(MoneyWatch) I'm getting more emails from people who've been out of work quite a long time. Not surprisingly, they're very dispirited but what makes it worse is that they are worrying about how to cover the gap that is growing in their resume. Being out of work is debilitating because your morale plummets, your confidence starts to hemorrhage and your passion for network decidedly dwindles. What should you do?
I confronted this problem many years ago when I sold my business, moved continents and had my first child - all at pretty much the same time. (I would not recommend this to anyone.) So I found myself in a new city where I knew no one - so no networking. The industry I knew well - television - wasn't a going concern in my new home. My confidence was rock bottom - having a baby at home will do that to you. What was I to do?
In the end, I decided that working - at anything - was better than not working at all. So I took a job in a call center. I liked to tell myself that it was an upmarket call center - we raised money for good causes instead of selling stuff - but really: It was a call center. Rather to my amazement, I discovered I was really good at the work and I earned whatever bonuses were going (usually a bag of Doritos, which I don't like. But most of all, I got back into the rhythm of work and got my confidence back. Eventually I realized that I was doing so many shifts that I had no time for my job search, so I left. My boss said he was disappointed -- he thought I was management material. When I started interviewing, no one asked about the resume gap; it was clear from my energy and attitude that I was ready for work -- because, at last, I was.
Working in the call center wasn't an obvious move but I'm glad I did it. Not just because it got me back into a working mindset but because it taught me an invaluable lesson, namely that the world is full of bright, driven, energetic people who get stuck. They all have more potential than their job demonstrates. That informed all of my subsequent hiring.
So for job hunters, I'd say: Working at something, anything is better than nothing. If you are working, you can talk about that, come across as active, credible and engaged and that will prove more effective than anything. You may find you like what you're doing, are appreciated and can do more. But even if you don't, you'll recover the confidence and energy every employer wants.
And to employers I'd say: The world is full of talented people who just want the chance to do a good job. Give it to them.