Make Yourself More Marketable After Being Let Go

In OneWire’s “Ask the Recruiter” blog series, Mary Gay Townsend, the Senior Managing Director of OneWire Managed Services, our executive recruiting team, addresses difficult job search questions that candidates most want answered.  You can read the latest post below:

In today’s fluctuating economy, many professionals have been laid off for reasons unrelated to their performance.  But unfortunately, gaps in work experience are still among the first things a recruiter will look for when taking candidates out of the hiring process.  In their minds, a bad economy is no excuse for long stretches of unemployment.  What can a candidate do to address those gaps?  In this post, I would like to provide some tips on how to make yourself more marketable when you are in between jobs and how to approach your job search proactively and creatively.

The dos and don’ts for the unemployed are not always obvious.  For example, if you have been unemployed for a long time, I would not make working with executive recruiters your primary strategy.  There certainly can still be value in working with recruiting firms, and I’ve placed some stellar candidates who were unemployed at the time that I recruited them.  However, it’s important to remember that search firms are typically paid by clients and do not have the flexibility to show multiple unemployed candidates for a search.  A more fruitful strategy might be to hire a career coach, who can give you specific interview tips and advice on presentation or networking techniques.

If you show a commitment to being active in the market, firms will be more forgiving of work experience gaps.  I once worked with a Chief Compliance Officer who, after being laid off, immediately partnered with several firms to provide his expertise and build relationships.  He found a new CCO position in only 3 months because of a relationship he developed while consulting.  His experience reminds us that working part-time can eventually become a full-time job. I would also recommend that you involve yourself in relevant activities within your community.  Volunteer to handle finances for your child’s school or offer to maintain the books for your church’s vestry.  Remaining engaged and providing your expertise will show companies that your skills remain relevant and marketable.

Candidates should also do everything they can to expand their networks.  Aside from volunteering, join organizations and groups relevant to your career, such as 85Broads or theNew York Private Equity Network (NYPEN).  If your career was in real estate, go to relevant conferences or lectures to meet people.  It might even be helpful to take classes that can add to your professional experience.  The most important thing is to be proactive!  Don’t be afraid to reach out to your personal network and ask for help in your job search.  Send a thoughtful email to your rolodex explaining that you are in the market for a job and detailing what you bring to the table.  Often, an email can open doors to opportunities that are not posted either on websites or job boards.  You need to speak with people that have a vested interest in your success.

Resumes also require a unique approach when a candidate is between jobs.  Fill in your employment gaps by highlighting activities that demonstrate continued engagement in the market.  Include relevant volunteering/consulting work and detail your responsibilities as you would with a full-time role.  Keep it simple but accurate. You might also use a cover letter to highlight your current endeavors.  I also strongly recommend including professional references on resumes or in cover letters.  References further establish your credibility and can override the red flags that unemployment raises.  As an example, I recently worked with a private equityfirm on a fundraising search, and they were on the fence with a candidate who had been out of a job for a while.  The candidate’s references, however, were outstanding and ultimately convinced the PE firm that the candidate was a catch despite of the fact that she was unemployed.  She got the job, and the references helped her cross the finish line.

Seeking a new opportunity while unemployed can be a stressful and exhausting process.  By using your time wisely and proactively developing your professional network, however, you can put yourself in a strong position to minimize the time between roles.

Have a question for our recruiting team? Submit it to [email protected]!

For additional career advice, check out OneWire’s exclusive, new interview video series, Open Door, in which influential executive leaders in finance share invaluable career advice for professionals at every stage of their careers.