Arment Dietrich

Five Ways to Be Productive While Unemployed

By: Arment Dietrich | December 7, 2011 | 

I need a job!Today’s guest post is written by Molli Megasko

Did you know 9.2 percent of 25- to 34 year-olds are unemployed in America?

I’m not an expert at being out of a job. In fact, I don’t know what it’s like, and I’m definitely not sitting here saying it’s easy by any means.

What I do know is how to look attractive while being unemployed.

Besides the job of looking for a job, following are five ways to busy yourself while unemployed.

  1. Call some nonprofits. Create a list of nonprofits you care about and find a local branch. Call the location and ask to speak with the marketing manager. Explain that you are out of a job and would love to offer some of your time and skills pro-bono. I’ve done this with a few organizations helping to write recruiting releases or promote for sponsors. This is a great resume boost that shows initiative and might help you tap into new resources.
  2. Start your own thing.  Every business needs some type of communication and could benefit from marketing efforts. If you know your craft and feel that you are good at what you do, locate some of your local businesses and secure some clients on a consulting basis. Start with very small budgets and grow from there. If you end up not liking working from home and consulting, at least you can cover-up that dry spell on your resume. Also, no dream is too big. Starting your own thing can mean opening up that yoga studio or traveling. Just pay close attention to your finances.
  3. Work an internship. I know, going backwards is not ideal, but being without a job is not ideal either. Now is an opportunity to learn something different or get into the company of your dreams by starting off at the bottom. Remember Chandler from Friends?  He was in his 30s when he took an internship in advertising.  If he can do it, you can do it.
  4. Do something different. Are you out of a job and really don’t know what you want to do?  Try something new. Maybe it’s retail.  Maybe it’s business. This ties into working an internship but now is a golden opportunity to really find out what you want out of your career. Job shadow and start researching.
  5. Go back to school. Now, take this with a grain of salt.  I am not recommending going back to school just because you have nothing else going on. I only suggest doing it now if it’s something you’ve thought about before and know you’ll benefit from once completed.  School is not only difficult, it is expensive. Before making this choice, make sure you know the type of job you wish to land once you have that degree.  Then make sure it’s lucrative enough to help cover the debt you endured from school.

Are you out of a job?  What are you doing in between your job searches and networking?

  • MarkJMuellerJr

    Great Article!

    I was without employment for about a year and a half. During that time I learned Inbound Marketing and tried to start my own Social Media consulting firm. The only problem I ran into was finding people willing to use my services. What I realized is that I had not spent enough time making myself known as a thought leader in my local area. Starting your own “Thing” while you are unemployed is not a bad idea, but just realize it will take a whole lot of time and effort. It is not an over night sensation. Just because you know what you are doing doesn’t mean everyone else thinks you do. Spend the time to create yourself as a brand and expand your knowledge base while pushing content at the same time and you will get the recognition that you were hoping for. It’s a long road, but the end result is worth the wait.

    • MolliMegasko

      Especially in our industry, if you can’t brand and market yourself, why do you think you can do it for clients?

  • Being unemployed, I have a very different take on all of this. First off, an internship only works if you have another income stream, or live somewhere that rent is not an issue. I could not work an internship. It is neither possible nor is it practical.

    My suggestions for someone out of work are as follows:

    Get help – I had a friend overhaul my resume. I know look like a rock star where before I looked like a shumck. I now want to interview me!

    If you blog – create a “hire me” page. I am doing this right now and am still getting input and making tweaks as I go.

    Answer all relevant ads – As long as the salary is within living range, if you can do it, answer the ad. BUT – no taking a job that will not get the bills paid just to get a job.

    I also go on Twitter and talk to my friends – networking is crucial.

    Taking a class to brush up on something could be good, or getting the last few credits to get a degree. Starting over? Not in these economic times.

    Lastly, avoid hanging with your other unemployed buds too much. Sure they can empathize, but what you really need is to spend time with those who are where you want to be not where you are.

    • MolliMegasko

      LOVE the get help option! I was actually reading about a non profit that just started where all they do is offer support to unemployed. It’s really important not to get down, so talking with people is a must. Thanks for you comments!

  • Great ideas, and a definite reality that we sometimes do our best stuff when forced out of our comfort zones. Even when we’re employed, I’ve always felt there was there value in regularly planning as if we were UNemployed. What skills would we improve? What connections would we rebuild? As MarkJMuellerJr already commented, it takes time to get known, even if we do have the right skills. Revisiting an “unemployed” mindset from time to time will help us avoid visiting it in reality some day.

    • @LornePike Hi Lorne! I saw your comment after I wrote mine – that’s it – we do our best work out of our comfort zones. (and I owe you an email which I’ll get to right now!)

      • @Lisa Gerber Thanks Lisa! Looking forward to it. And given your comment, I’ll reply while out of my comfort zone. 🙂

    • MolliMegasko

      It’s hard to see the silver lining, and a little cliché but everything does happen for a reason. (As long as you don’t sit on your butt all day.)

  • jenzings

    I’d like to comment on #4: do something different. I did this, stepping out of PR and working retail for a while, and the experience was a good one. While I started as a part time seasonal employee, I ended up doing the customer service work, and instituted some changes that were eventually rolled out to other customer service representatives in the district. I learned a ton about communications from a very different perspective, and I can honestly say the experience made me a better communicator and a better manager.

    A lot of people knock retail, but I think if you find the right company, you can learn a lot.

    • MolliMegasko

      That’s great, Jenzings! Are you still doing that “different” thing?

