Being unemployed sucks, big time. Especially if you’ve been working for a good couple of years. It has a way of sucking the life out of you too, if you’re not careful.
Suddenly you’re faced with unlimited time, deafening silence and looming bouts of depression and stress just waiting to strike as soon as you let your guard down. Finding your next job could take as long as six months – sooner if you’re lucky. And let’s be realistic, it’s not as if you can sit at your computer and search for jobs eight hours a day… you’ll go crazy!
So what are you supposed to do to keep yourself sane, not to mention fill up those cringe worthy gaps on your CV before your next interview?
Believe it or not, there’s actually a lot you can do. In fact, being unemployed can have a ton of benefits. It’s the perfect time to find out what you really want to do, increase your skills and to take on things that you normally wouldn’t have time for.
1. FREELANCE OR TEMP
If money’s really tight, take a look on freelancer.com to find jobs that match your skills. Sometimes you can find some pretty decent ones. It might not be a ton of money, but at least it will keep you busy and bring something in. Otherwise, try contacting a few recruitment agencies and let them know that you’re available for temp jobs.
Let’s face it, when you’re working a full day job and have to cram errands, kids, cleaning the house, shopping and visiting extended family into a weekend, it leaves little time to do much else, let alone volunteer. If you love animals, now’s the time to help out nearby shelters. The same goes for old age homes or orphanages. Give them a call and find out what you can do to help. Giving back is such an awesome feeling and it makes you feel like you’re really doing something worthwhile.
3. TAKE A COURSE
There are so many online courses you can do these days, so get searching for something you want to educate yourself in – be it a business marketing course or a fun interior decorating course. Damelin has some fantastic courses to choose from. Check for online correspondence colleges in your area – there are plenty!
4. INCREASE YOUR SKILLS
Skills are the brownie points to just about every interview. It doesn’t matter if you have all the qualifications in the world, if you lack the basic skills needed for the job, you don’t have much hope of getting it. Plain and simple. So take that online typing course to improve your typing speed, learn a second language, or ask a friend to help teach you how to write a few basic codes if web development is your passion. You want to make yourself stand out among the competition, so do something that’s going to score you brownie points in the long run.
5. BUILD A BLOG OR A WEBSITE
Just about everyone has their own website or blog these days and that’s because it’s so easy to set up. This is an excellent time to set up a professional blog if you want an extended version of your CV out there for prospective employers to find. (Though I wouldn’t suggest setting all your hopes on this, but it is a good place to showcase a portfolio of work you’ve completed). Otherwise, simply start a blog about something that interests you – it could be a general blog, food blog, fashion blog, etc. WordPress is a great place to start. They’ve got a ton of free themes to choose from and if you get stuck, there are loads of tutorials online to help you.
6. START A BUSINESS
One of the best things I ever did in my career was start my own business from home when I was between jobs. I learnt so many skills that have helped me land other interviews and jobs. Running your own business is a huge achievement and looks great on your CV. You’ve got to be prepared to really give it a go and know what you’re doing though. There are loads of resources online about starting your own business, but you should also try and speak to as many people in the industry first to get all the info you need. To start your own company in South Africa you need to register with CIPC, but it’s really very straightforward. If I can do it, so can you!
Don’t lose touch with colleagues or old business contacts because you’re currently unemployed. Make a point of networking and meeting new people in your industry. Sometimes finding that contact could be the difference between landing your dream job or competing against hundreds of others for it. I’ve found Twitter and LinkedIn to be the best for business networking, so if you’re not signed up yet, do it!
8. STAY IN TOUCH WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself and block out family and friends, trust me! True friends and family are your support structure, so use them. You’d be there for them in tough times too, wouldn’t you? Make a plan to catch up at least once a week so that you don’t feel so isolated. Spend time with people who are positive and encouraging. Don’t seek out company with people who are just going to drag you down, or constantly grind you because you don’t have a job yet.
9. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It’s in our nature to be hard on ourselves, especially without the security of a job. You might feel worthless… like you’re not bringing your part to the household, but you shouldn’t. Cut yourself some slack. This is a great time to really take some time to be good to yourself. Get in a workout or take a jog around the neighbourhood to get rid of some built up frustration (and get those feel-good endorphins flowing at the same time), practice yoga, meditate; or do a crossword or suduko puzzle to stimulate your mind.
10. GET ORGANISED
There’s almost nothing worse than feeling despondent in a cluttered house all day long. So don’t! Straighten up your desk, declutter your desktop by making folders to slot your CV templates into, straighten out the furniture (if you’re feeling inspired – rearrange it! Though, you might want to check this with your partner first…), give old clothes away to charity, decide on interview outfits, sort out your handbag or briefcase, etc.
11. PLAY TOURIST IN YOUR CITY
While you’re unemployed, your focus should ultimately be on trying to find another job, but that doesn’t mean that it should feel like a prison sentence… like you’re not supposed to have fun until you find one. Get out there and explore your city as if you were a tourist. Ride the bus, walk in the park, go see a show, have a drink at a sidewalk café, window shop, etc. In other words, take advantage of the free time you have while everyone else is at work to explore the city you live in and enjoy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with it – as long as you’re not doing it all day, every day!
12. UPDATE YOUR CV AND COVER LETTER
It should go without saying that you should always have an updated copy of your CV and cover letter ready to send off at any given moment. You should have a general one of both that you can use and simply twitch them here and there when you apply for a specific job. I wrote two recent posts with tips on how to write a winning CV and stand out among the competition with your cover letter.
13. JOB HUNT
As I said earlier, you’re not going to spend eight hours a day looking for a new job, but you are going to spend some time job hunting. Obviously. To save yourself time and get a bit organised, set up job alerts on a few job sites. You won’t have to check for these as they’ll come straight to your inbox. If you’re going to cold call companies, put a spreadsheet together and list contact details, when you sent your CV, follow up dates, etc. Try not to announce to the world that you’re looking for a new job all over Facebook whenever you’re feeling worried about your progress. Instead, let family and friends know that you’re on the lookout. You never know what connections they might have.
Job hunting and being unemployed can be lonely, depressing and frustrating to say the least. I know, I’ve been there. It’s usually not something any of us choose willingly, but you know what? You need to make the best of it. Sometimes things happen for a reason, so take advantage of the extra time you have and make it worth your while. Who knows, your dream job might be just around the corner. Hang in there!
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe