Smart Things to Do When You’re Unemployed
Unemployment can be one of the worst moments in your life and it can cause you to feel sad and desperate. But you should treat is just as it is: a moment. It isn’t a permanent state and it isn’t a sign of failure on your part.
Unemployment can and most likely will affect us all – the key is to know how to get past it and to make the most out of this temporary state of being.
In this guide, I want to guide you through some of the smart things to do when you’re unemployed. These will make it easier for you to move beyond being jobless, improve your future resilience in the job market, and help you maintain sanity and emotional wellbeing doing this testing time.
Unemployment sucks, period. You don’t want it to last too long; you want to get out there earning money as quickly as possible. The best thing you can do when unemployment hits is to come up with a plan for putting an end to it.
You want to be organized. Rule number one is to avoid too much procrastination. If you start putting things off or making excuses (treating your time as a holiday), you’ll soon notice a year has come by and you haven’t achieved much. So, plan your next moves and get started.
First, don’t think scheduling means job hunting for 24/7. You don’t need to have a new job within a week – don’t get too stressed, since finding a job isn’t just about you.
If you’ve been working hard for the past few years and you’re tired, then how about a small breather to get your mind back on the game. You can take time off, you just need to ensure you know how long you’re going to take it easy and after this time has passed, you get back on track with things.
Create a daily schedule for job hunting and any other activities you want or need to do. Treat this time as your ‘work hours’. If you have a schedule, you’re more likely to get things done and have more time relaxing and having fun as well. For example, your daily schedule could look something like this:
- Wake up at 7am – eat breakfast, do light exercise and a few chores around the house.
- Check your e-mail and reply to people from 8am to 9am.
- Browse job sites and bookmark interesting job ads from 9am to 11am.
- Eat lunch at 11am and take a small break.
- Write job applications from 12pm to 2pm.
- Take a small break at 2pm – have coffee, go out for a quick walk.
- Network with contacts from 2.30pm to 4pm.
- Prepare your To Do list for the next day at 4pm.
Stop worrying about job hunting after your day is done and spend the rest of the day doing something fun. All of your days probably won’t look like that, as you want to include time for other activities that help with job hunting.
For example, instead of spending two hours writing applications, you could study online or read industry related blogs and books. The key is to organize your daily schedule around activities that directly or indirectly boost your chances of finding a new job and leaving enough room for relaxation and having fun.
Indeed, unemployment gives you an opportunity to look at your lifestyle and sort out your habits. Is your diet unbalanced? Do you spend too much time sitting on the couch? Then spend some time sorting it out, learning about healthy eating and exercise. Clear your flat and get rid of all those extra things (and people!) that are holding you back and adding clutter to your surroundings and mind.
Organizing the life around you can help you focus more on your career and help you find your dream job quicker.
CONSIDER YOUR CAREER PATH
While unemployment is never something to look forward to, you could actually use it as an opportunity to take a time out and think about your career path. It’s hard to jump away from the career train and change direction when you are working in a job that pays.
But unemployment can actually force you to re-evaluate your career path and to make those tough decisions you might avoid when working. Are you working in the industry or even the roles you actually care about?
Take this opportunity and think what you want from your future career. You need to find an answer to the following question(s):
- If you’ve just graduated and have been unlucky to find a job:
- What do you want to do with your life?
- What is the career path you want to follow?
- What do you want from your future job?
- If you had a job and you lost it, for whatever reason:
- Was the role/job/industry exactly what you wanted to do?
- Do you want to find a similar role?
- Move upwards in the career ladder?
- Do you want something very different?
Be open and honest. Did you enjoy doing what you did? If you could pick any industry or any job, what would it be? You essentially want to ensure that as you come out of unemployment, you enter a job that helps you fulfill your passion and live your career dreams.
Do not think you just need a job – make sure your energy and focus is on finding the role of your dreams or the one that gets you closer to that ultimate job.
This might be the time to meet with a career councilor. It can be especially helpful, if you are feeling unsure of the direction you want your career to take. You could find career coaches online or seek for more information at your local job centre. You should also spend some time researching your dream industry and have honest discussions with people that work in the companies/the roles/the industries you would want to work in.
You should grasp the opportunity of not being tied to a job and make the most of it – to ensure you don’t find yourself working without no passion and desire. Check out job sites and read job applications in all sorts of fields, and see if which ones make you feel interested and excited. You could even do career questionnaires online – What Career Is Right For Me website has a free quiz available that could help you understand your passion and skills better.
UPDATE YOUR RESUME AND SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES
Obviously, you also need to take care of the paperwork. It’s easy to stop updating your resume when you are working, so unemployment gives an opportunity to get it all sorted. Monster consulted resume writing and career service firm ResuMAYDAY, which provided the job website these five steps for sorting out an out-of-date resume:
- Start by checking the most recent job and education info and updating it.
- Focus on where you worked or studied the most recently and how it relates to where you want to be next.
- Update your current/most recent work information.
- Give a quick polish to the design of your resume.
- Proofread it well.
