Being unemployed is a difficult situation for anyone. Here are seven tips to help you keep your skills current while searching for a job.
With unemployment holding steady at around 9% and about six million Americans having been out of work for six months or longer, the jobs outlook seems pretty grim. If you’re one of those six million who are considered “long-term” unemployed, you can add another black mark against your record. Some employers have brazenly declared that “unemployed need not apply” and those who are considering hiring someone who’s been out of work for a while are concerned that job skills may not be current.
You may not be able to do anything about the current jobs market or the fact that you’ve been unable to secure employment up to this point, but you can keep your skills up-to-date or learn new skills that will help you land that next job. You just have to get a little creative. Here are a few ideas:
Volunteer your services to a non-profit. Non-profit agencies have the same staffing needs as most other businesses and are often understaffed due to lack of funds. Volunteering a couple of days a week will keep your skills sharp, give you a chance to network a bit, and allow you to do something good for someone else, even when you aren’t in the best of situations yourself.
Consult or freelance. You have skills that someone valued enough once to provide pay for full-time work. Employers who are reluctant to add full-time staff may be receptive to hiring you on a temporary basis. Who knows where that might lead?
Blog about what you know. Often hiring supervisors will Google a candidate to find out what information they can find on the individual on the web. Blogging about your field of knowledge provides you with a positive on-line presence and showcases your knowledge. Keep the blog topics restricted to current issues and cite references in your blog to demonstrate your grasp of current events and issues that impact your field of expertise. Researching the articles will keep your knowledge base up-to-date and sharing that knowledge through the blog demonstrates your understanding.
Attend training. You don’t have to sign up for college courses or pay thousands of dollars for a seminar. There are a multitude of no-cost training resources on the web. The American Management Association web site www.amanet.org, has a variety of business and personal development webinars that are free. Other organizations also provide the same kind of information.
Read a book. Again, no cost if you’ve got a library card. As with the training, be prepared to tell an interviewer how what you learned will enhance your ability to do the job.
Maintain your membership in professional associations and go to the meetings. Not only are these types of meetings great placees to network with individuals in your field, but many organizations provide speakers on current topics of interest.
Find an employed mentor or friend who works in your field and who is willing to share current challenges and best practices with you. Meet for coffee or have a phone call once a week. Your friend will be able to tell you how the latest trends are affecting the workplace and you’ll be able to provide insight on research you’ve done for your blog, through your reading or through preparing for interviews.
Being unemployed is stressful. By taking steps to confidently answer the question, “What have you done to keep your skills up to date while you’ve been off work?” you can at least remove one stress point and put yourself in a better position for that job offer you so desperately need. Best of luck to you in your job search!