NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The longer you don't have a job, the harder it can be to find one.
It probably feels like you have been sidelined for an eternity and that your prospects of landing a job soon are slim to none. As skeptical as you have a right to be, that doesn't have to be the way it works out for you. You can and will get a new job.
The job market has heated up. The U.S. unemployment rate is at 5.5% right now, the lowest it's been since before the Great Recession, meaning that employers have fewer available workers to choose from -- which is great news if you're looking for a job. You have a window right now for a major reboot and a return to work. But you will need a decisive strategy to reposition the time out, rediscover your confidence, and prepare for the inevitable push-back you may receive from potential employers who are wary of hiring someone who has been out of work for a while. The last item -- push-back -- sounds obvious but hiring slows down in the summer and hiring managers are notorious for radio silence and bad form. You will need to be bold! Lots of people are, and will be, out of work for extended periods of time. Long-term unemployment is no longer an exception to the rule. So get over the embarrassment, shame, and discouragement if you want to get back on track.
The real question is not whether companies will hire someone who has been on the bench for a year or two. They do and they will. Instead: How have these unemployed folks used the time off? If they have been productive -- taking classes, volunteering, assuming a leadership role in a professional work-related group, consulting, or engaging in aggressive job search -- then yes, they are solid candidates. If they cannot demonstrate their productivity and resourcefulness, an efficient interview process will screen them out.
Here are six tips on handling long-term unemployment and shrinking the time to land. If you have been out of work for an extended period of time -- one, two or more years -- this advice is for you.
1. Don't appear frustrated or discouraged.
Folks who have been out of work for a long stretch face an enormous challenge and one which is not usually considered: the accumulated discouragement of an extended search. When you carry the burden of a job search that seems to drag on forever into meetings and conversations, everyone will see and feel your frustration. It is inevitable and it is also deeply damaging to your reputation and the impression you make. People will not spend time with you if the experience is unpleasant. Find a place to store your feelings temporarily and don't let them out of your sight until you have landed.