Dodge Durango nailed the answer in a new commercial:
“It’s 2011. Wonder where the Durango’s been for the last 2 years? Well it toured around Europe getting handling and steering lessons on those sporty European roads. It went back to school - got an advanced degree in technology. Its been working out - more muscle, and less fat. It’s only been 2 years but its done more in 2 years than most cars do in a lifetime.”
That’s it. That’s the entire message, the entire commercial is 62 words long but it gets the point across in magnificent form. The answer is straight out of Career Counseling 101!
Looking for work is a challenging experience. The more time passes, the harder the challenge. I have worked with people who have been laid off for up to two years. After being unemployed for a long time, it’s a struggle to get back in the game. If you want to impress a new employer, one thing you have to do is to show them that you used your downtime wisely and productively.
The recession is over, but the crushing reality is that many people will not break back into the market. Some people will be permanently unemployed or permanently underemployed. The longer the period of unemployment, the harder it is to break back in. The longer you are out and the older you get, the harder it is to get employers to look at you.
Even though we have just been through a terrible recession that saw even the most highly productive workers laid off, employers still wonder: what is wrong with you? why haven’t you found a job? maybe your skills have gone stale … maybe you’ve lost your edge.
Companies are hiring again and employers are picky. The bar has been set high. You need to stand out and get attention in a crowded field. It’s a basic supply demand situation: there are fewer jobs and there are tons of people chasing them.
If you are not productive during your time off, you are not going to be ready to compete. More importantly, you are not going to be able to impress anyone in a position to hire.
Phillip Tibbits is a career changer with 20+ years of experience. He returned to school for his BS in 2007 and graduated in electrical power engineering in January of 2010. He started looking for work more than a year ago. He just received his dream offer from Puget Sound Power in Bellevue, Washington. During his long search for the perfect job, Phillip audited grad classes, joined the weekly alumni job club, attended IEEE events and job fairs, and put an extreme amount of effort into job seeking. He targeted specific companies, refined his search, and analyzed every interview to improve his performance. He also exercised daily and meditated frequently.
According to Phillip: “sitting in grad classes keeps you fresh and around people- it improves your mood. And students and professors are great sources for networking.” Phillip said It’s not just about looking for work. In his words: “so you’re breathing ... what else are you doing?”
It is no longer good enough to just look for work or to just go to school. If you want to compete in the new, post-recession labor market, you have to do much more. You have to be able to demonstrate that you are constantly challenging yourself and exposing yourself to new life experiences.
When they ask about what you have been doing for the last two years, you need to be able to answer the way Dodge Durango did. Watch the commercial!