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Long-term unemployed? Here's how to improve your chances of getting a job

Rachel Burge for

While the latest figures show a fall in overall unemployment, there has been a record rise in the number of people out of work for more than a year. Frustratingly, it seems the longer you've been unemployed, the harder it is to re-enter the workforce - but it can be done.

If you have been unemployed for a while, it's vital to show prospective employers that you have kept yourself up to date and have retained a strong work ethic, says Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.

'Look for ways to enhance your relevant skills, such as attending a course or conference, reading about industry developments or doing work experience, which might be voluntary work, helping with a friend's business, the local school or a community initiative.'

It may sound trite but the discipline of setting your alarm clock and getting back into the habit of work can boost your confidence - and give you something positive to talk about on your CV and at the interview.

What to say to potential employers
When you've been out of work for years, one of the biggest stumbling blocks can be what to say to a potential employer.

'When an interviewer asks what you've been doing all this time, never apologise, talk negatively about yourself or answer 'Um, looking for work.' If you sound defensive it will only make them suspicious,' says Richard Maun, career coach and author of the book Job Hunting 3.0.

'Focus on the positive and talk about the course or volunteering work you've been doing and be explicit about the skills you've gained and how you can bring them to this particular role.'

If you've been caring for a child or sick relative, it's fine to share that information, says Maun, 'as long as you make it clear your situation has now changed and you're 100 per cent available and committed'.

Network harder - and smarter
'The greater your network, the greater your chances of hearing about a vacancy or being directly referred for one - and social networking sites can open up a world of opportunity,' says careers blogger Clare Whitmell of

'LinkedIn offers unparalleled opportunities to make and develop contacts - in your industry and companies you want to work for.

Once you've created your profile, Whitmell suggests searching the "groups" function to find groups in your industry. You can then contact other members directly, take part in debates (helping boost your visibility) and see vacancies that might not be advertised elsewhere.

"Follow" companies so you can see when they're hiring and how you're connected to people already working there - and be proactive in requesting (and giving) recommendations from people you've worked with in the past.

Don't forget Twitter either - it can be a great way to hunt down potential contacts you can then search for and approach on LinkedIn.

Get your face seen
Going to job conferences, seminars and networking events offers a number of benefits, too.

'Job hunting can be a lonely and frustrating process. Face-to-face meet ups are one way to lessen the isolation as well as giving you a way to obtain and share information and leads,' says Whitmell. 'Don't feel shy. Most people are happy to provide insights on how best to get into a sector or company or even pass on names of people you can approach.'

And because you never know when you might make a useful contact, it pays to be prepared.

'Carry business cards with your name and contact details on one side and a career summary or what sort of work you're looking for on the back,' suggests Kathryn Jackson, author of How to Keep Your Cool if You Lose Your Job.

'Hand them out to people you meet. Even if they aren't in a position to offer you a job, you never know who they might pass one on to.'

Re-think the jobs you're going for
If none of the above has worked, it's time to think laterally, says Jackson. 'If jobs aren't available in the city, region or even country in which you live, could you relocate?'

Alternatively, consider switching industries. 'Look at your skills and experience and consider how they might be relevant to the industries that are hiring,' says Jackson. 'If you've previously worked as a journalist, could you move into marketing?'

Now could be time to aim lower - even if that means taking a job you're over-qualified for or which pays less than you would like.

Stay positive
Finally, job hunting can be draining at best, so make time to do the things you enjoy. 'It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude, but nobody is going to employ someone who is negative during the recruitment process,' says Jackson.

'Do things that make you feel positive (you'd be surprised how many are free) and surround yourself with cheerleaders, i.e., people who help you to look for opportunities, and stay away from anyone full of doom and gloom about your circumstances or the economy.

'The more you stay positive and the more contacts you make, the quicker you'll find a job.'

Image: © Paolese -

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