job skills required for this type of position may not seem relevant to your desired career, there's always a way to translate them into the language hiring managers want to hear.
"When it's time to explain the gaps in employment, put on your résumé all of your work experience, plus transferable skills that a company may seek," Pierce said. "For example, if you've been working as a part-time cashier, you should [list] your experience working with the public, handling cash, working in a fast-paced environment, critical thinking in high-pressure situations, etc. In your interview, talk about achievements and how your practical work experience qualifies you for the job."
Start your own business
As an alternative to a part-time job, it may make more sense to become your own boss while you look for a salaried position. Pierce advised starting a business as a consultant, freelancer, virtual assistant, etc. to keep your existing skills and expertise sharp.
"Instead of looking for a job, search for work," Pierce said. "The feeling of actively pursuing your next paycheck will make you more competitive and give you better insight on what it means to be the boss. Working project-based positions also gives companies a chance to get to know your work ethic before offering you something more permanent."
No matter how long ago you graduated, you can always go back to school and learn something new. While you may not necessarily need or want to pursue a whole new degree, taking a class at your local community college or an online university can make you really stand out to an employer.
"Obtaining fresh education with a degree, certificate or any other evidence of a successful completion will be potentially valuable as an addition to your application," Alman said. "Having up-to-date knowledge in a particular field may set you apart from many of the other applicants seeking the same job. Additionally, the individuals you will meet while taking the course can be great networking contacts."
Brand yourself on social media
Recruiters are increasingly turning to social media to find qualified candidates, so why not be ready when they come across your profile?Think about what your prospective employer might be looking for in a candidate, and craft your LinkedIn, Twitter and other public profiles to highlight those attributes.
"Give a visual display of your résumé with a personal touch," Pierce said. "For example, post a selfie of you working on a project with an enticing caption. Your timeline should make people want to know you more and work with you. Mention your social media channels on your résumé or in the interview as a source to learn more about who you are and what you are capable of."
Work at finding a job every day
It's a cliché, but it's true: Finding a job is a full-time job in itself. Pierce recommended acting as if you were already working by creating a daily schedule of job-hunting tasks for yourself.
"Imagine if you were working from home, and plan your day as such," she said. "For example, get up early, make calls, send out résumés and respond to emails. Take a lunch break, and then in the afternoon, follow up on any leads. Right before dinner, listen to positive audio programs or read a good book. It's important that you maintain a consistent schedule."
"A winning career strategy is very similar to the winning Halloween strategy," Alman added. "Those people who sit at home thinking they will have opportunities delivered to them are going to have far worse results than those who go out and knock on every door they can."
Originally published on Business News Daily