Bob Goldman

It's funny, but some people think that in order to get a job, you have to already have a job. Perhaps this used to be the case in the old days, when jobs were plentiful and buffalo roamed the plains, but these are tough times -- for job hunters and for buffalo hunters -- and even the best of us can find ourselves without gainful employment.

Outside of the fact that you have nothing to do and nowhere to be, unemployment can be pretty sweet. But eventually, even the most hard-working nonworker has seen every episode of "Law & Order" at least twice and decides to turn off the TV and get a job.

This is where the problem of unemployment resurfaces. How do you explain to your new boss that there's nothing wrong with a person who hasn't had an old boss for one, two, five or 10 years?

This is the question that was recently asked of Eilene Zimmerman, the totally-employed moderator of the "Career Couch" column of The New York Times.

In the words of the questioner, "Even though many people lost jobs during the recession for reasons unrelated to performance, you fear that your long-term unemployment is sometimes equated with desperation and a lack of competency." This may not be a concern for you. After all, even when you were working, everyone suspected that you had a lack of competency.

One way to change perceptions, reports Zimmerman, is to change your way of networking with former co-workers and friends. According to Lavie Margolin, a career coach, "You don't want them to feel sorry for you or to see you as defeated." The solution is to "make sure you have something to offer them, whether its sharing an article in a trade publication, talking about an industry blog, or mentioning a professional opportunity they may not know about."

I have a better idea. Why not offer your networked contacts the opportunity to lend you money? The more gelt you can guilt out of them with your pathetic life story, the less they'll feel sorry for you; I guarantee it. And since you will owe them money, your network will work doubly hard to help you get a job. Because they love you and respect you, and they want to get paid back.

Author and career expert, Lawrence Shatkin, tells Zimmerman that it's important to keep up with what's happening in your industry. Fortunately, you already know what is happening -- good people are getting fired. Shatkin suggests you take a visible, volunteer position in an industry association. This may not be the best idea. If you screw up your volunteer position the way you screwed up your paid position, you may have to change industries altogether. FYI, the business humor column writing industry is quite forgiving.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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