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Unemployed? 5 Things You Should be Doing with Your Downtime

Unemployed? 5 Things You Should be Doing with Your Downtime

When you’re unemployed, it’s tempting to spend a few hours a day looking for work and then use the rest of your time enjoying the reprieve from a job. And while this is a rare and worthwhile opportunity to decompress from the stress of a steady 40-hour work week, you need to spend your downtime doing more productive activities if you want to find a quality new job faster. Here are five ways to make better use of that time.

Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering your time at a not-for-profit organization is a great way to stay active and keep your skills current. For example, if you have web development skills, offer to update the website of a local charity.  This helps get you out of the house, keeps you engaged with professional communities, and gives you something to add to your resume.

Update Your Skills

Picking up new skills can be difficult when you’re working a full-time job. Now that you’re not, use the surplus time to learn a new coding language or software package. There are a number of free or low-cost resources available to you. Try to pick skills that are in demand and that will make you more appealing to hiring managers. And be sure to mention your professional development initiative on your resume or in your cover letter.

Grow Your Network

Networking is one of the best ways to find a job. Use your downtime to connect with similar professionals, especially if they work at companies that are attractive to you. Be proactive about making these connections, and don’t start off by asking for a job. Effective networking is all about reciprocity, so be sure you have something to offer in return.

Pick Up Freelance Work

Freelancing is a great way to make some extra money while you are out of work and still have plenty of time to conduct your job search. Plus, it helps you refine your skills, shows that you are committed to staying busy, and potentially connects you with people who have a job to offer. You might even find that you prefer the flexibility of freelancing, and decide to do it permanently.

Build Your Online Presence

Making yourself visible online helps potential employers find you. Start a blog, stay active on LinkedIn, participate in message boards, and connect with decision makers at top companies. Online searches are part of any recruitment effort, so the larger your presence is, the larger the impression you’ll make.

Stay active and you can turn your unemployment into an asset that ultimately benefits your career over the long term. Learn about other ways to enhance your job search by working with The Squires Group.

Get busy during your unemployment

If you can’t think of a single resume-worthy activity or pursuit to show how you’ve used your time off, then you need to get busy. “I coach my clients that unemployment is not vacation time,” says Kathy Sweeney, president of resume-writing firm The Write Resume. “If they haven’t been involved in some sort of activity, I implore them to investigate options to gain further experience.”

Many activities can provide compelling resume content. For example, volunteering; tutoring; coaching sports; learning a new computer program; studying a foreign language; or pursuing temporary, freelance or contract work can show current experience on the resume.

For example, a stay-at-home parent can highlight her accomplishments as a volunteer like this: “Won board approval to establish a community parent/child playgroup at the town hall. Led grassroots group to raise $47,500 annually and opened new revenue stream for county.”

Sweeney tells her clients “that experience is experience, regardless of whether it is paid or volunteer. If a client is enrolled in school, for example, I will make that a full-time job on the resume. I’ll include information on the certificate or degree program as well as any quantifiable results, such as grades or instructor praise.”

Ditta emphasizes the importance of showcasing what you accomplished during your unemployment, just as you would for paid employment. “‘Devoted four years to managing a large estate and complex/difficult medical decisions while caring for terminally ill parent’ will be better-received by an employer than ‘took time off to care for a sick relative,’” she says.

Remain proactive—with a little assistance

“When it comes to covering resume gaps created by unemployment, it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive,” Rose says. By focusing on what you’ve achieved during this challenging period, you will demonstrate to employers your can-do attitude, resourcefulness and ability to drive successful results. Could you use some additional help? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way Monster's experts can lend you a hand as you make your way through the job search process.

Take Advantage of Downtime at Work

We often dream of having downtime at work. But when we actually get it, we don't know what to do. You should realize this is the perfect time to complete the tasks you've put off or to pick up some new skills.

Stretch Yourself

You may have passed on projects you did not feel you had the skills necessary to complete. Those projects may still be sitting on your boss's desk.

Tell your boss you would like to take a stab at one of them. With the slowdown in your workload, you will be able to take the time to research the best way to complete the project.

If you need help getting started, don't hesitate to ask your boss for suggestions. Just because you have more time on your hands doesn't mean you should waste it.

Explore Self-Development

Now's the time to pull out your file of seminars and workshops and start selecting courses that will help move your career forward.

If your boss gives you a hard time about the cost, simply remind him of how your attendance at the program will benefit both your boss and the department. If your boss still is not willing to spend the dollars and you are in a position to invest in yourself, say so. Your offer to pay for the course will show how committed you are to taking it and may prompt your boss to cough up some bucks.

Go Back to School

You've been thinking about pursuing an advanced degree but have hesitated because your job has required you to work a lot of nights and weekends.

There is no time like the present. Even if you have not taken any necessary admissions tests to officially get started, see if you can take some courses that might be transferable to a degree program.

Be sure to let your boss know of your intentions so you're not overloaded when things do pick up again.

Update Your Resume

Use this time to refresh your resume. If the downtime appears to be never-ending, you will be one step closer to finding other employment.


Perhaps you swore you would get involved in a local professional organization, but you've never made it to any meetings. Your excuse of not having time is now gone. Attend some of those dinner meetings to which you've been invited.

Relax and Enjoy Yourself

Leave work at 5 p.m. to attend a Little League game. Take that knitting class you've been talking about for months. Do something for yourself or your family.

Consider joining a gym and getting back into shape. You'll need to be fit when things start moving again at warp speed.

Remember, downtime can be a good thing. Before too long, your job will be super busy, and you'll wish you had more free time to do all those things that are once again on the back burner.

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