When you’re unemployed, it’s easy to fall into a bad pattern of waking up late, staying in your pajamas, eating sugar cereal, and wasting time with television and Facebook. You wish that every day could be Saturday and that you could be eight-years-old again and what better time to recapture childhood joy than when you’re inundated with free time?
There’s something to be said about taking a breather for the first few days of unemployment. Whether you’ve lost your job, your contract ended, or you’re transitioning from student life to the working world, it’s important to take a little time to reflect, relax, and recharge.
Once you’ve had your break, it’s time to start acting like a functional adult again. There will be no more marathons of every show you’ve ever heard of and no more 2:00 p.m. sleep-ins (except for on the weekends, of course). The more time you spend idle, the less motivated you’ll be to take the next steps in your career so the following are a few tips for making the most of your jobless days.
The best thing to do to ensure productivity is to schedule your time. Figure out what it is that you want to accomplish each day and map it out. Are you focusing on job search? Are you writing a screenplay? Are you looking into further schooling? Whatever your priorities are at the moment, write them down and make time for them. It’s easy to let things slip off the radar but by making a schedule, you remind yourself to complete tasks.
If you’re the type of person who likes a timeline, outline your tasks and give yourself targets for when you want to have them finished by. If you’re better at prioritizing on the fly, make a list of things to accomplish each day and check them off as you go. You’ll find that knowing precisely what needs to get done will help you manage your time and energy more efficiently.
An essential part of scheduling yourself is waking up! Once you’ve figured out what you want to do the next day, determine how much time you’ll need to do it and set your alarm accordingly. By getting up early and seizing the day, you’ll get a great deal done and you’ll have extra time in the evening to relax and even play.
There’s nothing worse than waking up as it’s beginning to get dark again and realizing that everything you had wanted to do that day will have to be put off yet again. By waking yourself up early and having an idea of what you want to achieve, you will ensure that you waste as little time as possible.
When it comes to advancing in the workplace, there’s an old rule that actually goes a long way towards climbing the ladder of success: “dress not for the job you have but for the job you want.” You’ll never become the CEO if you look like a high school co-op student. The same rule applies when you’re unemployed. If you don’t take yourself seriously enough to get dressed in the morning, who will?
You don’t have to put on a suit if you’re looking for office jobs or a tutu if you’re an out-of-work dancer but you should wear something more respectable than your fuzzy wuzzy house coat while you’re going about your daily duties. After that alarm clock sounds, your first order of business should be to get yourself dressed and cleaned up – just as you would if you had to get to work. When you’re wearing something practical, you’re more likely to feel functional and ready to get things done. There’s just no changing the lazy day associations we have with pajamas.
Now that you’re up and at ‘em, you’re all set to get out of the house. Make it your goal to leave the confines of your home office at least once a day. Even in the dead of winter, a little fresh air and exercise goes a long way to reinvigorating your body and mind.
Go for a walk when your concentration begins to wane in the afternoon, go to the coffee shop with your laptop and continue working there, or take a stroll to the library and take advantage of its many free resources. Why not take time to enjoy a part of the day you might otherwise miss in a work environment?
Another great reason to get out of the house is to network. Even if you don’t have a job interview, talking to people who are successful in your field can be a great way to get ideas, find out about job openings, and expose yourself as an available candidate worth consideration. Most jobs are found through networking and you never know who will pass your CV on to the person who will offer you your dream job. So don’t hesitate to send meeting requests to your contacts or to people you are interested in learning from. Talking to someone face to face is always a good way to demonstrate all of the great qualities that render you a prime employee so put yourself out there.
It’s unpredictable how long unemployment can last. You may find a gig right away but it could take a while for the right position to come up. This is why it’s important to create your own opportunities. Invent projects for yourself that will add something to your roster of skills and experience.
Are you a web designer? Create your own website and take on freelance projects. Are you in construction? Accept odd jobs or document the work you put into your own home to show potential employers. Are you an artist of some sort? Teach classes or approach local venues about putting on performances/shows. You never know, your downtime project could just become your full time occupation. Don’t underestimate your ability to create your own destiny.
Following these tips alone probably won’t get you a job but they will certainly help you get into the mind frame necessary for all the resume updating, cover letter writing, portfolio organizing, time, and energy it takes to become gainfully employed. Remember, being productive is not mutually synonymous with being employed. Make the most of the time you have to yourself and you will feel all the more fulfilled when you finally do find work.