      • jenzings

        Nope–left that gig back in 2005. I work for CustomScoop now. It was a great experience (and, sort of in Gini’s neck of the woods in Deer Park, IL).

        I try and tell as many people as I can. There’s this stigma to working retail, but I feel strongly that any job is worth doing well. It was for Restoration Hardware, and it was a company that has always been very responsive to customers. They gave me tremendous leeway to solve customer problems, which was remarkable. I am still a loyal customer (even though I no longer get the sweet 40% employee discount!) @MolliMegasko

  • If there is a silver lining to be found in this crappy economy, I think it is the fact that a lot of people will start their own thing as you suggest in #2. We’ll see (or we are seeing) a generation of cottage businesses that started out of necessity but were a kick the pants for someone who wanted to do it, but never had the nerve.

    • MolliMegasko

      I would love to open up a yoga studio. BUT, let’s hope that never happens, that means I had no other options. 😉

  • I love to see volunteering as work experience on a resume.

    • MolliMegasko

      Some companies have it as must.

  • I agree to every point mentioned above, except the last one. One generally takes up a job to update the skills that they lost due to schooling. Not to mention the $$$$ lost due to it.

    • jenzings

      Excellent point–and one that I was planning on commenting on for a few reasons. School–last time I checked–cost quite a bit of money. If you can qualify for a full scholarship or have piles of money lying around, then fine. It is *not* a good idea to go into debt for an advanced degree unless there is some certainty that one will be able to secure a position that pays at a rate that will allow one to pay back the debt (preferably in short time) and still be able to survive on what’s remaining. We have an epidemic of student loan debt in this country, and it is crushing the future financial stability of many young people.

      The idea that students are taking out loans in excess of $50, $80, $100K for master’s degrees in fields where the starting salaries are in the $40K range is stunning–especially when you consider many of them are carrying debt from their undergraduate degrees too. @Raj-PB

    • jenzings
    • MolliMegasko

      I mention the cost and having the right intentions. I do someday wish to go back to school and if I found myself without a job, I would consider that now. But it is not an easy way out and should not be done just because you can’t find a job.

  • Having spent about 8 months unemployed a couple of years ago – there is no greater suggestion on this list (at least, to me) than #4. I spent so much time doing only one thing (travel) that when I didn’t have a job anymore – I couldn’t think of any experience that I might have to offer anywhere else. Then I found a new company, where my abilities with customer service got me in the door, and now – I get to do something I really love. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and it was made even worse by not understanding if I could have done something different. It’s so hard to understand when you work your tail off, you’re pulling 50 – 55 hours a week to make sure customers are happy, and yet it wasn’t enough.

    The truth is that it was a blessing in disguise because I tried something new and I found a home.

    • MolliMegasko

      I am so happy it worked out for you! What a great story. It is so hard to let go and see what happens. Like comments below, income takes priority in most cases.

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  • jacque_PR

    @MolliMegasko I absolutely LOVE #1 (I manage my local humane society’s social media accounts). Okay, well basically this entire list is stellar! I strongly believe that every moment is an opportunity, whether they be internships, pro-bono work, freelance periods, or even seasonal employment during the holidays, ALL have helped me continue to refine my skills and gain valuable life experience as well.

    So to all young adults who are struggling with job searches, seriously, all of the above are great tips to consider while you’re on the hunt. While technically your career doesn’t start until you land that permanent, full-time position, I think it really begins when you start acting professionally — by leveraging unemployment to your advantage. That way, when you DO get that coveted job, you’ll start “not with a fizzle, but with a bang!”

    • MolliMegasko

      I don’t think its fair to not count an internship as starting your career. With more than two internships under your belt, you could be more valuable to a company than someone who was fired.

  • Mission0ps

    I have to say that it’s a good list, however I wonder if the chances of landing a job after trying the recommendations are going to really improve. Getting proactive I certainly agree is a good use of time yet the way the job market is I think that #1 maybe #2 are really the only way you may get bck into the employed market. (OK #2 doesn’t get you employed but earning)

    • jenzings

      Might not improve tremendously, but it does allow you to provide something in that space on the resume so it’s not just a huge time gap. I think that’s of value in and of itself. @Mission0ps

      • Mission0ps

        @jenzings@Mission0ps True indeed, and there are 2 MASSIVE benefits if truth be told.. 1) Self worth and self esteem – You know that you re not just “chillin” 2) As mentioned by Tinu, when I was an employer having a period of unemployment on a CV that is filled with something “proactive” would always get you brownie points

    • MolliMegasko

      Think about it this way. I help out with interviews and hiring for AD. If prospect A comes in with one year of unemployment, and prospect B comes in with one year of unemployment BUT has some extra work on the site, B will land the job.

      • @MolliMegasko I wish that was how it worked in most places but when you have more experience it sometimes gets more complicated. The ability to command a higher salary scares away a lot of employers.

  • I definitely agree with calling up some nonprofits. The intern coordinator offered the same advice to me and since I like working in the pet PR industry, she encouraged me to call up local stray rescues to see if I can lend a hand with their event coordination or public relations efforts! You’d be surprised how many would love the extra hands on deck.

    Additional internships can never hurt either. While I’d love to land my first full time paying job, in this job market I have to be realistic and take internships IF they provide great learning experiences. That way, I’ll still be “working” and beefing up my resume at the same time 🙂

    • MolliMegasko

      That’s a good IF there, Stellery. Just like thinking about school, make sure whatever probono work you get into either benefits your resume or your heart.

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