Making the most of your time during unemployment
Unemployment is hard, whether you are a new grad entering the job market or a young professional that just faced a layoff.
You might find yourself stuck in the classic job search Catch-22: you need experience to get a job, but you need the job to get experience.
Or you could find yourself facing another dilemma: it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, but when you’re unemployed you’re the one that needs the job. In my last post I discussed how training for a marathon helped to keep my motivation strong throughout my job search.
In this post I offer some ideas for how you can make the most of your time during unemployment.
Join professional organizations
Look up popular professional organizations for your intended industry. Some organizations offer discounted membership rates to recent grads and professionals with minimal work experience. Locate the organization’s chapter for your area and look at the calendar to see what events, seminars, or professional development opportunities are offered. Some chapters might allow you to attend an event without being a member (though you may have to pay a higher fee for the event).
Go ahead and take advantage of the free time you have while unemployed to attend these events. Not only will they serve as networking opportunities and help build skills for your resume, but, as soon as you start a full-time job (and depending on the employer) you probably won’t have the same flexibility in your schedule to attend these events. Some chapters even offer a young professionals committee that sponsors networking happy hour events, providing an excellent place to connect with both peers and experienced professionals in a more laid back social atmosphere.
Grad School Events
If you have any interest or ever thought of pursuing a graduate degree, I strongly recommend attending open houses and information sessions while you are still job searching. It’s an excellent way to keep your mind focused on your goals and what you want to achieve. Now you might be limited to where you visit due to travel costs and a tight budget, but try to make use of your free time now.
As I stated above once you start a full-time job you usually don’t have the same flexibility in your schedule to request off one or two days to go visit a school. You also don’t want to send the wrong message to your new boss by requesting time off to look at schools, causing them to start questioning your motivation and dedication to your job.
Free online courses
Another great way to use your time wisely is by taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) class. These are great since many are usually free and provide a way to keep enhancing your skill set while looking for a job. Just taking a course probably will not give you the experience needed for certain jobs, but it’s a great talking point during an interview as it demonstrates to the employer you are proactive and signifies you are invested in growing and expanding your knowledge and skills. I took some courses through Coursera, but there are many other websites offering a variety of topics. Some even offer an overview of classes offered at top schools and programs.
Go to the gym
Exercise has many health benefits and is an excellent way for dealing with stress, but going to the gym regularly could also open opportunities for networking. The keyword here is that it could lead to opportunities. I don’t mean you need to show up to spin or yoga class ready to hand out your business cards, but you never know where networking opportunities can happen. You might talk to someone who works at a company of interest during your daily treadmill workout or maybe a post-run yoga session could end with a new job lead.
The main point is the more you get out in the world and interact with people, rather than sitting at home on the computer applying endlessly to jobs all day, the better your chance at learning about a new job opportunity or speaking with someone who knows of some openings at their company. Even if you never get a networking lead by going to the gym, at least you are keeping yourself healthy!
If a gym membership isn’t in your budget then check out local Meetups in your area. There are a huge variety of Meetup groups ranging from running groups, adventure groups, social groups, and even business networking groups. Here you can connect (for free) with people holding similar interests and goals as yourself. As I stated before you never know where you might find your next networking opportunity!