When you’re unemployed, the sinking feeling that it’ll be impossible to find another job isn’t just in the pit of your stomach–or your head. In many cases, you really are dealing with discrimination from employers. Northeastern University researchers found that someone who’s been unemployed for six months or longer is much less likely to land an interview than someone who’s been between jobs for only a short time, even if they lack the right skills.
But while theres no magic fix, your prospects don’t have to be as hopeless as they may feel, and one of the best ways to give them a major boost is to revamp your personal brand. That starts with getting one thing straight right away: When you’re between jobs, “unemployed” is not your personal brand. So if you were a sales manager before you lost your job, then, assuming that’s the work you still want to do, you’re still a sales manager now.
Showing employers this brand during your job search–no matter how long it goes on–can make a huge difference. And that also means making sure they can find it, including with some smart search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Here’s where to start.
The foundation of personal SEO is the set of search terms that describes your skills, experience, and accomplishments–your keywords. That means you need to find and leverage the right keywords that your target employers are using to look for their ideal candidate, then work them back into your social media accounts.
So do some research to first check that the most current terms describing your line of work–your role in your industry–are up to date and as universally used as they can be. For example, your official job title might have been “webmaster” once upon a time, but there are only a few job postings for “webmasters” in 2017. The work hasn’t gone away, but it likely has a new name, like “web developer,” “web content developer,” or a more specific one like “front-” or “back-end developer.”
Once you identify that current job title, update your LinkedIn profile, Twitter bio, resume, and other professional materials accordingly.
Employers are famous for the intensity of their online research practices. You know your social media profiles are all clean, so there’s no need to Google yourself, right?
Not exactly. Someone else could be giving you a bad name online–someone with the same name as you. And if you think it can’t happen to you, think again. A friend of mine, Robert, spent four months sending his resume out with no luck. He assumed he was being ignored because of his unemployment, but something else was going on.
Robert didn’t know there was another man with the same name as him, living in the same state, who was actually a disbarred attorney named in a visible Supreme Court case. Yikes.
After Googling his name and learning it was associated with the disgraced lawyer, Robert added his middle initial to his online profiles and resume in order to differentiate himself. Two weeks later, he was finally called in for an interview.
Your name is actually an extremely important set of keywords that you need to monitor and manage. Start by searching your name inside quotation marks (“Your Name”) to see what other results that complete phrase surfaces. Is there someone out there with the same name that’s so famous (or infamous) that nothing about you shows up within the first few pages of results? Think of this as “defensive Googling,” and do it at least monthly, especially while you’re unemployed.
If you have a common name and there are a lot of people associated with it, consider adding (or removing) a middle initial to your job search materials. You can also use a shortened version of your name, like using Rob instead of Robert. Whatever version of your name you determine is best, just be consistent. Consistency is key to successful personal branding and SEO.
When you’ve been unemployed for some time, you may feel like LinkedIn only underscores your employment status. But it’s actually much worse to neglect your profile (or not create one at all) during the time you’re out of work.
Even though you don’t have a current position, your search ranking will drop if your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have a current title listed, making it much harder for recruiters to find you. So add a headline that reflects your goal. Use keywords related to the position you want, the skills you have, your accomplishments, and your industry.
When employers search your name, you want them to find content that shows what a promising candidate you are, despite being unemployed. Write some blog posts on LinkedIn or just contribute some comments to LinkedIn groups where people in your field find and share information, or even start your own group.
SlideShare is also a great option to show your expertise in a more visual format. Connect your SlideShare files to your LinkedIn profile to increase exposure–just be aware of any content you’re creating and sharing that’s tied to previous work positions.
While it may take some work to get off the ground, a podcast can also show employers your skills. To make the show easier to manage, even after you land your full-time job, find a colleague or friend to co-produce the podcast with you. And keep in mind that you may have a leg up on your fully employed competitors in the job market when it comes to content efforts like these–you have the time to pour into them, they don’t.
If you’re having a hard time finding a job, I’m sure someone at some point has suggested volunteer work. That may sound like a waste of time, but it’s not. Deloitte researchers recently found that volunteer work is one of the most underrated job skills you can put on your resume. Just remember that the work should be relevant to your goals.
For example, reconsider volunteering to clean cages at the animal shelter if you’re an accountant; instead, see if that shelter has books you can balance, donation funds that need managing, or other help that’s specifically related to your skills and career goals. That way, the volunteer work bolsters your resume, boosts your networking, and builds your personal brand.
Any long-term job search can be stressful, even when you’ve already got a job, and even with the best personal brand and personal SEO. It’s easy to blame yourself and get caught up in self-doubt. Just try to understand that other smart, capable people are unemployed, too–especially younger professionals, where the rates of unemployment and underemployment are disproportionately high.
Changing your mind-set can be extra challenging if you’re trying to do it alone, but joining a job search group or network for unemployed professionals can give you the support you need. Stay positive, keep putting in the time to sharpen your SEO and personal brand, and you’ll be back at work before you know it.