100 Smart Ways to Invest Your Time When You’re Unemployed
Unemployment can strike unexpectedly and leave you feeling frustrated, stressed out, and upset. Yet it doesn't have to be an entirely bad experience. Aside from the financial woes it might create, unemployment can sometimes be a blessing in disguise, helping you take care of things you've been putting off, building career skills, or even pushing you in a totally new direction in life — that is, if you choose to use your time away from the workplace wisely.
Even though you're not at work, you can still be working toward a better, happier you in your time between jobs. There are hundreds of ways that you can improve yourself and develop as a person and a professional, and even better, you'll be able to show potential employers that you're willing to change, roll with the punches, push yourself, and learn even when times are tough. Here, we share just a few of the many ways you can use your unemployment to your advantage and make every minute away from work count.
Getting Back to Work
Chances are good that if you're unemployed, finding a job is usually on your mind. These ideas will help you push yourself to get back on the workplace saddle.
- Give your resume a makeover.
If you haven't looked for a job in awhile, you could probably stand to give your resume a little tweaking. Add your most current positions and give the whole thing a more modern, sleek layout.
- Create a plan for getting back into the workforce.
With the job market tight, it can often take some pretty serious effort to find a new job. The first step should be to create a plan of attack, deciding what changes you need to make, how you'll apply, and what you really want to do.
- Get an internship.
Can't get a job? See if you can get an internship instead. That will keep extended gaps off of your resume and ensure that you're gaining experience while looking for more gainful employment.
- Do mock interviews.
Don't head into your interview unpracticed! Instead, review interview questions at home ahead of time so you'll have solid answers to almost anything that comes up.
- Take advantage of networking opportunities.
Since you don't have to work, you have plenty of time to get connected with others. Take advantage of any networking opportunities offered to you, as you never know which will be the chance you've been waiting for.
- Follow up.
If you've scored a much-coveted interview or have placed an application for a job you really want, don't forget to follow up. It'll make you look more interested in the position and will undoubtedly relieve some of your stress.
- Ask for advice.
Not sure how to handle unemployment? Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Head to the web, your business connections, or friends and family to get information about job leads, personal development, going back to school, and more.
- Learn how the hiring process works.
Do you know how HR at major companies handles incoming resumes? If not, you might want to learn. Some scan resumes and cover letters for key words, which you'll want to include (or exclude as the case may be) to help you gain an edge.
- Design amazing business cards.
Leave everyone you meet something to remember you by, when you create standout business cards. Design them yourself, or ask a design-savvy friend to give you some help.
- Stay involved in your industry.
Just because you're not working doesn't mean you should just drop out of your field. Stay involved with industry events, news, and chat so you won't get left behind.
- Start at the bottom.
Sometimes, coming back from unemployment means starting all over again at the bottom. Don't let this get you down. Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow instead.
- Start your own business.
For some, losing a job may be just the motivation they need to finally start the business they've always dreamed about.
- Take on small jobs.
If you can't find a long-term job, there's no reason not to find shorter-term work in its place. Freelance, consult, or even do odd jobs to stay busy while you're waiting for a break to come along.
- Work part time.
If your industry offers part-time positions, try to find one. It might not cover all the bills, but it will keep you working and involved, which looks good to future employers.
- Don't be afraid to take chances.
Unemployment is scary, it's true, but that's no excuse not to be willing to take a few risks to get ahead. Those chances could pay off big, and help you get ahead in your career.
- Ask for help.
No matter what kind of crisis you're going through, you don't have to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family, coworkers, and associates for help in getting back into the workplace.
- Temper desperation.
There is nothing that will drive away potential employers faster than the smell of desperation. Even if you feel yourself become desperate, don't let it show. Relax, step back, and address any opportunities calmly.
Working on Yourself
Time off from work can give you a chance to work on you, free from the usual constraints. What's more, becoming a better person may just help you get the job you want or start a new career.
- Reassess your goals.
Do you know where you really want to be in five years? The answer might not be what you thought it would be five years previously, especially in light of your unemployment. Take a hard look at your life and figure out what you really want from your career and your personal relationships.
Calm your mind and find some inner peace by making meditation, even for a few minutes, a daily practice while unemployed.
- Find discipline.
Making it through unemployment and back into the workforce is going to take some discipline. Work on finding it in yourself.
- Organize your life.
Your life might feel chaotic at the moment, but you can restore order in the elements you can control. Organize your home, your thoughts, and other elements of your life to make it easier to think clearly and start moving ahead.
- Work on your patience.
Being impatient isn't a virtue. Every time you feel yourself losing patience, remind yourself to calm down and take things slowly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race, not fast and haphazardly.
- Listen more than you talk.
There are many times in our lives when we think we know more than we actually do. Losing a job can be a wake-up call. Stop talking and start listening to gain valuable insights.
- Get out of your comfort zone.
Losing a job can be scary, but since you're already in an uncomfortable place, it's the perfect time to break out of all-too-comfortable ruts and start doing things a different way.
- Change your bad habits.
Our bad habits can often get us into trouble and make life more difficult than it has to be. Make breaking some of your worst habits a daily goal while unemployed (and beyond).
- Stop being a perfectionist.
No one is perfect and the pursuit of that impossible ideal can be exhausting, defeating, and stressful. Let yourself make mistakes, so long as you learn from them.
- Work on your self-esteem.
Confidence goes a long way in life, from the business world to the dating scene. Feel good about yourself and you'll have an easier time convincing others that you're a great choice as well.
- Learn how to be your own advocate.
You don't need others to stick up for you; you can just as easily do it for yourself. Spend time teaching yourself how to speak up and get what you want.
- Keep calm and carry on.
Freaking out will not help you get through any kind of crisis, including unemployment. Stay calm, create a plan, and move on to the next step in your life.
- Have an open mind.
Closing yourself off from potential opportunities, helpful people, and new experiences are surefire ways to keep yourself stuck in a rut. Instead, open your mind to new ideas.
- Be publicly accountable.
Want to force yourself to make big changes? Then make yourself publicly accountable for meeting your goals.
There's no sense in wallowing in being out of work. Instead, spend your time learning how to be happy.
- Stop complaining.
Could things in your life be better? Sure, but constantly reminding yourself of that fact isn't going to change a thing. Stop complaining and start doing things to improve your life.
- Take care of yourself.
Being unemployed can be very stressful, so it's key to take good care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, and don't neglect check-ups with doctors and dentists.
- Get in shape.
One of the most common excuses for not working out is lack of time, and you've got plenty of that now. Start making exercise part of your daily routine. You'll look and feel better and it can help reduce stress, too.
- Learn the benefits of positive thinking.
While positive thinking can't instantly make your life amazing, it can help to keep you motivated, improve your health, and generally make you happier. Give it a try next time you feel negative thoughts creeping in.
- Take stock of the good things in your life.
While everything in your life might not be perfect, there are undoubtedly some blessings that you have to be thankful for. Remind yourself of this any time you start to feel down about unemployment.
- Don't put off unpleasant things.
Life is full of unpleasant tasks, but putting these things off until tomorrow makes both today and tomorrow miserable. Get the worst things out of the way first, then you can move on and feel better.
- Love yourself.
Job loss can often result in some pretty negative thoughts about yourself, but it shouldn't. Learn to forgive, love, and care for yourself. You'll be a stronger person for it.
- Practice mindfulness.
You might be too worried about your future to appreciate today, but you really shouldn't be. Train yourself to live in the moment and appreciate the good things life has to offer, however small.
- Say yes.
While you don't want to get as extreme as Jim Carrey's character in The Yes Man, there is an advantage to being willing to try new things and to saying yes when you would have previously been too busy, worried, or unwilling to do so.
- Know yourself.
Time off of work is an excellent opportunity for getting to know yourself. Learn what you like, what makes you happy, and, most importantly, what you really value in life.
- Practice kindness.
It may seem like those who are unkind get ahead the most in the world, but that advancement comes at a hefty cost. Practice being kind to yourself and to others, which brings much sweeter rewards.
- Be honest with yourself.
Lying to yourself may seem like a good solution to difficult situations, but in the end it only makes things worse. Be honest about your prospects, what you need to change, and the difficulties you may face in the coming months. Only then can you truly make a plan to improve your life.
- Find the silver lining.
However small it might be, there is undoubtedly some kind of silver lining to being out of work. Find it, embrace it, and let it make you happy.
- Get in touch with your spiritual side.
