According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of the end of July, the average bout of unemployment lasted 34.2 weeks, representing 44.9% of all unemployed Americans. This means taxpayers without jobs are spending just over 8 months without a paycheck.
A very popular interview question to ask candidates who are between opportunities is “what have you been doing with your time?” I know of several who are dealing with a gap of one year or more on their résumés. It is only natural that a hiring manager is going to ask such a candidate what they have been doing: in what way have they been keeping busy?
Despite the abundant and oft-repeated aphorism that looking for a job is itself a full-time job, “searching for my next opportunity” simply isn’t an acceptable answer to give in an interview. Job search does not generally help one keep professional skills sharp, and indeed, professional skills might even atrophy from disuse, especially if not exercised regularly.
I don’t consider this a problematic question: I have an answer that works for me. But I would submit that job seekers accustomed to or seeking leadership roles would do well to find avenues to exercise the craft of leadership. Tim Tyrell-Smith, author of the Tim’s Strategy blog, recently posted a relevant entry: 3 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership While Finding a Job. His suggestions of blogging, helping others to network and speaking are all excellent. Certainly, offering one’s expertise and experience through blogging, helping others with networking and speaking to others are absolutely ways to demonstrate leadership while in search. But note that all three of these ideas are also about networking.
In any job search process, there’s going to be a question about how to allocate a job seeker’s time. That aphorism about finding a job being a full-time job is right, even though you can’t say that in an interview.
So how should a job seeker spend his or her time? Well, another statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes to mind: 70% of new jobs are filled through networking.
The evidence behind this number is provided by Kimberly Beatty on the Jobfully blog. In brief, it is inferred through three data elements on the BLS JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report: number of hires, open positions posted and previously opened positions filled by a candidate already known to the employer.
If the majority of jobs are landed through networking—and this conclusion is difficult to avoid—then doesn’t it make sense for a job seeker to spend the majority of his or her time pursuing it?
I think so. How about you?