Don’t just focus on getting your resume updated. Use the opportunity to get your social media profiles in order as well. Today’s employers are sure to check you out on social media before inviting you to a job interview, so you need to make sure everything is accurate and inviting. Not to mention the power of social media in finding a new job.
In one study, 174 of Fortune 500 companies interviewed for the study noted they’d be using Twitter for recruitment. If you’re not yet convinced, check out the stats from another research conducted by Sandbox Advisors:
Source: Sandbox Advisors
So, before you do anything else, focus on creating that perfect profile on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook (note that you could have a separate profile on Twitter and Facebook for work and private stuff!). When updating your profiles online the key is to focus on using relevant keywords. These should be chosen based on your career path – use keywords that relate to your experience and what you want to do in the future.
Employers often search people on LinkedIn based on keywords and you could have relevant people scouting your profile just with the clever use of keywords. Kissmetrics has written a handy post on how to use keywords that are relevant and help you land your next job (or client) on social media. The key takeaway from the post is realizing the value of proper SEO keyword research and knowing different social media platforms require different keywords – don’t think one approach fits all of your profiles!
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Want to know the secret to landing a great job? A good network. The job market is tough and your ability to find the right role for you can depend on knowing the right people. A good network can help you be the first to know about good job openings and it can help you get a good word out there about your talent and skillset.
But keeping up with networking can be tough when you are working – therefore, unemployment offers you the chance to get your networking game back on and to ensure your industry knows who you are.
You can do a variety of things to boost your networking. The most obvious things to do include:
- Joining relevant professional associations and signing up with your alumni network.
- Attending industry-specific events, joining union and association meetings and participating in different job fairs and alumni meetings.
- Visiting seminars and workshops that relate to your field.
Furthermore, social media offers plenty of options for networking these days. You should definitely consider looking up forums that relate to your career and participate in online discussion on social media, forums and blogs.
If you know the big influencers of your industry, don’t just follow them on social media and read their blogs –start being part of the discussion and give your opinion on things. Visibility is a big part of networking in today’s crowded world.
The golden rule of good networking is to remember you can’t just keep creating new connections, but you also need to nurture the existing ones. So, catch up with people in your alumni and talk to colleagues you might not have talked about in the past. Drop a line to your professors and old time friends.
If you focus on maintaining a good relationship with the connections you’ve made, the more likely they are for bearing fruit. In networking, as in many things in life, quality can trump quantity.
If you’re totally at lost for what networking is all about and how to be good at it, check out the video below:
IMPROVE YOUR SKILLSET
Time off from full-time work also offers you the opportunity to boost your resume by improving your skills. If you know you want to pursue a similar career to the previous one, you can use the time to improve your existing skills. Perhaps you can update your coding ability or take a fresh course in web design.
On the other hand, if you want to take a turn with your career path, you might need to update your skills and qualifications to ensure you are attractive to the employers in the chosen field. You might benefit from learning a new language or enrolling on a course to learn to code. Not having a full-time job can help you find the time and energy to pursue these new skills and qualifications.
How can you get started with improving your skillset? The answer depends a bit on what time of improvement or updating you are looking to do. You could essentially:
- Enroll full-time at a university or other academic institution to gain a new degree or professional qualification.
- You could take evening or other part-time courses to update and deepen existing skills or building your qualifications.
- Look into online courses you can take at your own pace or by following a schedule. These can provide you with a degree or simply add to your skill repertoire.
You can find both paid and free courses in a number of fields. It’s a good idea to use Google to find online courses or check for opportunities in your local area.
The great thing about enrolling on a course is not just how it provides you a boost in skills which you can add to strengthen your resume. Courses will also add structure to your days and ensure you don’t start feeling useless and alone. It ensures you stay focused and don’t just end up watching daytime television all day long.
If you can’t think of anything particular to study in order to boost your career opportunities, focus on transferable skills. Universal skills, such as learning new language or learning how to be a better manager, can help you add substance to your resume and can be vital in the years ahead.
Your ability to speak fluent Spanish might not seem like something relevant to your current job, but you never know when you might be able to use the skill in your future career. Even reading books about your industry or leadership can be a useful activity for your unemployed days.
CONSIDER DOING TEMPORARY OR ONLINE JOBS
Lack of a permanent or long-term doesn’t mean you can’t work. Working for yourself, as a freelancer, is an option that everyone can consider. Even if you aren’t interested in making a permanent move to freelancing or running your own business, you can still earn extra on the side while looking for a job.
Temporary work online or offline can be beneficial because of the financial boost it can provide, but also the experience and skills you can gain while working. In short, it can show initiative and resolve!
You could find an agency for temporary work and either opt for roles in your industry or in any industry you feel equipped to conquer. Just search for “temporary job agency” in your country or city on Google and you’ll find plenty of options. Send a message to an agent and talk more about the options available. You might even find work by downloading the app Fiverr and searching for quick roles there.
In addition, you could try online work sites like Upwork. The platforms have plenty of opportunities for editors, photographers, programmers and so on. You won’t spend an eternity setting up a profile and you have the option to determine how much or how little work you accept. Online jobs and other temporary roles can be a great way to test different industries or roles as well. So if you’ve thought about getting into freelance photography, here is your chance to try it!
