Being unemployed sucks. I know, I’ve been there. The first few days of sleeping in and watching Judge Judy while everyone you know is slaving away at their desks is great. But once the novelty wears off, you start to panic. You haven’t changed out of your sweatpants for two days. You realize your emergency fund won’t last forever. The conversations between you and your dog are getting deeper. The realities of unemployment are starting to get REAL.
I made the mistake of bumming around while I was unemployed. I engaged in some passive job hunting but it wasn’t enough to keep my mind busy and I started to feel like I was on crazy pills (plus you can only write so many cover letters in a day).
The key is to keep your brain occupied while staying productive. Here are nine ways to accomplish that:
1. Stay on the same schedule
For the first day or two of unemployment life, give yourself a break and treat it like the weekend. Sleep in, watch reruns, eat pizza for breakfast. But after your makeshift weekend, it’s Monday morning and you’re back on the clock. If you were a 9 to 5’er in your previous life, wake up like you normally would and start getting ready for your day. Once you’re presentable start tackling any of the below.
2. Set up informational interviews
People love talking about themselves so give someone in an organization you want to work for that opportunity. Scour company websites and LinkedIn for people you want to connect with and send them an email inviting them out for coffee. Let them know that their position intrigues you and you want to learn more about what they do. Although it may not result in a job offer, it’s a great networking opportunity and gives you a chance to new careers you never even knew existed.
3. Jazz up your resume and LinkedIn profile
Give your resume a new zest for life and spend time updating your CV. If your resume has been collecting dust for a couple of years, it could probably use a makeover. Don’t neglect your LinkedIn profile either – polish up your skills and add more oomph to your job descriptions.
4. Invest in yourself
You’ve freed up 9+ hours of your day to use at your leisure. While staying committed on the job hunt is ideal, you’ll want to spend some of that time focusing on YOU. Sign up for that spin class that was only available at 10AM. Take an online course on a topic that interests you or sign up for a Toastmasters class to work on your speaking skills.
5. Take a part-time gig
You can still earn some unemployment benefits while working part-time. Whether the job you take is related to your career or not, working and earning can really help you stay out of the unemployment funk. Consider consulting work or temping at an office.
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time. Give back to the community by offering your skills, whether it’s mentoring young adults or designing a new website for a non-profit. Volunteering is also a great way to network with people both in and outside of your industry.
7. Reconnect with your network and let people know you’re looking
No one will know you’re looking for a job unless you tell them. A few weeks ago a graphic designer friend sent out an email to his network letting everyone know he was back on the job hunt. The other day another friend of mine mentioned he was looking for a designer for his printing business. Guess who I immediately thought of and referred? Most people are happy to refer you to job opportunities but they can’t do that unless they know you’re looking.
8. Work on that business plan
As scary as it is, getting fired has been the best thing that has happened to many entrepreneurs. That corporate safety net is gone and being unemployed gives you the time and energy to work on your business plan. If you have the itch, now’s the time to scratch it!
9. Slash your budget
Money anxiety skyrockets when you’re unemployed. If you’re not bringing money in, that emergency fund can only last so long. To keep it going for as long as possible, you need to reduce your expenses. Ask yourself: what can you cut back on? You need to eat but maybe that means no more restaurant outings. You need a roof over your head but maybe you can move back home with your parents and sublet your apartment until you get back on your feet (don’t forget to get the green light from your landlord first). See where you can decrease your spending and stick to your new budget until you can get back on your feet.
How did you keep yourself busy when you were unemployed?