“Unemployed need not apply.” This language continues to appear in some job announcements, but certain federal, state, and local government agencies are working to end the practice. Notably, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Oregon, the City of Chicago, New York City and, most recently, Madison, Wisconsin, have enacted laws prohibiting this employment practice. In these jurisdictions, employers cannot exclude applicants from consideration for job openings solely because they are unemployed. Indeed, New York City created a private right of action for employment discrimination stemming from a person’s unemployment status. And, the U.S. Equal Economic Opportunities Commission is starting to look closely at such job announcements as possibly violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Being unemployed and looking for work in the current economic environment is difficult. Here, we’ll explore some ways an unemployed person can stand out, and get the “you’re hired” call.

√ Build credentials

The vast number of jobs require, at a minimum, a high school diploma or its equivalent. If you don’t have a diploma or GED, make it a priority to acquire this credential.

Beyond this, building credentials increases your marketability and may be accomplished in a variety of ways. For example, take advanced courses, an apprenticeship, or workshops to pursue a certification, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Whether you are able to take one or two online courses at a time, or take a full load of courses at a local college, university, or technical school, advanced coursework is a great way to enhance your knowledge in a particular field. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to network with professors, instructors, and other students who share some of your interests.

Another way to build credentials is to acquire a license related to your field. There are many fields where employers look for licensure as an indicator of competency and knowledge to do a particular job.

Building credentials also may come from pursuing practical experience. If competition for full-time, paid employment in your field leaves you unemployed, then look at some other options in the interim. For example, look for temporary, contract, or part-time employment in a related field. And, keep your eyes open for volunteer opportunities in your community, particularly those opportunities involving the development and use of skills and abilities that are marketable in your field.

√ Network

At all times, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. These opportunities may take the form of researching internet sites, visiting your local job office, looking in local newspapers for job ads, attending events sponsored by associations related to your field, joining a local “job club,” and the like.

Job-related resources may be found at the following:

(1) http://sea.workforce3one.org (start your own business through a self-employment assistance program);

(2) the Virtual Career Network at http://www.vcn.org (co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Association of Community Colleges);

(3) three initiatives co-sponsored by The White House and the U.S. Department of Labor for the benefit of veterans (The Veterans Job Bank, My Next Move for Veterans, and The Veteran Gold Card);

(4) the jobs network developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, Facebook, and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies along with other organizations at http://www.facebook.com/socialjobs; and

(5) a nationwide network of job career centers at www.servicelocator.org/onestopcenters.asp, or www.careeronestop.org.

√ Organize an “on-the-go” resume

If you are unemployed, you do not want a potential employer to focus on that fact; rather, you want the employer to see how “active” you continue to be. For this reason, make sure you highlight your current field-related activities near the top of your resume. For example, if you are pursuing, or recently received, an advanced degree, certification, or license, make sure this is up front on your resume. Direct a prospective employer’s attention on what you are doing, not the fact you are unemployed.

There are a variety of locations where you may obtain guidance organizing your resume, such as counselors at high schools, career development offices at colleges and universities, or the job bank or career center near you. For a directory of career centers, go to www.careeronestop.org.

√ Develop the elevator introduction

In 45 seconds, state why you are the best fit for the job. Developing this “elevator introduction” requires that you take a close look at your resume, and translate your education and experience to marketable skills and abilities. And, be prepared to answer questions like, “Why are you interested in this job?” Or, “What do you have to offer this company?” Practice answering these types of questions during mock interviews with a family member or friend.

√ About Seena Foster

Seena Foster, award-winning civil rights author and Principal of the discrimination consulting firm, Title VI Consulting, LLP in Alexandria, Virginia, provides expertise and guidance in the areas of civil rights compliance and discrimination complaint investigations related to the delivery of federally-assisted programs and activities. Her customers include state and local governments, colleges and universities, private companies, private counsel, and non-profit organizations. You may contact her at seena@titleviconsulting.com, or visit her web site at www.titleviconsulting.com for additional information regarding the services and resources she offers.

By way of background in this area, in 2003, Ms. Foster served as a Senior Policy Analyst to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center (CRC). In that capacity, she led a team of equal opportunity specialists to conduct disability-based technical assistance reviews of One-Stop centers, and she assisted the CRC’s leadership in preparing for limited English proficiency-based compliance reviews. Ms. Foster also analyzed and weighed witness statements and documents to prepare numerous final determinations for signature by the CRC Director, which resolved discrimination complaints under a variety of federal civil rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act.

In 2006, Ms. Foster received the Secretary of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Award in recognition of “exceptional efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities have full access to employment and related services and benefits at the Nation’s One-Stop Career Centers.” And, at the request of the CRC, Ms. Foster served as a popular workshop speaker at national equal opportunity forums co-sponsored by the CRC and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Her presentations covered topics such as the WIA Section 188 disability checklist, conducting discrimination complaint investigations and writing final determinations, and conducting investigations of allegations involving harassment and hostile environment.

With a passion for ensuring nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in the delivery of federally-assisted programs and activities, Ms. Foster remains highly active in the field through her series of on-demand webcasts for equal opportunity professionals as well as through her mediation services, training, and assistance developing policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with applicable federal civil rights laws. Her training in the areas of compliance and complaint investigations has been described as “dynamic,” “hitting the nail on the head,” “well-organized,” and “informative.” And, her award-winning book on conducting discrimination complaint investigations is viewed as “eye-opening” and “the best on the market.”

In 2007, Ms. Foster was certified as a mediator by the Virginia Supreme Court, and later obtained “Federal Workplace Mediation” certification through the Northern Virginia Mediation Service. Presently, she volunteers at Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, and serves on its Development Committee and Major Donors and Partners Subcommittee. In addition, Ms. Foster serves on the Economic Opportunities Commission for Alexandria, Virginia, which addresses availability of housing and jobs for economically-disadvantaged persons. In 2013, Ms. Foster received the City of Alexandria’s “Joan White Grass Roots Service Award” for her commitment of time and effort “working to improve the lives of the homeless as well as advocating their needs and the mission of Carpenter’s Shelter in the community.”

Ms. Foster is a member of the Discrimination Law and Human Rights Law Committees of the International Bar Association. Finally, in November 2011, Ms. Foster was selected as a lifetime member of the Cambridge Who’s Who among Executives, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs based on her “accomplishments, talents, and knowledge in the area of civil rights.”

Ms. Foster received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, where she joined Phi Beta Kappa, and she has a Juris Doctorate from The George Washington University Law School.