On Long-Term Unemployment and Self-Esteem

November 24, 2021

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When you've been out of the workforce for a few months or longer despite continuing to apply for jobs, there comes the point when you might ask yourself, "Will I ever be employed again?"

It is true that after a certain amount of time - typically six months - of unemployment, being out of work causes some hiring managers to overlook otherwise excellent candidates.

However, it is not a barrier that will prevent you from having a job that you like again! Overcoming this challenge just takes some additional efforts that we've discussed more in-depth here.

Anxiety and disillusionment with the job search process are natural responses when in this situation.

As recruiters with decades of combined experience, here is how we encourage you to meet this moment.


Long-term unemployment is a profoundly complex scenario.

It has as much to do with public policy as it does with the most minute biases held by some hiring managers.

Never blame yourself. You are not inadequate or less valuable or worthy than those who are employed.

What is in your control is how you represent yourself in the job market. Here is when exercising or growing your skills truly makes a difference. We'll explore why further down. Before we cover that, let’s hash out a few other things.


To present yourself at your absolute best, make sure you’re communicating the right messages through your CV.

A career coach trained to provide you with professional criticism and commentary on your application material will help you do that.

Before enlisting one, ensure they are knowledgeable and experienced in your field. They'll want to know about your skill set, your career thus far, and what job you would like. They typically cost a minimum of $75 per hour.

A more inexpensive option is to reach out to a creative professional you admire to request their opinion on your CV, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile.

Here you'll want to personalize your requests while keeping them brief:

  • Warm up your message by explaining how you learned about them and sending a polite greeting
  • Have a specific ask: "I would be grateful if you could take a moment to offer any feedback on my..."
  • Thank them for their attention and sign your name

It's best to keep these messages to four or five sentences. We recommend following up twice over four weeks (once every two weeks) if you don't receive an answer.


Socializing in any capacity, whether a phone call or an excursion with friends or loved ones, keeps us grounded. Facing a stream of rejections or non-replies in the job market can be demoralizing. If left unchecked, it may feed into (understandable) negativity that can affect your choices and even the tone of your applications, so don't let that happen!

Try to spend time with people who have positive attitudes. It helps to balance emotions in this scenario.


Depending on your creative skill set, your portfolio weighs heavily in your application.

When you're out of work, block out time in your week to work on a creative project for a brand or agency you admire. Use this in your digital portfolio.

Though it may feel like you're taking valuable time away from your search, it's the opposite.

In an interview with Creative Lives in Progress, Paul Rider, Head of Art at We Are Social, said, "When looking through portfolios, what really excites me is seeing a personal project that someone has executed off their own back, with no other intention than to create."

Searching while demonstrating how you've kept your skills sharp during your stretch of unemployment shows that you keep up with currents in the industry, that you're capable of jumping into the flow in a brand or agency, and that you learn.

A willingness to learn signals to many hiring managers that you're likely to stay on board (what recruiters call 'retention'). That matters because it's expensive to hire and to lose employees.


Another thing we encourage you to do is to share how you're feeling with those you're comfortable talking to. Family, friends, former colleagues, and even acquaintances can offer perspective, advice, and direction.

If costs are an issue preventing you from exploring therapy, affordable resources like Open Path will connect you with licensed therapists.

If you're not comfortable sharing, you can also find support on Fishbowl. It's an anonymous (and increasingly popular) forum for professionals from different industries, including advertising and marketing, to have honest conversations about work.

Fishbowl is a fantastic professional resource for information and guidance.


There is also an onus on employers to be better about following up with candidates who are unsuccessful in the application process, and we can confirm that many companies are looking for ways to connect with these folks.

Recently, Elysian's CEO shared with some of the country's leading CMOs and DEI leaders different means of supporting candidates who aren't selected to advance in the process. Some of what she discussed included providing portfolio, CV, and career advice, interview feedback, and other forms of information. These practices take time to implement for larger organizations, but that they’re in the works are reasons to be optimistic!

In the meantime, have a professional review your application materials, keep your skills and portfolio current, surround yourself with positive-minded people, don't bottle up your feelings, engage with fellow creatives in the forums you're comfortable with, and keep in touch with us! Our email is always open.

Warm regards,