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14 signs that you're becoming unemployable

Employability is the new thing. Who cares if you lose your job, if you have your pay cut, if you're disconcerted by the arrival of a new boss, or if your employer decides to relocate to the middle of nowhere? None of this need make any difference, as long as you're sufficiently employable that you can find a new job somewhere else.

By the same token, being unemployable is bad. It doesn't happen overnight. It can even creep up on you while you're still working. These are the signs that the scourge of unemployability is coming to you.

1. You have't learned anything new for years

Just because you've got a nice, secure, lucrative job, you can still be atrophying and en route to eternal unemployment. "If you haven't learned anything new in the past three years, it's usually a sign that becoming less employable," says Ellen Miller, an ex-MD at Lehman Brothers and head of careers for leadership programmes at London Business School.

Learning new technology is especially important, says Miller. For example, if your external and internal pitches are still text-heavy and lack graphics and animations, that's a bad sign.

2. You're being brushed away with polite rebuffs 

If you approach headhunters or recruiters, and they respond with a polite formality that goes no further, it's a sign that you're not "aligned to their needs," says Richard Chiumento, director at human resource consulting firm Rialto. "You're not connected to their agendas," he adds.

3. You make it onto the short list but you never the get job 

Repeatedly being shortlisted is another bad sign, says Chiumento. This too is an indication that you're neither aligned nor connected.

"If you're shortlisted two or three times, but you don't get the job, it's usually an indication that you're not aligned to what the market wants in terms of leadership capabilities," says Chiumento. The key thing today is being digitally savvy and understanding how to develop a digital strategy, he adds. Plenty of established leaders fall at this hurdle.

4. You're sending out hundreds of CVs for jobs you're unsuited to 

"Every weekend, I receive two hundred to three hundred CVs," one London-based financial services recruiter told us. "Of those, I can only use around four of five. A lot of people are just wasting their time applying for jobs they don't match at all."

By sending out too many CVs for too many jobs, the danger is that you will become blacklisted. "I can turn on my computer and find 15 applications for different jobs from the same person," said the recruiter. "In that situation, I will usually ignore them all."

5. Clients are ignoring your calls 

"The real problem is when clients don't respond to your calls and emails," said one senior equity researcher. "That's always a bad sign."

Whether you're in work - or out of work - you need to keep up with your clients, especially if you work in sales. "Stay close to clients," said headhunter Oliver Rolfe. "If you're a salesperson and you keep in touch with your clients, you can be out of the market for up to two years and still get back in."

6. You're focusing on what you want from a job, rather than what you can bring to an employer

This is a classic problem, says Chiumento: "You're not aligned when you're talking more about yourself than the challenges and issues faced by the person in front of you."

Employability is about finding a role where you can make a difference. "A lot of people are more absorbed with their own experience, skills and track record than the issues faced by the person they're having a dialogue with," Chiumento adds.

7. You're asking a lot of closed questions 

Jobseekers often shoot themselves in the foot by being too downbeat. This is typified by the asking of closed questions like, "I don't suppose you've got any new jobs coming through?", or "Anything happening at your end?"

"You need to be upbeat and energetic," advises a finance careers counsellor, speaking on condition of anonymity. "[efc_twitter text="You shouldn't be asking negative questions which make you feel needy"]."

8. You're blaming all sorts of things 

If you've lost your job, you will always go through a period of blaming other people or things. This is perfectly normal. However, the danger is that you become stuck in this phase and that you express your resentment to potential new employers. No one will want to employ you if you are full of vitriol for a former employer or boss.

"The art is to minimize the length and depth of the blaming period without glossing over it," said the careers counsellor. "You don't want to obsess about what went wrong."

9. You're sending out the same CV for every job 

If you want to get hired, you need tailor your CV and covering letter to the jobs you're applying for. If you don't do this, you won't get far, says Jeremy I'Anson, career coach at xlSys Consulting. "Whenever you apply for a role, you need to tailor your CV so that you're highlighting the key skills you have which match the requirements for the position," I'Anson says.

