The prospect of just being unemployed is a scary one. You spend hours searching for jobs, countless interviews that go nowhere and you constantly hear everyone say how awful the job market is. It’s hard to remain positive; especially when nothing comes of the interviews and applications you worked so hard on. You start to think there’s something wrong with your CV/resume or that you’re becoming unemployable for some unknown reason. The most worrying part for me, being unemployed for 6 months and counting, is how big the gap from my last job to now is growing. Time is passing far too quickly for my liking.
For me, my unemployment journey started when I graduated from university last year. I was no longer labelled as a ‘student’, I was now ‘unemployed’. From my experience, university didn’t really prepare me for life as a graduate. They rarely spoke about what happens when you’re thrown out into the big wide world and what it will be like… They didn’t teach you the importance of work experience placements/interning while you’re in the safe cocoon of being a student and they didn’t warn us how hard it would be find a full-time job.
Graduate or not, it’s extremely hard to land that first job.
I know the feeling of wanting to give up and scream into a pillow when it all gets too frustrating and yet another rejection email has appeared in your inbox. The old familiar catch-22 has caught you out yet again – “you haven’t got enough experience”, but you can’t get that experience without an employer taking a chance on you. It’s a hard, frustrating pill to swallow. That’s why it’s important to stay productive whilst you search for that perfect job. So I’m passing on my advice, in hope it can make a difference to your employment status or at least your outlook on it...
- Job alerts are your best friend
No, seriously, they are. Most big companies have got a mailing system set up, just pop your email in and away you go. Then there are the recruitment companies that can send you new job listings straight to your inbox, tailored to job sectors, salary, location, etc. The sooner you set them up the better, that way you know when the right job comes along that suits your skills and you can apply to it before it closes unexpectedly. My favourite job websites are Indeed and Reed; the first having a HUGE range of roles in a wide variety of sectors (US and UK versions are available) and the latter just being genuinely a quick and easy job site to use. Both allow you to set up email updates to stay updated too.
(note: Your phone will also start pinging like crazy too. Which is a bit annoying.)
- VolunteerSeeing as you’ve got all this free time on your hands now, you may as well put it to good use. Volunteering is a great opportunity to give back to a charity/non-profits, gain some extra experience and skills for you CV or at the very least, get out of the house and meet new people! I spend most mornings volunteering at my local RSPCA, helping out by socialising the dogs and walking them before they are adopted. I’ve always loved animals and can’t have a dog at the moment, so it’s a perfect fit! But there are plenty other ways to volunteer your time, or alternatively, if you are like me (another unemployed grad) then work experience placements are great to gain more experience in a work environment as well as build contacts within the sector you want to develop a career in. Remember to update your LinkedIn profile with your volunteering commitments and work experience placements, to reflect your current job search.
- Stay activeIt’s a proven fact that exercising releases endorphins, which make you happy, and happiness is very important while you are unemployed! I know gym memberships are expensive, but you don’t need all that fancy equipment to stay fit. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, get some fresh air and clear your head. Not a fun of walking? Go for a run or a bike ride, try yoga or the 30 day fitness challenges, or even dancing around the house in your pyjamas! Your brain will appreciate the break, just as much as your body will. Stay active and keep smiling. Don’t become a couch potato. However tempting it is sometimes.
- Get a hobby
I feel like I’m telling you to get a life. I’m not, honest! But like with volunteering, you have a lot of time on your hands that you may have not normally had before. This is a great time to spend on your hobby or discover a new one, something to fill the empty void that work or university used to hold. Recently, I’ve gotten creative with my time, building a coffee table from pallets, sewing baby mobiles for my expectant sister, making fabric garlands – it’s all about keeping busy with your time! So now’s the perfect time to start that project you’ve always wanted to!
- Stick to a routineIt’s easy to slip into an “I don’t have a job so I can sleep in” routine. But it’s important to get into a similar routine that you would be in for a job. Try and set your alarm for a reasonable time to wake up every morning, get out of your pyjamas, shower, have breakfast. Even if you’re just changing into sweatpants – do it. Treat your day like a full working day and you’ll quickly get into a rhythm that’ll be productive for job hunting. Find a comfortable spot to work in; one that maybe doesn’t include your bed, sorry. Try your dining table or living room, or a desk to work from. Speaking from experience, if you pick your bed, you’ll just end up taking endless “power naps”.
- Make a to-do listThis is a chance to maintain those organisational skills or work on previously crappy ones. A to-do list will help keep you focussed on what you need to get done that day/week. It also feels pretty good to cross something off a list. Also another handy list to make is: the jobs you have applied for. Keep track of the company name and position, and also the date in which you applied, so you know when’s acceptable to inquire after a position you haven’t heard about.
- Spend time away from your computerTo an introvert, I know how lovely it sounds to spend the day cuddled up inside, wrapped in a blanket with your computer scouring the internet for jobs, whilst binge watching your new favourite TV show. Paints a pretty picture, I know. But it’s important to get outside in the real world, go for a walk, see friends, spend time with your family, treat yourself every now and then. It’s important that you take breaks from the computer every half hour or so, stretch your legs and give your fuzzy eyes a rest. Nearly every Sunday, me and the girls go down to our not-so-local-pub for the quiz. We give a fee to charity, share some laughs, say stupid things and I get out of the house! It’s win-win! So go on, take a break from the mundane job search and do something fun.
- Pursue your dream job Your unemployment could be a blessing in disguise. Is there something you’ve always dreamed of doing? Always wanted to do but never could before? This could be your chance to finally go after your dream job, so take it! You never know when that next chance will come along to change your hobby into a career. Pursue your passion and start reading up on industry requirements, research what you can do to help you achieve your dream job. Passion pays off in the end.
My final words to you?
Have you got any advice on ways to stay productive? What do you do to keep busy? Leave your advice in the comments below!
(update 19/05/15: I'm employed!!! *throws confetti* If it worked for me, it will work for you! Stay strong and just keep going!)