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In the job hunt, the stigma of being laid off is hard to erase

In a makeshift bedroom in her parents house, Lynette Harper applies for another j
ob.
Chicago, IL - November 17, 2010 -- She s filled out 200 applications since being l
aid off from her senior manager position at Marriott Hotels in 2008. To avoid be
coming homeless, the independent 38-year-old mother mustered the courage to do t
he unthinkable: move back to her family s home in Illinois
More than 850 miles away in Buffalo, New York, Jennifer Matthews, 47, is countin
g down the weeks about four she figures until her unemployment checks stop comin
g. Allstate eliminated her vice president position in February 2009. Even with h
er 30 years of insurance experience, she s been rejected by dozens of insurance co
mpanies unable to even land an interview.
These two women may be states apart, but they re bound together by the scarlet let
ter of unemployment in the worst economic downfall since the Great Depression. H
arper and Matthews, both frustrated and disheartened, said they believe they are
being shunned by potential employers and recruiters because of their unemployed
status.
I ve heard people say, You re unemployed, so why bother, said Harper.
You re in a lose-lose situation in a lot of ways.
As if securing work in a jobless recovery isn t tricky enough, being labeled unemp
loyed brings additional obstacles. Some companies state explicitly that they don t
want to consider people who don t currently have a job, a CNNMoney article report
ed this month.
It s not against the law, labor attorneys say, to discriminate against people who
are unemployed.
Some recruiters interviewed say companies perceive the unemployed as weak perfor
mers or fickle workers. Or they worry that a person without a job has rusty work
skills, especially if they haven t worked for more than six months. Or that an un
employed person will take a lower paying job out of desperation and then flee wh
en a better job opportunity arises.
When you are unemployed, you are an in a defensive position and you have to defen
d why you are unemployed, said Patricia Michaels, CEO of PKL Consulting, a nation
al sales recruiting firm. It s more difficult to be aggressive and positive.
Jaime Reynolds, editor at Job-Hunter, explained a distinction hiring managers an
d recruiters make.
Unemployed applicants searching for jobs are sometimes viewed as active job seeke
rs, while employed individuals, who are not looking, are as passive job seekers. So
me companies prefer passive job seekers because they are perceived as more happy
and secure in their current job and therefore more selective about any new posi
tion they accept, she said.
I do believe there is a bias in the workplace against unemployed candidates, said
Jim Thomas, Senior Manager at recruiting firm Collier+Vinson, LLP. His recruitin
g firm has worked with a few clients who have discreetly avoided the resumes of
the unemployed, he said.
Whether the stereotypes around the unemployed are true or false, it s not making t
he job hunting conditions any easier for the nearly 15 million jobless Americans
. About one out of 10 people in the U.S. over the age of 16 were unemployed in M
ay 2010, a slight increase from the same time period the year before, according
the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And those who are jobless are already seeking new employment, which means compet
ition is tough in a labor market where companies are still downsizing. About 13
million unemployed individuals are seeking full time employment, the BLS said.
Full economic recovery is expected to take at least five years and companies are
being conservative when it comes to hiring. For every job opening, there are ap
proximately five unemployed workers waiting to fill the gap, according to an ana
lysis performed by BLS.
This is the only thing we ve seen that is this deep and this long, Thomas said. The r
ecovery is going to be slow and rocky.
Many companies will consider hiring jobless applicants, said Harold Upchurch, an
independent recruiter at iExecutives for more than two decades. He thinks many
employers have become more understanding because job cuts are so widespread.
With more than 2,400 e-mails corresponding with potential employers, Richard Tim
mons, 56 and unemployed in Maryland, said most companies have been understanding
about his unemployment status. He lost his senior project manager job at a hosp
ital in January 2009.
But unemployment discrimination exists, he said. He recalled an incident this sp
ring, when a hiring manager wrote him a rejection e-mail that cited his long peri
od of unemployment.
I just kind of let it go, he said. I believe the right opportunity will come around
and you can t go with the highs and lows of this hiring process.
To overcome the stigma of unemployment, Thomas, suggests the unemployed find tem
porary jobs, earn degrees or volunteer to keep themselves active.
I think unemployed people probably need to be busier than ever, he said. In additio
n to looking for a job, they need to spend a lot of time building up their human
capital.
Lynette Harper, who was a senior manager in human resources at Marriott, said sh
e s been taking an online MBA course to boost her resume. Her job was cut about tw
o years ago to help the company cut costs. She harbors no bitterness toward her
old company, saying Marriott was a solid workplace. But she s upset that she still
cannot find a new job to support her baby.
I applied for lower level human resource jobs, Harper said. The feedback was, You wi
ll jump ship.
Other comments are related to challenging the boss authority if I have more experi
ence in that area.
Some of the unemployed regardless of the new label they bear are hopeful they wi
ll one day get a full-time job. Jennifer Matthews, who once worked at the vice p
resident level Allstate, broadened her search in the dismal job market. She says
she will search outside of Boston, where her husband and teenager live, and con
sider pursuing a job in New York. That means she will have to commute home each
weekend.
She already applied to several insurance jobs in New York City this month.
After all, she was once told that, If you have Allstate on your resume, you can g
o anywhere. It s like going to Harvard. You can write your own ticket.
Contact :
Collier+Vinson, LLP
Headquarters
70 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602-4270
Phone: 1-888-417-3514
Fax: 1-888-417-3514
info@colliervinsononline.com
http://www.colliervinsononline.com
insurance jobs, insurance experience, insurance, unemployment