Yes, it’s possible to make a success of unemployment. Of course, not having a job can cause your feelings to oscillate between depression, doubt, and rare moments of hope. But if you know how to make the most of the time available to you while you’re out of work, it will help prevent your self-esteem from crumbling. Here are our tips for successfully navigating this period if it happens to you.
Get to know your strengths
- Aim: to know where you want to go.
- Method: by taking stock of your skills.
Do you remember this exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat?
- *Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
- The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”*
The same principle applies when job searching: when we know where we’re going, it’s always easier to know how to reach our destination. Analyze your strengths, interests, and areas for improvement by mapping out your skills. Use this to define your ideal job, pinpoint any skill shortages you may have for this role, and see what strengths you already possess that make you eligible. With this information, you can develop a strategy to achieve your goal.
Narrow down your job hunt
- Aim: to avoid discouragement.
- Method: by developing an action plan.
Spending all day, every day, on job-search websites, applying for things left, right, and centre, can quickly become discouraging and—indeed—rather pointless. Think of yourself as the project manager of your job search. As with any project, you need to develop a strategy based on targeted tools and application-monitoring charts to help you to keep track of where you are and to identify broad trends. This is key if you are going to be able to narrow down your search strategy.
Get into a routine
- Aim: to have a good reason to get out of bed.
- Method: by setting out a daily and weekly schedule.
Even when you’re unemployed, it is essential to get up every morning at a set time, with a schedule already in place for the day. For example, dedicate your morning to your job hunt—read ads, check applications, check professional social networks. After lunch, make the most of your afternoon and do all the things you won’t have time to do once you’re working again: go out, meet people, take care of yourself and others, cook, take salsa classes.
Gain new skills
- Aim: to broaden your potential.
- Method: training.
Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to learn something new, be it through online resources (podcasts, vlogs, massive open online courses) or in real life (auditing courses, books, ongoing training). Training is not just about getting certificates, broadening your skills, and advancing your career by vying for new positions. It’s also a way of keeping your mind intellectually active and staying abreast of what’s going on in your industry so that you don’t fall behind, which unfortunately can happen within several months of unemployment.
Get out and about, talk to the world
- Aim: to feed your mind intellectually.
- Method: by filing your life.
The last thing you should do when you’re unemployed is shut yourself away and retreat from the world. Be curious, get out, fuel your mind. Make a weekly list of events to participate in: go see a show, go to the cinema, camp out at the library, go to an art opening, attend a conference, use networking apps such as Shapr to meet people, and attend trade fairs. All this helps you to network, open your mind, and learn new things. You need to know how to create opportunities.
Be unemployed, but not jobless**
- Aim: to live life beyond your job search.
- Method: by getting a “side project.”
“So, what do you do?” is the question many unemployed people dread being asked. But it is possible to give an exciting answer, even if you haven’t currently got a job—don’t let your job search define you. You can be unemployed and still have a hectic work schedule: create a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, get into arts and crafts, create an Etsy shop, join associations, develop an idea or a business plan, or provide services. By turning a passion into a real project, not only will you stop focusing on being unemployed, you might even create new professional opportunities for yourself.
Make yourself useful
- Aim: to gain some perspective and make a difference.
- Method: by helping others.
Being unemployed can often lead to feeling worthless, as though not working means you’re no longer of value. Of course, this isn’t the case, and nothing helps you feel your worth better than volunteering. Helping people in difficulty puts your own problems into perspective, shows how your words and actions make a difference, and can even change people’s lives. There are many ways to help others, such as distributing meals to the homeless, getting involved in associations, offering services to social movements, giving language classes to refugees, or tutoring.
Take care of yourself
- Aim: to feel on top form.
- Method: by leading a healthy life and having fun.
It’s impossible to have a good self-image if you don’t adopt a healthy lifestyle. At the top of your to-do list should be physical activity—it releases stress, which helps you to sleep better and stay healthy. Get enough sleep without giving in to those all-too-appealing lazy mornings. Spoil yourself with good, but healthy, food. Meditate, do yoga, get some fresh air, go to the sea, spend time with family and friends... In short, feel alive and take care of yourself. Because having a fun and healthy lifestyle is key to achieving well-being and strengthening your self-confidence.
Have the right mindset
- Aim: to keep fighting.
- Method: by not regarding yourself as unemployed.
To succeed in a period of unemployment, it’s important to start out by thinking that this will be a positive experience, even if it’s one you didn’t choose. So, don’t talk about “unemployment”—a term that can have negative connotations—but rather a “transitionary period between jobs.” Look at it as a saving grace that gives you the opportunity to focus on yourself once more, to ask the right questions, and come out of it stronger, more self-confident, and surer of your skills and what you want for the rest of your career. Besides being a good morale boost, adopting this approach will strengthen your fighting spirit, which will be much more appealing to a recruiter.
- Aim: to stay confident.
- Method: by listening to others.
It might be helpful to realize that, although challenging, being unemployed is commonplace. Many before you have experienced failures, periods of doubt, spells of unemployment that have lasted too long, and rejection after rejection. And many before you have come out of this kind of situation stronger and surpassed their goals. Biographies of great entrepreneurs and TED talks are full of inspirational stories. Listen to others, draw on the lessons they’ve learnt in life, get motivated by their experience—and remember, the tide can turn at any time.
Follow Welcome to the Jungle on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to receive our articles every week
Photograph by @christinhumephoto
Translated by Matthew Docherty