Unemployment Got You Down? | Build Up Your Skills

Being unemployed is your big break. Why? Because you can finally focus all your time on yourself—your future. Most people squander that time. Please don’t let that be you. 

Stress makes people stupid. 

Think about it. In the face of the unexpected, fear, or hard criticism, we become confused, befuddled, even frantic. When we reach our stress threshold, our decision-making ability implodes. 

Not having a job, for whatever reason, can deliver high doses of stress. In knee-jerk fashion, we frantically try to find a replacement job which often looks like the old one. At the height of our stress, we forget to ask ourselves important questions: 

  • Did I really like that job? Was it a good fit for my interests?
  • Did I have the skills to be really successful at it?
  • Could I have made a career of it?
  • Did I like the industry that was home to that job?
  • Was I working with the kind of people who were good for me? 

A deep breath and serious introspection can ease the panic. 

Start with a reality check. You’re out of work now, but

  • Do you seriously think that you’ll be out work forever? The answer for most is, “No.”
  • Do you need to replace the job you had or is there something else just as good or better out there? The answer: ”Most likely”
  • Is the job you want going to fall into your lap? “No.”
  • Are you going to have to work hard to figure out your options, how to present yourself, and where the leads are? “Yes.”
  • Do you care enough about yourself to commit to finding a job that will deliver what you need? Only you know this answer. 

Start thinking. Keep thinking. Take smart actions.  

Thinking puts your mind to work discovering information, insights, opportunities, and solutions that you can act on. It needs to replace worrying, brooding, procrastinating, and nay-saying. 

Right action reduces the stress. While unemployed, you have, at least, a week’s worth of eight-hour days to develop and implement your plan for finding the right job.  

For starters, use part of each day looking for openings and opportunities through your personal and professional networks, posted positions, and career fairs.   

Then, invest time filling in the skill, knowledge, and experience gaps in your resume. 

Spend time figuring out how to stand out as a candidate. Avoid accumulating certificates, courses, or community work without clear purpose.   

Do things that will build skills essential to the jobs you want. Try these ideas on for size:

  • Identify a local non-profit looking for board members. Express interest. Volunteer or serve on committees. Say “yes” to a board seat offer. (Showcases  your leadership, talents, commitment, and energy; Builds your network) 
  • Become a blogger. Post articles on subjects related to the kind of work you’re interested in. Include evidence of research done on each subject. Invite followers and comments. Reference your blog on your resume. (Showcases subject matter knowledge, communication skills, social media savvy; Expands visibility) 
  • Offer specialized skills/services as an independent contractor. Target companies/individuals in industries where you want to work. Do some work pro bono in exchange for a testimonial. Mention this work on your resume. (Showcases entrepreneurial spirit, motivation, relationship building, skills; Adds references; May lead to an offer.) 
  • Seek out public speaking opportunities. Too scary? Enroll in Toastmasters and get over that. Speak to groups of any size.  Mention relevant topics and audiences on your job applications. (Showcases self-confidence, public presence, courage; Expands visibility) 

The right effort delivers the right job at the right time. 

Patience, a steady pace, disciplined action, and your network are your best job search assets. This work is about YOU, no one else. If you spend half your time focused on the marketplace and the other half expanding your capabilities and your reach, you’ll have a full workday every day and a great job as your reward. This is how you’ll get business fit. I’m pulling for you! 

Can you add other ideas for building skills while out of work? Are there any traps to avoid? Got a success story to share? I love those!