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Tips on how to not let the downtimes show up in a career graph

Tips on how to not let the downtimes show up in a career graphImage Credit: Supplied

Long-term unemployment can have a detrimental effect on a person's career. The snowball effect can lead to being turned down as a candidate, and thus creating big gaps that trigger employers' concerns about a person's record of employment. The longer this cycle goes on, the less likely the person will be able to get out of it.

But blaming people for their long-term unemployment as a personal choice can be unfair. In many cases, people are forced into long stints of staying at home or picking up odd jobs for no fault of theirs. Illness, dependent care, or simply a tough job market can be the reason.

Having said that, there are also personal preferences that might unnecessarily extend an unemployment period. These factors must be considered early in the process and minimized to avoid prolonging the unemployment.

Here are the most common factors:

Regretting the loss

Unless you have chosen to resign, any other circumstances surrounding the end of your past job can trigger a whole lot of emotions and thoughts. Although the time you take to process what happened and led to the termination can be beneficial in avoiding future mistakes, being immersed in negativity does not help.

You need to pick up the pieces as soon as possible and move forward. With all the lessons learnt, try to make the best of the situation and view your experience as positively as possible under the circumstances. One thing that you should not miss is that your bitterness and inability to move on can impact your tone in interviews and get in the way of securing a new job. That is why you must find a closure to the negative experience and start positively on a new opportunity.

Rethinking the career

After a layoff, many people decide to take time to rethink their career and decide on the next move. Though it can be good to make such a change, taking too much time can be dangerous — not only financially, but also professionally. The time you're spending unemployed and thinking counts against you. If you're totally unclear about which direction you want to take, start applying for jobs similar to the one you had and continue to think.

No one will stop you from making a move later. But remember, even when you are switching careers, being employed helps. So work towards getting started as soon as possible — after a short break.

Window shopping

Another reason many people lose valuable time is that they don't take the job search seriously in the beginning. This could be driven by their interest in securing another job that is at the same level to the one they had, or their hopes to find an opportunity that pays more or offers a better title.

Passing up some job opportunities when you are not ready doesn't hurt. What really hurts is sending applications when you are not serious about the job hunt and not following through. Hiring managers won't know when you finally become serious. If you have established that you apply for any and every job, and don't proceed, they probably will set your applications aside.


Many people who worked for long periods with one employer may be hesitant to jump into the job market immediately after a layoff. It may be a combination of concerns regarding how their skills will be perceived and what employers are looking for today. It could also be simply the fact that they are inexperienced with the entire job search process.

The only way to get over this shyness is to simply get started. Go to as many job interview as you can to practice. Although you should take each and every one of them seriously, you still must refine the approach by reviewing what went right and what didn't.

By the time you get to a critical interview of a job that you really want, you will probably be as spontaneous and relaxed as needed to make a positive impression.

Find out what to do when the past haunts your job search

Source: Rania Oteify, Special to

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor