In the words of Henry Hartman, “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” One of the best ways to prepare for your future employment is to treat yourself like a business and know who you are and what you have to offer. What exactly does that mean? SWOT yourself and see how YOU like it! For all of you product development and marketing people out there, you know what this means, but for everyone else: A SWOT analysis specifically spells out the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a product or company and helps you determine the best strategy to overcome pitfalls and enhance advantages. You should use this useful tool to better define who you are as an employee and what you are searching for in an employer.
The first step of this process is recognizing your strengths. You should really put some thought into this, be completely honest with yourself and don't embellish your abilities. Keep in mind that your strengths among your social peers may not necessarily translate into strengths for the purposes of your job search. You are trying to identify what separates you from the competition, so use the basic duties of your field to establish a baseline of abilities that are required and compile a list of strengths that exceed this minimum.
Using this same baseline of necessary skills, compile a list of your weaknesses. A great place to start is asking yourself what tasks you typically try to avoid because you aren't confident in your skills or maybe because you have been outperformed in this area in the past. Be sure to look at what you would identify as your weaknesses in addition to what other, external sources, would identify as your weaknesses. Regardless of whether you agree with them or not, if several of your co-workers define you a certain way it should be included as part of your personal inventory. If it turns out you don't actually have this weakness, at the very least you will want to work on eliminating the perception of this weakness.
Your opportunities stem from both internal and external sources as well. This list will include industry facts that provide you with a unique opening in addition to personal choices and connections that other candidates may not have access to. This is also where you will want to translate your strengths into opportunities, remember that strengths are abilities and opportunities require actions. In order for an educational seminar to count as an opportunity you must attend and participate, merely being aware of it doesn't count.
Identifying and addressing your threats may be the most difficult aspect of performing a self SWOT analysis. It may help if you keep in mind that the strengths of other candidates could directly correlate into your threats. Analyze which of your weaknesses could turn into threats and pay attention to what weaknesses you might incur as a result of the strengths the competition might have. With some hard work, and a little brutal honesty, you can minimize your weakness and threats and place yourself in a better position to recognize and take advantage of your new employment opportunities.
If you have been unemployed for six months or more, you are considered to be long-term unemployed by most organizations. This means that you are rapidly approaching the 99 week federal maximum allowance for unemployment benefits claims and worse yet, you have begun to realize that being unemployed makes companies see you as unemployable. While it can be easy to let these negative assumptions discourage your job search, you will find better results and more opportunities if you use this as an opening to increase your value as an employee.
It would seem that the most common assumptions responsible for encouraging companies to hire more recently unemployed applicants fall into two categories. Hiring managers frequently claim that the long-term unemployed are substandard in some way that has decreased their desirability as staff-members (increasing their length of joblessness) and they believe the longer a candidate is without work the more his/her skills and efficiency diminishes despite their previous education and experience.
So, how should you answer questions about the gap in your employment history? The old adage still applies; the best defense is a good offense.
Take advantage of your local community college, trade school or library; learn a new trade or become proficient at something you're only moderately familiar with. Don’t forget that volunteering at a nonprofit organization in your field can help keep your skills sharp and introduce you to people who may become invaluable employment contacts. Make a major enhancement to your skill-set and imagine the impact an improvement like learning a new language could have during your next interview. Your time out of work can still be time well spent if you are willing to work at it and show that it wasn’t time spent sitting idly by.
The unemployment rate is calculated using the overall population and the number of unemployed persons who are actively job-hunting. That means we completely ignore the number of jobless people who have given up on finding their next great job. Using these figures we could continue to see the unemployment rate drop, even as very few new jobs are created and more people are getting laid off.
This is where the good news comes in. In the face of a record breaking 286,000 new jobs created in the private sector for the month of April, the fact that the jobless rate rose .2% shows that unemployed individuals are experiencing a boost in morale and are diving back into the candidate pool.
CNN spokesmen have stressed the importance of not relying on the unemployment rate alone and instead focusing more attention on the number of jobs created. “The only number that matters is the number of jobs created – 244,000 in April; a LOT more than even the most optimistic economists were predicting, and within striking distance of the number (300,000) of jobs the economy needs to be creating per month to get back down to the 5% unemployment rate we had before the recession.” No one is going to try to sell the idea that an unemployment rate nearing double digits is a positive thing, however, the overall job creation numbers are hard to ignore and impossible to see as anything other than a leap in the right direction.