Just remember a few golden rules about temporary work while unemployed. Pick only jobs that have clear benefits to your future career or which provide you a good enough financial incentive – don’t forget about transferable skills! If you’re aim is to get back to work as quickly as possible, limit your work hours to ensure you have enough time to dedicate to your job hunt and resting. So, don’t start slaving away with temporary work, as it might hinder your job hunting prospects.
When money is tight, you might find working for free to be the last thing on your To Do-list. Yet, the benefits of volunteering are obvious and you should definitely consider looking into this opportunity. Volunteering is great because it helps you focus and deepen two of the essential tasks already mentioned in the post: networking and improving skills.
First, if you are able to find volunteering opportunities within an industry or a sector you would like to work in, you are creating contacts with important people by volunteering. You are showcasing your talents and your transferable skills – you are building your brand. By creating these contacts and this positive image, you create opportunities.
That volunteering job at the local charity shop might actually turn into a paid job in the same organization or in another third-party company it works with. You meet new people in a professional environment and you create networks that could open up doors later.
You’re not just networking either and proving to people how good your existing skills are. Just like any new job, volunteering will teach you new ideas and ways of working. Whether or not your volunteering position is relevant to your current or future career path doesn’t matter. You will learn transferable skills – things like customer service, leading a team, solving problems and so on – which you can always utilize in a role from IT management to sales roles.
Not only is volunteering beneficial in that it helps with networking and gaining skills, but it can also boost your mood. And your mental health can be tested during your unemployment – it’s all too easy to start feeling blue, feel low about yourself and lack confidence in the future being bright. Yet when you volunteer, you get out there and you meet new people. You know your work has a real positive impact on people in one way or another – you feel more valued and worthy.
Two things are worth keeping in mind when looking for volunteering opportunities. First, always pick a role that you are passionate about. Even if the volunteering position is not relevant to your career, you will make the most out of the position if you are passionate about the work. So, if you love dogs and the local dog shelter needs volunteers – by all means do it! Don’t volunteer for the local law firm, if the sector is not interesting to you.
The second thing to keep in mind is to avoid full-time volunteering, especially if your objective is to get back to work as soon as possible. If you put all your energy and time into volunteering, you won’t have enough time to apply for jobs.
Unemployment can suck. Finding a new job is stressful. You want to find a job, but the more you search, the more depressed and anxious you might get.
The more anxious you are, the harder it is to focus your job hunt and shine as a candidate. It’s a vicious cycle. While breaks and having fun might seem like the last thing you want to do, it’s an essential part of making the most of your unemployment.
Let’s face it. You can’t expect to job hunt for 24/7. You wouldn’t work 24/7 day, so why should you be, essentially, thinking about your unemployment around the clock seven days a week?
If you try to spend all your waking hours looking for work, I guarantee you are going to burn yourself out sooner rather than later and you won’t find a new position any faster. You need to put enough effort into finding the new job, but this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else.
It might seem odd, but think of your unemployment as an opportunity to do things you wouldn’t be able to do when you’re working. You have a lot of time on your hands, you might as well use it. If you can, then take some time off to re-focus, to think your career options, and to have fun and live your dreams.
Remember the value of transferable skills – you don’t need a paycheck to learn new things. Travelling can teach you plenty of transferable skills and life lessons that can boost your career. The Muse has published an article listing three ways you can boost your career through travel. The post mentioned how travelling can:
- Help you create opportunities through networking.
- Help you learn a new language.
- Help you become more culturally aware.
Not to mention that while you might not be able to perform all jobs while travelling abroad, you could potentially job hunt even on the road. The ability to send e-mails and fill job applications isn’t hindered by your physical location. If you have a laptop and access to the Internet, you could be job hunting in the Bahamas!
Finally, the important point about having fun is the mental aspect of it. Being unemployed is not fun and it isn’t good for your mental health. The answer is not to burn yourself out with the job hunt, as it can stress you out further. You need to keep a positive mood and this requires a bit of relaxing and doing things you enjoy.
If you are tired, exhausted and cranky, you won’t have the energy and attitude required for pursuing the right leads and landing the dream job. If you’re struggling with motivation and feelings of anxiety, check out these motivational tips from Rachel Talbott. They aren’t directly about unemployment or job hunting, but will provide you plenty of real ways to keep your eye on the ball during this time of your life:
Unemployment is tough, but it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can provide you a bit of respite to take a hard look at your career and life, and figure out whether you are actually heading in the direction you want to go. But you shouldn’t let all that extra time blind you and make you think there’s always time to send those job applications tomorrow.
You need to be organized and focus on actions that boost your prospects of landing that next big job. This means keeping your resume and social media profile up to date, improving your skills and spending some time earning money and gaining experience. Nonetheless, you can’t stress yourself out and let the troubling times burn you out.
Remember to keep a positive attitude and have enough time to have fun! A balance of finding work, strengthening your resume and relaxing is the key to surviving unemployment in style – and with your sanity intact.
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