We all know that it is harder to find a job when you are unemployed.
In fact, a 2012 study by Bullhorn suggested that, if you are employed and have a criminal record, you have a better chance of impressing hiring managers than if you have been out of work for two years or longer.
There are a few obvious reasons: long-term unemployment makes people wonder why you can’t find a job — there must be something wrong with you. Also, there is the scarcity heuristic, whereby we place a higher value on something that is likely to disappear, particularly to competitors.*
What it comes down to is that nobody wants something no one else wants, and everyone wants something that everyone else wants. Demand creates demand. Marketers do it all the time.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that if you can create the illusion of demand for you, you can then create actual demand.
Here are seven ways to create the illusion of demand for you during your job hunt.
- 1. Be active on social media. Create social media profiles and have lots of friends and followers. The right kind of social media presence can make you look active, busy and savvy. The wrong kind can make you look idle and lazy.
• Right: posting – Tweeting, for example – about things, people, events, and projects. Starting conversations with interesting people, noting and reposting their tweets.
• Wrong: posting inspirational quotes, useless musings, comments about what you’re watching on TV all day, starting arguments with strangers.
2. Volunteer. Volunteering gets you out of the house, gives you a sense of purpose, and is of benefit to others and your community. One study found that active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers. Granted, it only shows correlation, not causation, and it’s quite likely that the sort of people who volunteer are the sort of better-quality people who are simply more hirable in general. Still, it’s never a bad idea. Volunteering is also a great way to network and make connections. Plus, it keeps you busy – and you don’t have to “look busy” when you are actually occupied.
3. Start a project. Write a book, start a blog, invent something, build a robot, start a charity. How can you be working when you’re so busy volunteering, writing, and inventing things? Employers will see that. Also, if you’re project is interesting, and you make like-minded people aware of it, they will seek you out.
4. Take courses. The last thing you want on a resume is a big gap. If you take courses, you can say you took time off to study. Courses can be anything from workshops to full degree or certificate programs. Related to your industry, or not related to your industry, the point is that you are “studying.” If money is a concern, you can take any number of courses for free online. There are 950 of them right here. A lack of degree or certificate doesn’t render your efforts useless. People call this “self taught” these days. You let people know you’re doing it by writing about your experience on your social media accounts and your blog.
5. Network. Yeah, I know. We’re always telling you to network. That’s because it’s effective. If you get to know a lot of people, and those people like you and say nice things about you – do NOT talk to people about looking for a job. Talk to them about things that are of mutual interest – word will get around and you will become known as a popular and interesting person, not as someone who is out of work.
6. Offer to be of help to people in your field. If you can be of assistance, without asking for anything in return (like a job), do it. Be generous with your time and skills. People will appreciate your generosity, remember you for it, and want to know more of you.
7. Make yourself just hard enough to pin down. This is tricky, but when done well, potentially effective. “The Rules” was a book of dating “rules” for women that set feminists up in arms because it advised playing head games and toying with men. One “rule,” however, was pretty good advice: don’t be always readily available. Say, if a man calls you on Friday to suggest a date for Saturday, you’re to say you’re busy, even if you’re not. Silly? Maybe. But when an employer calls you for an interview, consider saying “I’m busy at that time” and suggesting another time. Don’t answer the phone on the first ring or return calls within ten minutes. Yes. It could backfire, if you and the employer can’t find a suitable time after that and they give up and move on. I think, however, that just that small bit of unavailability is more likely to heighten an employer’s interest. And if they find someone better in the one day it takes for you to reschedule or call back, they were probably going to find that person anyway.
Look busy, or, even better, actually be busy, so that people want time with you. And when people want time with you – either socially or professionally – more will follow suit.
Eventually, this will contribute to your success.
* A famous example is the 1975 study by Worschel, Lee, and Adewole who demonstrated the principle with cookies. Using two groups, the researchers offered one group a jar of ten cookies, and another group a jar with two cookies. When asked to rate the quality of the cookies the two-cookie group found the cookies more desirable. The researchers then did another experiment, giving participants a jar of ten cookies, then removing eight cookies before subjects could eat them. The people who were faced with cookie abundance that was then taken away from them rated the cookies even more desirable than the two other groups.