You’re unemployed, now what? You can sit around in your underwear, sending out countless resumes to the infinite abyss of online applications while feeling sorry for yourself and your current state of affairs. Or, you can accept the fact that your college major was useless and efficiently use this amount of free time as opportunity to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in January 2014 was 6.6 percent. Here’s how to take advantage of your unemployment:
1. Find what you love to do.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, she introduces the idea that you can choose what you do every day, but you can’t choose what you like to do. Do you love accounting? Maybe you’d like teaching, or advertising, or nursing. Before you dive into your next job, though, shadow people who have jobs that look interesting. You might find that the glamorous jobs involve a lot more day-to-day paperwork than you expected and the lower paying jobs have a lot more perks you had not thought of.
2. Learn a skill.
Brush up on your high school French. Watch YouTube videos and learn to bake. Take a class a class on Photoshop at the public library. Learning a new skill builds your self confidence and bulks up your resume. Another great use of this time is to learn to code. Codeacademy has very user friendly programs for beginners to learn HTML, CSS, etc.
3. Explore social media.
While seeing your friends happily employed on Facebook might not seem appealing at this time in your life, learning the “ins” and “outs” social media platforms will be beneficial in almost any career you choose. In addition, it’s a great way to market yourself. Build an online resume. Revise your LinkedIn profile. According to survey by CareerBuilder, 48 percent of employers will use Google or other search engines to find out more information about potential candidates. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t take the time to take down your Spring Break photos.
4. Network, network, network.
In 2010, a survey by the staffing company Right Management, found that 41 percent of the 59,133 clients they surveyed found their job through networking. This was significantly higher than the 25 percent who landed their job through internet search boards. You can attend formal events, but if they make you uncomfortable, start small. Go to company happy hours with your friends and meet their co-workers. Reach out to your alumni association. Talk to your family and friends. Having a connection to an organization you want to work for helps get your resume to the people that need to see it versus having it be sorted out through a computer that looks for keywords.
Volunteering can provide a lot of opportunities. You can learn new skills as well as network with people you might not have had access to. Helping out others will also help put your situation into perspective. You have a lot of time on your hands to feel sorry for yourself and worry about your student loan debt. Helping others can remind you that everyone faces their own struggles and often seeing the strength of others is extremely inspiring.
6. Spend time with your family and friends.
When you’re working 60 hours a week, you’re going to miss being able to cook for your family or spending long days with your grandparents. You can only fill out your work history in automated forms so many times before you lose it. Go bake cookies with your niece when she gets home from school. Invite your friends over for a dinner party. A job will eventually come, but opportunities to make meaningful memories with those you love may not come around as often as you think once you get busy again.
7. Work on yourself.
Consider your job at this time to be self-improvement. Often being unemployed makes you feel vulnerable and unsure of the future. Take this time and make yourself stronger. Eat healthy. Exercise. Build routines now and experiment with new activities and hobbies. Not only you will you feel better, but when an employer inevitably asks, “So tell me an interesting fact about yourself,” you’ll have something to say besides you love HBO on Sundays.
Whether you walked out of your old job to follow your passion of line dancing or were fired because you sent Snapchats of yourself drinking at your desk to your boss, it’s time to put your big girl panties on and make the most of this free time. It’s a unique chance in your life to change directions and explore the world around you. You will eventually have a job again and your 30 minute lunch break will not be enough time to accomplish anything more than ordering a sandwich at Cosi. Embrace it and enjoy that paycheck when you finally see it again.