Being unemployed can be frustrating. Of course, as the economy recovers and more jobs are added, it can be disappointing to find yourself constantly sending out cover letters and resumes with nothing to show for it. While you may feel you’re doing something wrong, much of the time, you’re actually doing everything right. The simple fact is, it’s a waiting game in this day and age. However, there are a few steps you can take to improve your professional worth as a candidate as well as your mental health.
Volunteer – Volunteering is a great way to spend a portion of your time. It can make you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile and contributing to a part of something bigger than yourself. It supports feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. Additionally, volunteering somewhere relevant to your skill set can help your chances of being hired. For example, if you’re an unemployed teacher, help out with after school programs. If you’re a web designer, find a local nonprofit that needs a re-design. These are great ways to keep your skills current and show employers you’re occupying your time wisely.
Improve Your Skills – Don’t just stop at keeping your skills current, improve upon them! If you lack a skill commonly required for the kinds of jobs you’re seeking, work on developing that skill. You can borrow books from the library, watch online tutorials and how-to videos, and read up with online e-books and articles. You can also look for free or affordable classes in your area.
Network – Networking is socializing with a purpose. Reconnect with old and current contacts, and form new ones. Almost anyone can be a contact – college professors, advisors, internship supervisors, old colleagues, bosses, business acquaintances, and classmates all count. When it comes to the actual conversation, ask how they are and be honest when they ask how you’re doing. Let them know about your job search (industry, location, etc.) and see if they know of any opportunities or possible contacts for you, including a job recruiter in your area of expertise. If you’re looking to make new contacts, go to networking events sponsored by your university, industry, and city. You can also take the untraditional approach and go to lectures, neighborhood council meetings, or even a community event where you know there will be like-minded individuals. These are more organic settings in which you can strike up a conversation with someone and meet people.
Freelance or take on a temporary role – Freelancing is a great way to make money while you’re home looking for full-time work. Freelancing looks good on your resume because it shows that you’ve still managed to find a way to provide your own professional services while looking for work, gain more experience, and keep your skills current. Pursuing a temporary job or contractual assignment can also help you achieve those objectives. Checking out our job listings for work opportunities is also a great way to find positions related to your skills.
Build an online presence – Building your presence online means gaining greater exposure. Consider starting a professional blog, and enhance your social network profiles. Also, create an online portfolio to showcase your work across social media sites. Lastly, look for companies you are interested in working for and subscribe to their blogs and follow them on all their social media sites. Through these sites you can impress them with your insight, not to mention being in the loop about any company changes or opportunities.
Make Sure Your Resume Includes Keywords – Using key words in your resume is extremely important. Key words are words found within a job posting that list specific qualities or skills being sought after in a candidate, as well as words that describe the tasks of the job. The reason key words are crucial is that many employers use electronic scanning devices to screen and rank candidates, and if your resume contains none of the key words found in the job description that these devices are set to look for, your resume may not show up at all when a hiring manager searches for resumes.
Follow Up – According to a CareerBuilder survey, two thirds of workers report that they do not follow up with the employer after submitting their resume. However, following up can prove extremely rewarding. It is a way of separating oneself from the crowd, and taking that extra step. It also gives that jobseeker greater exposure since it is their second time contacting that recruiter or employer. Never underestimate the value of a thank you note, as it affords you one last chance at making a good impression, and peace of mind.
Take breaks – Give yourself breaks and weekends, like employed people do. Don’t push yourself to the brink of exhaustion on the days you’re looking for work, and don’t look for work all day, 7 days a week. In that same vein, do keep a regular schedule of looking for work, and treat applying for jobs like a job. Following these guidelines will ensure you have regular days of play like working professionals, and regular days of productivity.
Take care of your health – It’s easy to get depressed if you’re unemployed. Speak regularly to your friends and family, and make sure to leave the house to go out and socialize. It’s vital to your mental health to have stimulation and encouragement and support from those around you. Also, reaching out to your contacts, as we suggested before, may feel silly to you, but it may help end your job hunt a lot more quickly. Exercising may not be an option for everyone, but most people will be able to find a free instructional clip on YouTube to follow along to or be able to get their hands on a workout DVD to try. Also, never count out going on walks or being active. Exercising can help you feel active and help you blow off steam.
Get support from those in the same situation – Seek out other people who are going through the same thing. It can be extremely comforting to have bi-weekly coffee dates with a friend in the same situation, and to compare notes. Seeking out other people going through the same thing may be as easy as looking through your Facebook newsfeed. Talking about your mutual job seeking experiences not only gives a sense of comfort, but also serves as a springboard for which you and your fellow unemployed can trade ideas, job boards, and potential places to look for work.