Unemployment Stigma

3 Techniques To Fight Unemployment Stigma


read this article on AOL Jobs that said studies show convicted felons have an easier time getting hired than the long-term unemployed. I won’t deny the facts: People who have been unemployed for an extended period of time are discriminated against.

It’s terrible, but it’s the truth.

In the last few years, I’ve worked with over 1,800 job seekers inside CareerHMO, many of whom had been out of work for a long time.

(The longest had been out of work four years!)

Here are three techniques that helped them get back to work and beat the unemployment stigma:

#1 – Stop Looking For A Job

When we look for a job, we force ourselves to try to fit into an existing job description. It’s like being a size eight in shoes but trying to fit into a size five; it doesn’t feel right. I have job seekers step back and focus on a problem to solve. What challenges are businesses facing today in their industry? How does their skill set solve that problem? And above all else, how do they save or make the company enough money to justify hiring them.

We can help you find a problem to solve to get you back in the working world more quickly. If you want to know your own problem areas in online branding, sign up for an “Am I Money?” Assessment.


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#2 – Press ‘Play’ On Life

Long-term job seekers have usually become quite reclusive. They don’t engage in social activities because they are sick of being asked, “What do you do?” As a result, they stop going out. Furthermore, they punish themselves for not having a job by not allowing themselves to have any fun. They hold happiness hostage, saying to themselves, “I can do those things when I finally get a job.” Well, withholding happiness is no way to get a job. You need to feel good about yourself in order to have the confidence and motivation needed to job search.

I tell job seekers, get out there and have fun. Meet as many people as you can. When the question, “What do you do?” comes up, simply say, “I specialize in solving (insert your answer from technique number one here) problems for companies,” and leave it at that.

If they ask you where you work, simply say, “I’m actually in the job hunt right now,” and move on.

Keep it positive and simple. You’ll find people will respond to the low-key nature of how you presented your employment situation and may even ask more questions as a way to help you. Your job is to stay positive and enjoy the event. If someone wants to help you – that’s a bonus!

#3 – Get A 360 Feedback Evaluation

I find a lot of folks who have been unemployed for a long time can’t really see themselves objectively. They have been in the hunt for so long, they can’t tell what’s working and what’s not. Moreover, they’ve gone back and tweaked their job search tools so many times, that they can’t see how off base they’ve made them (i.e. resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, etc.).

And then, there is the interview attire and the way they answer behavioral questions. Having been unemployed for so long, they are either outdated, or create a look of desperation.

In short, their personal brand (a.k.a. how they are marketing themselves) is all wrong – and they can’t see it. I suggest they get an objective professional to do a 360 evaluation on their job search efforts.

They should have every aspect of their job search strategy and tools evaluated to see if they are A) up-to-date, and B) sending the right message. Getting this type of help can make a huge difference. The changes and improvements made as a result of the feedback usually give the job seeker new hope in their ability to find work.


Talk to our coaches to get feedback from career experts.


The Best Piece Of Advice All Ex-Unemployed People Offer

Besides the advice above, I also think it’s wise to get advice from those who have successfully beat long-term unemployment. So, each time I get an e-mail from a client who was unemployed a long time and finally found a job, I always ask them, “Now that you did it. What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone who is where you once were.”

The answer is always the same… never give up!

They say it with such passion too. They go on to discuss how they are glad I pushed them to keep going. How, as much as they didn’t want to try new techniques, they were now glad that they did. And always, they say how grateful they were I didn’t give up on them, and more importantly, they didn’t give up on themselves.

So, I hope you’ll give the above techniques a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, right?

Your Next Step

If you liked this advice, then I encourage you to check out my new video series. Each video provides tips for executing an easier job search in this economy.

My videos are 100% free and I’m confident you’re going to find them useful. The link to access the first one is below.


Watch Video Now ►


Enjoy this article? You’ve got time for another! Check out these related articles:

CAREEREALISM Guidebook J.T. O'DonnellCAREEREALISM’s Founder, J.T. O’Donnell is a nationally syndicated career expert and workplace consultant who helps American workers of all ages find greater professional satisfaction. Her book, CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career, outlines her highly successful career-coaching methodology. Purchase her e-book of CAREEREALISM for only $9.95 by clicking here!


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. O'Donnell

Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. I am being made redundant by the end of the year and after working for 28 years in the finance sector. I feel it is working against me have applied to several jobs and not been called for an interview feel such a failure.

  2. I highly agree about the not knowing what is working and what isn’t. I can be really mystifying as to what it is in your documents that gets you an interview. It is even more mysterious what doe or does not net you a job after an interview. When you don’t get the job, you are never going to be told what it is they REALLY didn’t like,
    The get out and have fun thing, great idea, tough to do while staring down income shortfall!

  3. I had a phone interview with a VP of Finance for a private equity firm looking for a Finance Director at one of their portfolio companies. While I had been working all year, I had been doing contract consulting for various publicly traded companies. When the interviewer realized this, she asked if I was looking for full time employment. I wanted to say “duh, I’m talking to you aren’t I” but instead I said “on weekends and in my free time”. After a long awkward pause, she then asked how much experience I had with some technical accounting treatment for amortizing software revenue. We ended the interview after 10 minutes since my experience with this item was light. I went back to the job posting and found that this experience was not even important enough to be mentioned in the job posting. I also Googled the interviewer and learned that she had previously been out of work for an entire year keeping her surfing skills sharp by being a beach bum the entire time. Go figure?

    • Not sure I get your point. Did you want the job or not? Because to me, “well duh” would have been more informative than “weekends and in my spare time,” which is not when one does full-time work. The recruiter asked you about something irrelevant to get off the phone without having to say that you were clearly not a fit.

