A reader writes:
I have been unemployed for 6 months and it’s been very challenging! I find looking for a job (a job that is the right fit for me) to be a full-time job! In the past 6 months, I have enrolled in career counseling and have attended resume and interview skills workshops, hidden job market seminars, and job search strategies workshops. I feel this is important for my own personal growth and development, plus it gives me an advantage in my search.
In interviews, when I am asked what have I been doing the last 6 months while unemployed and I say all the above, I feel like I’m being judged, perhaps, or those answers and what I’ve been doing isn’t good enough… Any suggestions?
Yes, they’re judging you for it and it’s not reflecting well on you. Here’s why:
1. Those activities are all about getting a job. But your interviewers don’t care about your job-searching skills; they only care about what you’re going to be like once you’re in a job. So they’re looking for answers like volunteering, taking a class, learning a new skill, working in your community — something that’s going to make you a more valuable employee when you do return to work.
2. It’s … excessive. I don’t know what kind of advice you’re getting at these workshops and seminars and counseling, but a good career expert could give you the basics you need in less than a day. So — fairly or unfairly — it’s coming across as both excessive and desperate, and it’s raising questions about your judgment in doing so much of it, and questions about why you need so much of it.
3. On a more human level, imagine that you’re on a first date. You ask the guy how he likes to spend his time, and he tells you that he spends most of his free time going to relationship seminars, reading dating advice books, and practicing his dating skills. Turn-on or turn-off? Similar thing here.
Look, I know the job market is horrible and it’s scary to be out of work, and hiring practices can seem mysterious, and the whole thing is incredibly anxiety-producing, and so I understand how you could end up throwing yourself into this kind of thing in the hope that it will help. And if you want to do it and find it helpful, fine (as long as you’re actually getting good advice from these experts, which I’m questioning). But it’s not a good answer when employers ask you how you’ve been spending your time.
Do something that will make you more marketable. There’s tons to choose from (see answers in point #1 above).