Any period of unemployment can be a trying time—be it a month or the 35- to 40-week average Americans are experiencing. Unfortunately, it can an unproductive one as well, as many individuals spend the majority of their time bemoaning their situation instead of recognizing the excellent opportunity it offers to regroup and position themselves to land a position even more rewarding than the one they left behind. To make unemployment your stepping stone to a better job and career, you should focus on becoming more employable while you’re unemployed. The key way to accomplish this is by increasing your skill set, networking, and continuing to work within your industry in some capacity. Doing so will set you apart from the millions of other job seekers who spend hours each day sending out resumes but do little to add to their resume. Possible steps to take:
1. Learn a new industry-specific skill
Unless you have kept abreast of the latest technologies and changes within your field, it’s likely that you still have the same skill set or use the same computer programs and equipment that you did when you were hired in your previous position. According to Sandra Soto, a human resources consultant, a firm providing professional services to federal, state and local government programs, this puts you at a definite disadvantage when applying and interviewing for jobs.
“What was once a popular skill set five years ago may be very different in today’s market,” Soto explains. “Technology has changed the direction of most businesses, from how they make and prepare their products to how they service their clients and customers.”
For example, as most newspapers, TV and radio stations now rely heavily on the Internet to reach their audiences, media companies have come to expect new hires to have web skills, be it knowing how to use a content management system, or simply being able to upload stories and photos to a website. Fortunately, basic web classes abound at libraries. Other media professionals are finding that they are not only expected to write stories, but shoot videos and take photos as well. Luckily, most community colleges offer basic video shooting and photography classes.
Through looking at the job requirements for positions you are interested in, you can see which skills you might be lacking. Set yourself apart from other candidates by having the skills that are in demand right now. As career consultantFrancina Harrison often tells her clients: “Career seekers have two choices in today workforce. Choice one: upgrade your skills, stay relevant and in demand. Or choice two: remain a dinosaur and live in the unemployment office.”
2. Secure an adult internship
While internships have largely been considered a smart way for college students to increase their chances of landing a job, many unemployed mid-level and even seasoned professionals have also found interning to be beneficial. Unlike a traditional internship, however, which is usually geared toward people who lack expertise in their field, your goal should be to land what is now being dubbed an “adult internship.” This will allow you to apply the knowledge and skills you have gained throughout your career while also learning something new.
“Securing an adult internship is an innovative way for career seekers to demonstrate initiative, professional ambition, and social/business savvy,” stresses Harrison. “Using an adult internship to glean new skills, knowledge and abilities is one of the best ways to reignite your career brand and beat your competition. As a bonus, an adult internship also fills in employment gaps.”
While most companies don’t have internships geared toward those already established in their fields, this doesn’t mean they can’t create one for you. To secure an adult internship, you should approach the management within the type of company you would like to work for and explain that while you are unemployed, you would still like to continue working in your area of expertise—or perhaps an area you have always found interesting—and sell yourself based on how you can assist the company. However, to ensure you aren’t left getting coffee, or working hard and possibly for free for the benefit of everyone but you at the end of the day, HR consultant Antoinette Montague advises you to think carefully on what your desired “take away” is from the experience and to be clear with the potential employer about your purpose for interning. Otherwise, she warns, you may become an invisible gopher or you may not be given respectful consideration when or if a full-time position become available.
3. Teach a class
No matter what industry you are in and how long you’ve been working, you have likely gained skills and knowledge than could be invaluable to others. Teaching a class in your area of expertise not only positions you as an expert in your field, it is also an excellent tool for networking and is sure to impress a potential employer. Beyond this, Soto says, “teaching can help a person to grow and learn as a professional in their field, and there is nothing more rewarding than imparting knowledge and helping others reach their potential.”
Anything you feel comfortable teaching could be suitable for a class. For example, if you are a pro in Word, Excel or any other computer program, you could teach others the basics. If you have a background in finance or accounting, you could teach basic bookkeeping skills to small business owners.
Of course, to teach a class, students are needed. Consider going to your nearest community center or library and offering to teach a class. Public places like these often offer free or low-cost classes on a variety of subjects and are often looking for professionals to teach.
4. Start an industry-focused blog
Just like teaching, creating an industry-focused blog is an interesting and effective vehicle to display your knowledge. But even more important, blogging provides a tremendous opportunity to broaden your network and put you in touch with potential employers.
Ideally, your goal should be to launch a blog that professionals like yourself will come to for insight, advice, or the latest industry-related news. You can write as an expert on topics of your choosing, or interview experts within your field and relay what you’ve learned. For example, a sales person working in any field could create a blog that profiles successful sales managers in their city each week and shares their advice on how to gain more clients. This would give the blogger/job seeker an opportunity to meet an unlimited number of sales managers/potential employers.
5. Volunteer your services
Consider working a few hours a week pro-bono as a consultant for a non-profit organization, school, or group of individuals in need of your services. Volunteering in this manner will give you the opportunity to utilize your skill set, network, and gain references. Just as important, it will look great on your resume. For example, a grant writer could offer to write a grant for a local community center or church, or a college recruiter could offer to help a select number of senior high school students make sure their college essays are up to par.
6. Begin learning a new language
“There is a saying,” says Harrison, “if you speak three languages you are trilingual, two languages you are bilingual, and if you speak only one language you are . . . American.”
Unfortunately, this saying is true. Yet if you are one of the millions of Americans who has been promising yourself to finally become fluent in another language, now is definitely the time. Beyond making you more well-rounded, and giving you the opportunity to meet and speak with people you would not otherwise have been able to, learning a new language can give you an edge over other job seekers.
“Becoming fluent or at least conversational in another language is a definite plus in this diverse global society,” says Harrison. “Knowing ‘English only’ on a planet where the majority of consumers do not speak only English could prove dangerous to your career longevity.”
While you have extra time on your hands, enroll in a free or low-cost language class at your nearest library or college. Being able to finally assert that you are fluent in another language will not only boost your self-esteem, it could increase the range of opportunities open to you, and thus boost your chances of getting hired.
As you count down the days until you’ve snagged your next position, get started on using at least one of these strategies to enhance your resume so you can land a job faster than anyone could have anticipated. And to your surprise, what you might also find is that through the people you’ve met and the new skills you’ve acquired, you’ve enhanced your life too.
Do you know someone who is unemployed? Please share this blog post with them.