“Unemployment Catch-22” suggests that the fact of one’s unemployment and the length of it may make an individual appear to be a less desirable employee than someone who is still actively working and, by virtue of their active employment, may be seen as a better candidate for a job.
For example, Sue and Steve both applied for a position with a financial services organization. Sue has been employed by a similar organization for over eight years and is looking for a higher position and a better salary, so applied for this job that she heard about from a recruiter who knew and liked her. Steve lost his job in 2008 and has been unsuccessful in his efforts to find comparable work that would pay him a salary commensurate with the one he lost when he was let go.
The employer saw Sue as the stronger candidate simply because she was currently employed and that suggested that she is “desirable,” i.e. somebody ‘wants her’. Steve, on the other hand, was viewed as an “undesirable” candidate since his long-term unemployment raised questions for the prospective employer, such as “why can’t this well-qualified guy find work?” or “if nobody else has hired him after two years, maybe they know something I don’t and I shouldn’t take a chance on him.”
This is a terrible dilemma for long out-of-work individuals who often are at a loss to explain to prospective employers or recruiters why it is that they cannot seem to find work, especially if this is something that they may be unable to explain to themselves.
If you are someone who has experienced the unemployment catch-22, here are a few suggestions to assist you as you manage your way through it: 1) Reasonable self-examination might help you to identify ways in which you might have contributed to your plight and provide you with new insights about yourself that you can work on and improve. Be careful not to blame yourself for factors beyond your control like the state of the economy, the job market, the employment needs of your particular industry, etc.; 2) if you are someone who struggles with what is commonly known as interview anxiety, perhaps some help in overcoming this might be in order; and 3) if you are feeling discouraged or bleak about the likelihood of getting a new job, make sure your pessimism is not causing you to behave in ways that might be considered self -defeating, e.g. being half-hearted in the ongoing need for seeking job possibilities or acting like someone who is retired, when, in fact, what you are is temporarily unemployed.