10. You're refusing to acknowledge the new compensation reality 

Unless you have the good luck to be an associate of the kind every bank wants to hire, you're unlikely to get a guaranteed bonus in your new role. Nor will you get much of a salary uplift. If you're in London you might get the promise of some 'role related pay' - but this will be contingent on regulatory approval in 2015. Nowadays, few people in finance move for a big pay rise. They move because they're 'excited by the potential of their new role.'

11. You're hanging on in a job which gives you no pleasure and doesn't pay

It used to be the case that bankers swapped jobs every two years, usually for far more money. This was never a great idea and it doesn't happen nearly as much now as it once did. However, this doesn't mean that staying in one role for a long time is advisable either.

"If you're moving forward, if you're happy and if you're getting paid, stay in the job," said Rolfe. "If you haven't got any of those things, you'll stagnate."

12. You're invisible

When did you last get a call from a headhunter? When did someone last look at your CV on LinkedIn? When did you last speak at a conference or attend a networking event? If the answer is never, the chances are that you are invisible to would-be employers.

13. You're engaged in displacement activities 

Just because you're busy you may think you're moving towards re-employment. However, one careers counsellor says too many people convince themselves they're looking for work when they're simply wasting time. "[efc_twitter text="There's nothing worse than sitting at home, scanning job boards, and waiting for the phone to ring"]," he said. "You need to sell yourself, or you will waste your time on a lot of activity which will get you nowhere."

Following job loss or a discombobulating life event, psychologist Oliver James said a group of people will always attempt to regain control by obsessively controlling minor elements of their lives, like diet or exercise. This will keep you busy, but it will bring you no closer to finding a new job.

14. You're seriously disorientated 

If you've lost your job, the worst thing that can happen is that you can become "seriously disorientated" said James.

"There is a group of people who will start sleeping in until lunchtime, who will become depressed, or who will respond with substance abuse," he told us. "These are the people who are in most danger of rendering themselves unemployable."

The most healthy individuals are those who remain optimistic and see unemployment as an opportunity to recalibrate, said James. For ex-bankers, this is perfectly rational he added: "There's never really any basis for perceiving yourself as unemployable, especially if you've been a reasonably successful banker for some time."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Vi
    Viggie
    19 April 2021

    This article is depressing in so many ways. Doesn’t really offer ways to improve or offer something to those who have tried. It’s like “if any of these is you, it’s your fault” but there are other factors as to why someone can’t get a job. Sad truth is, it’s all up to the employer if they want to hire you. If you don’t/can’t offer skills better than another applicant, likely you’re going to lose out almost every time.

  • Q.
    Q. Wentworth
    25 October 2020

    Ridiculous article, offers zero insight.

    They are just looking for commissions by filling mandates. It is not designed to be effective, the goal is to place the wrong person for the role and hope to replace them with another mandate faster! If they did recruit with integrity then they would put themselves out of business.

    Sadly we have not cancelled this middleman from the hiring service.

  • Ma
    MacGuffin
    30 July 2020

    It's wonderful to see the commenters before me treating this Sarah Butcher beeyatch with the contempt she deserves. She sounds like she is in recruitment herself - a fate worse than death. Go to hell Sarah Butcher!

  • Ru
    Rumpel Felt
    27 July 2020

    This is why I've given up on career counselor types. None of this and it always comes from a skewed source ie. someone who already has a comfy job.

    Send a different CV for every job? Okay granted it might make sense sometimes. But how in hell are you supposed to modify the same stuff over and over again just to send it off to not be read or considered by anyone?

    In the end none of this stuff seems to matter anyway. Rarely are jobs given to the most qualified. They go to friends or acquaintances. Problem is how are you supposed to make friends and connections in the business world out of no where when your only selling point is 'I need a job'? No one wants to be around someone in need.

  • J.
    J. Williams
    26 July 2020

    And how does THIS woman have a job?! She knew someone?! She's a 'hottie'?! She's young- and connected?! THIS is what seems to pass for employment skills today!
    We're not stupid- we're paying attention.

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