      She screened a candidate who was clearly not suitable so as not to waste anyone’s time. I’m not sure what she did while she was unemployed has anything to do with it.

  4. I have to agree with Bryan. Lets see:

    #1 – I have to eat and pay bills, Therefore try everything! I’ve done and learned new professional skills i didnt know and i am glad i did! It was passionate as i like challenges and allways show motivation to.

    #2 – Still need money. Unless i look for some free activities. My best chance is to grab the internet, look for online jobs, participate actively in the Linkedin (like now), give some calls to recruiters or my hooby at home.

    #3 – Doing it. Seeking for strategies and keeping up to date. Being agressive and shouting! Dont care. Does any Company wants a passionate stubborn employer? Its me! And i intimidate team leaders or bosses.

    #1.1 – Yes, “Never Give Up!” Sometimes society is rough… A real challenge not to lose your self-estime. I can only say i have guts and not affraid. I want to be usefull and feel proud of myself.

  5. #1 – impossible – if you want to eat & pay bills.
    #2 – almost impossible – see #1 No Money, no Fun.
    #3 – THIS is good advice… but I’ve been doing it for the last 6 years, so… how helpful is it really?

  6. Thank you for breaking down ways to deal with unemployment. Such sound advice especially just not applying for a while. It can be easy to get caught up in what they want and not what you can give to the employer.

  7. Love your advice Rikki G. !! I’ve been unemployed for a year now and have been catching up on things around my big house and big yard ! It’s amazing how quickly time goes. I’ve had less than a handful of interviews and that’s okay. I’m close to retirement (age 61) and figure that this time off is perhaps God’s gift of time to me. After recently losing a sister (age 57) to a devastating disease (Lou Gehrig’s disease), I figure that I need to give back more and concentrate less on myself. I also agree with “Being in Control” ! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and a job has to be the right fit for YOU as well as the employer. If one doesn’t get a job, it’s because it was NOT the right fit ! Volunteering your time is not only worthwhile but it may lead to new opportunities and new learnings. NEVER stop learning AND enjoy what precious life you have ! Best of luck to everyone ! May you find the right job fit for you !

  8. What is it about hiring that brings the irrational out in people. Is there anybody at your company who makes decisions like this? No, well it must be people at other companies then. The craziest forms of discrimination are tolerated. We acknowledge there is discrimination, but we shrug our shoulders and say “there’s nothing we can do about it”. Essentially, this is the same as condoning it. Why is there no overwhelming social will to crush this behavior? If we can observe it, we can stop it.

    Well, its hard to catch everybody, you may say. Maybe so, but the cops are still out there trying to catch reckless drivers, even though they know they can’t catch everybody. What people really don’t want though, is to have their hiring process thoroughly scrutinized. Very few people would come out clean.

  9. Challenges Large Corporations face today: In my opinion

    1. I see the Corporate world as a Cacoon yet to open. We have a unique opportunity to Incease Productivity ! Consumer engagement is Key ! There has long been a divide. The Big guy vs the Mom & Pop businesses. I am seeing a swing back to the Mom & Pop approach and the Corporate world can benefit in knowing this. We would do well to be mindful of the need to coloborate, bringing the consumer into the home if you will. Building a relationship with the consumer. A personal touch if you will.
    With consistent engagment, you build trust, with trust you build a relationship complimenting all parties involved. We must continue to Investigate, Educate & Donate !

  10. I’ve also been frequently out of employment during initial stages of my second career. Some times, I used to be scared that I may never get employed as I’m an aged fresher. I could get a break through initially when I accepted an offer from a sub contractor. Sub contractors are really a high potential employer for long unemployed/freshers. Though one may have to work anywhere between no pay to low pay and delayed payments.

    By the by, an experienced person can always go for/claim to free-lance/ sub contract work. There are two advantages in this mode whether you succeed here or not. One is that you escape the pain of self-imposed humiliation/isolation, and remain enthusiastic in job hunt. No interviewer asks about/verifies your turnover, and you can freely say that you welcome regular employment too – as you don’t get enough (?) orders due to downtrend!

  11. I am currently unemployed after receiving my MA in May. It has been hard and I have had done the “no play” thing from time to time due to feeling guilty of not having a job. It is rough, but got to remember I need to feel good too. Def, recommend this part to everyone. Hopefully, I can find a job soon in the field I want to pursue in, but for now I will make sure to do some self-worth.

    • SV Hold on to your Goal it is the “eyes’ to the future ! As we embark on a journey unique to ourselves we will have hills to climb leading to the ultimate Mountain Peak where we will embrace all we have endured as a true gift

      • Excellent advice! Learn all you can while conquering your hill and be an authority over the what was once your greatest vulnerability.

  12. This is great advice for anyone especially the long-term unemployed. I would like to add two more key factors to review and consider. 1)Volunteerism – I know this can be a difficult pill to swallow when one’s primary focus is on a sense of ‘belonging’ to a company or job and when resources may be limited. However, many will be amazed by their ability to find strong passion, dedication and those warm fuzzy’s of belonging by giving their time and expertise to causes in which they believe. Also, continuing to utilize one’s strengths as well as possibly learning new ones will significantly improve one’s self-confidence and worth. It adds purpose and meaning to your life and fills empty spaces with time well spent. Last but most important, by making yourself an indispensable part of an organization could possibly lead to full time gainful employment with that organization when they have an opening. 2) Remain in control – This too can be challenging at best when things around you feel out-of-control. However, when job-seekers are being interviewed they must remember that they should also interview the prospective company. Knowing that you are in the driver’s seat should help you approach new opportunities with a renewed spirit. You are not at the whim of the recruiter but rather allow them to view you as the ‘candidate that mustn’t get away’ by exuding confidence asking probing questions that clearly suggest that you have options – because you always do. Be well and encouraged!

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