Can You Come Back Successfully After Long-Term Unemployment?
Beth Braccio Hering, CareerBuilder Writer
Despite many years of experience in the medical field, Betty Robinson had difficulty finding a job when she moved to northern New York. During her unemployment, she decided to boost her skills and sought an online degree from Rasmussen College. Armed with her associate degree in health information technology, she secured a position as a coding clerk six months after graduation.
While happy to return to the work force, Robinson notes that she had to regain her confidence. Her biggest concern was trying to quickly learn the system used by her new employer.
Challenges face every new employee, but workers like Robinson who are returning to the workplace after prolonged unemployment may have special concerns or expectations. Here are a few ways to get off on the right foot and keep on progressing in the right direction.
Getting to know the place
While you might be eager to show your knowledge and make an impression on your new colleagues, experts often recommend patience.
"Take some time to scan the environment before charging ahead with recommendations for new ways of doing things. Get to know the culture," says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass.
Observations to make that will help you fit in and maximize your chances for success include:
- Noting how people dress.
- Studying the structure of meetings, such as who leads and how people contribute.
- Getting to know who holds the key to the resources you need to get your job done.
- Remembering people's names.
- Seeing when people arrive in the morning and how late they stay at night.
- Learning how goals and objectives are defined and measured.
David Hughen, founder of AustinWorkNet, a firm in Austin, Texas, specializing in human resources strategies, recommends asking for an employee handbook or policies manual before your first day. "Even better is to find as many people as possible who you know work for this new employer and quiz them on the formal and informal practices of the company."
This is your new job, not your old one
Perhaps you used to have a corner office and now you have a windowless cubicle. While your disappointment might be understandable, your new co-workers probably aren't interested in hearing how things used to be for you. Likewise, you might think your new employer has a strange filing system, but trying to revamp it on your second day can come off as more pushy than helpful.
Better ways to make an impression include:
- Volunteering for a project that others do not want to take on.
- Offering genuine compliments.
- Asking others if you can help.
- Joining colleagues for lunch and other social gatherings.
- Refraining from criticizing the company or fellow workers.
- Demonstrating an eagerness to learn.
Leave your past behind and keep your future growing
With personal knowledge of the financial and emotional stress of unemployment, workers returning to the work force may be especially eager to avoid ever being in that situation again.
"From a psychological standpoint, it's difficult to check your baggage at the door. But you must do so in order to thrive," Matuson says. "You have to quiet your mind from thinking that it will only be a matter of time before you lose your job again. Presume that everything will be fine. You've been selected from a vast pool of candidates, so clearly you must have what it takes."
At the same time, the reality of the ever-changing job market is that no employee has a 100 percent guarantee. Thus, it doesn't hurt for any worker to continue to develop skills and contacts.
"Though there's much to be excited about with a new job, and that excitement can be all-consuming, it's critical to be prepared for a professional life beyond the immediate work in front of you," Hughen says.
A last bit of advice
Having been away from the work force, it will take a bit of time to get a rhythm and routine going again. Give yourself a break and some time to adjust. Robinson's tip for returning workers: "It is important just to relax and learn the new way things are done."
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