I hope you’re not one of those people who said, “I’m making my job search a full-time job.” I’ve known people who do that. They spend — or at least intend to spend — 40 hours per week, poring over the job boards, applying for any and all jobs they can find.
It’s an awful, awful way to spend the day, let alone a large chunk of your life. Not only do you sink further and further into despair and depression (I know I did), but it’s one of the most useless wastes of time you’ll ever spend in your professional career, not including the six-hour committee meeting that decided the new formatting for the TPS reports.
Forget spending all that time searching for a job. A decent job search can take a few hours a week, but the rest of that time should be spent networking, improving your skills, and making yourself a more interesting job candidate. Here are two important things you can do while you’re unemployed, instead of wasting time on the job boards.
Volunteer at a nonprofit or charitable organization that has a need of your particular skill set. Whether you’re good at PR, accounting, or web design, put in several hours helping one or two nonprofits improve their offerings in this matter. Remember, they provide services, they’re not accountants and web designers, so they could really use your help. This can have a number of different positive results:
- You could be hired to continue to provide those skills. Think of your volunteering as a long-term job interview. Prove your worth, show how your skills can help them raise money or provide services, and they’ll want to keep you.
- You could be referred by the executive director or other manager to a friend (many nonprofit people are well-connected)
- You will keep your skills sharp, and even have a chance to learn new skills. This keeps you from looking unemployed and uninterested during your break. You can mention your work during any job interviews.
Volunteering can even include sitting on the board of a particular nonprofit. Maybe it’s not one you want to, or can, work for, but find a board that has some other well-connected people in your chosen industry. As you get to know them, they’ll be more willing to help you connect with a possible job or employer than they would if you weren’t associated with them at all.
2) Start your own freelance work.
Maybe you have a job where people will occasionally hire outside workers to complete their projects. Graphic design, marketing, copywriting, accounting, consulting — any of these positions can be done by one person who does it out of their house or at a coffee shop. Declare yourself a freelancer, sell yourself to the people who could use your skills — small companies, agencies, and even contractor-for-hire companies. Doing this could help with your job search in a few ways.
- You will work directly with the decision makers within the organization. These people are usually also the hiring managers. Make the client happy, and he or she may choose to hire you full-time. At the very least, they will know your abilities and skills when a job opens up. Just send your résumé to your contact, and you’re ahead of everyone else.
- You will keep your skills sharp. Nothing is worse than losing all your skills and industry knowledge because of several months of inactivity. You also get to learn new skills and hone your old ones on someone else’s dime.
- Continue to network with other people. You’ll meet people who may have a line on new opportunities, especially if they get hired elsewhere, and need someone like you later on.
- You look like you’ve been employed at your own venture, so you avoid looking like a long-term unemployed person. Many companies are hesitant to hire people who have been out of work for a long time. Fair or unfair, they question how good a person really is if they haven’t found a job after 12 months. But you avoid that by “being in business for yourself.”
Who knows? You may find you’re so successful at being a freelancer, you’re making more money than if you were a full-time employee, and so you decide to skip taking a job at all. Or you start your own company, and hire a few fellow out-of-work freelancers.
Right now, since you’re not working, you’re getting nothing in terms of a salary. You’re getting nothing if you hammer the job boards eight hours a day, and you’re getting nothing if you sit and watch TV all day long. So try these two things and see if it helps you get a new job sooner.
What have you got to lose? Nothing! So why aren’t you doing it? At least this way you have a better shot at finding your next great job.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, which he wrote with Jason Falls, is in bookstores and on Amazon now.