No matter what you believe, this is the perfect time to connect or reconnect with your spiritual side. Whether you engage in prayer or just try to connect with others on a deeper level, try to get something more out of life with your new free time.
- Simplify your life.
Unemployment is a major change and can make you realize how much clutter there really is in your life. Simplify things by getting rid of both physical and mental baggage that might be holding you back.
- Get some perspective.
Think things are bad? They could always be worse. Give yourself reminders of this by helping out those who are truly down on their luck.
Learning and Growing
Push yourself to learn, grow, and develop while unemployed by using some of these ideas.
- Read helpful books.
There are hundreds of books out there that can help you to get a job, improve yourself, build skills, or just about anything else you could want. Better yet, you can often find them for free at your local library.
- Learn a new skill.
Whether you choose to finally take some dance lessons, refinish furniture, or even use a word processing program, learning new skills is always a positive thing and you never know when they could come in handy.
- Take time to define your values.
Do you know what really matters to you? Spend some time thinking long and hard about what you value most in life and build your future career around those values.
- Begin learning a new language.
Knowing another language is never a bad thing and can add quite a bit to your resume. Use your time off to start getting familiar with a new language, a process you can continue throughout your life.
- Take college courses.
If you feel like you need some new training or a new degree to keep up with your competition in the job market, use this break from work as your chance to head back to school.
- Grow, grow, grow.
While it might be easier said than done, unemployment can be a valuable learning experience, and one that should inspire you to grow as a person.
- Experiment with new things.
You've got nothing left to lose professionally, so why not try out some new things that can help to inspire, motivate, and re-ignite your passion.
- Know your failings.
Learn how to be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Then start working on ways to improve yourself in those areas or to compensate for them in other ways.
- Learn from your mistakes.
Everyone makes them, and that's ok. Just do your best to learn from them and move on a little wiser.
- Keep yourself accountable.
You and only you are responsible for your success or failure in life. Find ways to ensure that you stay accountable no matter how you're spending your time out of work.
- Don't let yourself quit.
It is easy to give up and give in to depression when you're out of work, but while it might be harder to force yourself to keep going, that's ultimately the more rewarding route. Take it.
- Find a coach.
If you're finding it hard to stay motivated on your own, reach out to someone close to you to act as your coach. He or she can help keep you going through the worst parts of your unemployment.
Feel like you can't compete in the modern workplace? Unemployment is a chance to spend some time honing new skills, learning, and preparing yourself to get back to work.
- Focus on ambition, not on work.
The job itself isn't always the important thing. Instead, focus on your personal ambitions and drives. When you embrace those, often work comes without really trying.
- Attend seminars.
Seminars are great places to learn new things and also connect with others in your field. The fees can be well worth the investment.
- Look good.
First impressions do matter, so don't let yourself go while unemployed. Keep your hair looking neat, your clothes fitted and professional, and your overall appearance maintained.
- Be open to unexpected opportunities.
Sometimes opportunities come up that are wholly unexpected or not quite what you had in mind. Don't reject them out of hand. Instead, think about the pros and cons of each; there might be a greater opportunity there than you thought.
- Make connections.
Whether you meet people at the dog park or connect on LinkedIn, you should be using your unemployment to build a strong network that you can hopefully use to catapult you back into the working world.
- Learn about social networking.
It's hard to get by in many industries these days without some solid social media knowledge. Improve yours by reading all you can about using sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- Join or start a club.
Meet up with others in your community who are unemployed or working in your field by joining a club or by starting your own local organization.
- Collect references.
While the ideal time to collect references is before a layoff, now you have plenty of time to get in touch with former employers and coworkers who are willing to vouch for you.
- Learn how to be more productive.
If your productivity skills could use some work, hone them in your time away from work by learning about time management, reading helpful books, and just being more conscious of how much you're getting done each day.
- Share your skills.
Just because you're not working doesn't mean you can't use what you know. Offer free courses, teach kids, and share your expertise on the web.
- Join professional organizations.
You can make a whole host of new connections by joining professional organizations in your field. Even better, many offer special job listings as well.
- Create an online brand.
Never spent much time promoting yourself online? Well, now's the time to get to it. Create a website, write a blog, and use social media to get your name out there.
- Balance your life.
Getting a chance to pull back from work can help you to finally achieve a bit more of work-life balance.
