When someone is unemployed, they generally have a single goal in mind: to find a job. Unfortunately, even if you fully commit yourself to landing a gig, there's no telling when you might wind up at a new place of employment. According to Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, "More than 40 percent of unemployed job seekers have been out of work for six months or longer."
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You could spend each and every day scouring job boards and applying to positions for which you're perfectly qualified and still come up empty. That's why simply searching for jobs isn't enough; you must do more than that.
During a period of unemployment, you should really use the downtime to better yourself as a professional and make yourself more attractive to businesses.
Optimize Your Resume
When people go about building their resumes, they don't necessarily put a lot of thought into design. They simply condense their LinkedIn profile into a one-pager that can be passed around to various companies and interviewers. Predictably, when this approach is taken, nobody stands out. Each resume looks exactly the same, sounds exactly the same, and generally has the same information. There isn't anything memorable about your resume.
It's vital to make unique additions to your resume so that hiring managers will remember you when it comes time to start the interview process. Take for example what resume writing firm Novoresume put together for Elon Musk:
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While Elon Musk doesn't really need a resume for any reason, what Novoresume has done is fit all of his accomplishments onto a single page (which is no small task), creating a standout one-sheet. This resume has color that pops off the page, and it's organized in a way that showcases his career highlights, education, skills, and achievements.
It's safe to say that none of us have as many accomplishments to list as Musk does, but we can still follow this template. List your professional experiences in a way that stands out and will stick in someone's mind.
Read, Read, and Read Some More
One of the most common questions candidates face during an interview is, "What do you do to stay up-to-date on your industry?" You'd better have a good answer! Simply responding with "I like to check out Reddit or Flipboard" isn't enough. You need to cite specific examples. Sites like For Entrepreneurs, Forbes, and LinkedIn Today are great places to start, as they all have name recognition and are trusted sources.
While being able to answer this question successfully won't make or break your job prospects, it immediately lets the interview team know that you haven't become oblivious to what's going on in your industry during your unemployment period. You can't necessarily control whether or not you have a job, but you can certainly control how much knowledge you possess on a subject.
Take Online Classes
This doesn't mean that you should finally sign up for that calculus class you've always wanted to pass, but rather that you should look for classes related to the industry you want to work in. Between sites likes Udemy, edX, and all the others, there are tens of thousands of classes at your disposal – and no reason not to take them.
A quick Google search will bring back tailored classes for nearly everything you could need:
There are a couple benefits to taking classes like this. The first and most important benefit is that you'll increase your knowledge, and in turn, make yourself more valuable to potential employers. Too many people think that their education ends after they earn their degree. With seemingly unlimited resources available at the touch of a few buttons, that's simply not the case anymore.
The second benefit of taking classes is that it lets companies know you're willing to go above and beyond to better yourself as a professional. Businesses strive to hire people who are always looking to learn more; after all, who wants an employee who thinks they already know everything?
Unemployment might be a forced vacation from a structured job, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be working. You can fine-tune your resume, hone your skills, and start learning about a new topic that's emerging in your industry. Don't sit idly by, hoping for your phone to ring with a job offer. Make yourself as valuable as possible and be proactive in your professional education.
Matt Goldman is a social media strategist for Tenfold.