I recently read an article by Allison Doyle on About.com, about the growing number of employers posting ads that refuse to consider unemployed workers, regardless of their qualifications. Some of the ads boldly state, “Only candidates who are currently employed as a (blank) will be considered,” or “Must be currently employed in a (blank) profession for at least the past 12 consecutive months.”
This is disturbing on several levels. Not only is it unfair and bad for the economy, but more relevant to this blog, it also discriminates against parents who have taken breaks from their career to raise their children.
How can employers get away with this? Because it’s not considered discrimination. At least, not yet. And, in today’s economy, there are simply too many other applicants to choose from.
The good news is that Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), have introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act to prohibit employers from refusing to consider unemployed applicants.
While this is all well and good, the fact of the matter remains that the negative stereotype of being “unemployed” still persists among employers. When you’re employed, you’re seen as valuable, but if you’re unemployed, there must be something wrong with you. Hence, the old adage, “It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.”
Not working, or being “between jobs,” is automatically going to raise a red flag among employers. In some cases, they may be right. That’s why it’s important to dispel any red flags by stating in the cover letter your reason for being out of work — and what you have done in the meantime to stay current in your field.
This brings me to another issue that commonly faces parents and even new college graduates who delay entry into their career field because of prior obligations: the perception of being “stale” in your field.
I recently worked with a nursing alumnus who took care of ill family members for two years after graduation. When Julie came to see me, the situation had resolved itself, and she was ready to re-enter the workforce. But when Julie began applying for jobs, she got little or no response. Luckily for her, a nursing recruiter finally explained that because Julie had been out of the nursing field for two years, her skills were perceived as “dated.” Although Julie felt her skills were as sharp as ever, she was perceived as being stale by others in the marketplace. Long story short, Julie enrolled in a couple of refresher courses at our community college. Although she wanted to work in a hospital setting, she took a part-time, temporary position with a nursing staffing agency to regain the impression she was up-to-date and employable. Eventually she landed a second shift position at a local hospital.
If you were in a field like technology or health care where changes occur daily and skills deteriorate without use, you need to combat the perception that you are “out of date.” Consider doing the following while you are staying at home raising your children:
- Take a refresher course at your local college or a professional organization.
- Obtain an advanced degree or certification to demonstrate your relevancy in the field.
- Volunteer, work part-time, or on a per diem or temporary basis to gain some current experience.
- When the age of your children permits, try to stay current with the issues in your field, if only belonging to a professional “group” on LinkedIn. Demonstrate continued growth, learning, and achievements to fill the gap on your resume.