- Practice your job skills.
You don't want to get rusty in your time off from work, so keep practicing those skills you use every day at work to ensure that you stay sharp.
- Learn about public speaking.
Many, if not most, people loathe public speaking. While you may never learn to love it, you can learn to be good at it, which can be a huge advantage in finding a job and beyond.
- Create a portfolio.
No matter what industry you're in, it can be helpful to have examples of how you've excelled at work.
- Look for inspirational examples.
Lots of people throughout history have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Grab a biography and get reading to get inspired.
Staying Busy Productively
One of the worst things you can do when unemployed is mope around the house. These ideas will help to keep you busy, productive, and even working on yourself during the day.
Volunteering can be a great way to give back to the community, keep busy, and even meet new people who could potentially help you in your career.
- Create a routine.
It's easy to fall into a pattern of sleeping late, not getting dressed, or staying up all night watching movies. Don't do this. Instead, create a healthy, normal routine for yourself that will keep you productive and focused.
- Get involved in your community.
Start coaching a baseball team or sitting in on city council meetings. You'll be busy and feel like you're a valued member of society.
- Start a blog.
Blogs are a great way to work on your writing skills, connect with others, and just express yourself. You can also use them to build your online reputation.
- Journal your experiences.
It can be useful to write down how you're feeling as you're going through this tumultuous time in your life. It's both therapeutic and will serve as a reminder of just how far you've come.
- Work out your brain.
Don't let your brain sit idle! Read, work on puzzles, or just learn new things to keep it busy.
- Brainstorm for ideas.
It can be useful to spend a part of your day brainstorming, whether for business ideas, job hunting leads, or even plots for novels.
- Become more frugal.
If you're out of work, then you need to be very careful about how you spend your money. Start cutting back and saving more where you can.
- Give to receive.
Often, if you want to get something out of an experience, you have to give something first. Many things in life work this way, so don't hesitate to put yourself out there; it might just be the risk you need to get things going in the right direction again.
- Read stories of others like you.
Even if you feel totally alone, we can assure you that you're not. Millions of people have been right where you are right now. Read about their stories to get some insights into how they worked their way out of a bad situation.
- Find something to motivate you.
Everyone is motivated differently. Find what motivates you and capitalize on it to get more done every day.
- Be creative.
There are few rules when you're on your own at home. You have the license to be totally creative and inventive, so go wild with new ideas and creations.
Were you a workaholic prior to your unemployment? If so, take this opportunity to just enjoy life, spend time with family, and understand what all that work is really for.
- Spend time with your family.
One of the greatest benefits of unemployment is having more time to spend with your family. Enjoy every minute of it while you can.
- Take up a hobby.
A hobby can be a great, productive way to pass the time, and there are numerous stories of people who found ways to turn that hobby into a thriving business.
- Spend time with good people.
Kick negative people out of your life for the time being and hang out with friends and family members who can support you and get you through the toughest times.
- Smile more.
You might feel like frowning, but trust us, smiling will help to change your mood and put a positive spin on even the worst day.
- Do things you enjoy that you're usually too busy to do.
Work can be rewarding but it can also make it hard to find time to do other things that you enjoy. Use your free time now to do those things.
- Enjoy life in the moment.
None of us know what the future will bring, so even when things seem uncertain in life, enjoy the happy moments.
- Create jobs for yourself.
Don't have anything to do? Make something to do! Give yourself jobs to tackle each day, related to everything from job hunting, to networking, to fixing things around the house.
- Maintain a social life.
Don't drop out of your friends' lives just because you've lost your job. You need them now more than ever, so keep in touch and enjoy spending time with those closest to you.
- Keep busy.
One sure way to keep from falling into the unemployment blues is to stay busy, whether looking for work, doing projects, or just spending time with your family.
- But find time to relax.
Of course, on the flip side, you also need to take time to relax. Once you find work, you won't get that chance again!
- Have fun.
How can you have fun when you're out of work? Simple: forget for a few hours that you are unemployed. Everyone deserves to enjoy his or herself from time to time, and you're no exception.
- Explore your city.
Never had a chance to visit that bakery around the corner? See the amazing park downtown? Well, now you have time. Use it to see everything your city has to offer. You might just end up making some great connections along the way.