When You are in Between Jobs

Layoffs and terminated contracts can happen to anyone, at any time. Sometimes it’s expected; other times, you’re completely blindsided. Regardless of the circumstances, you now have the difficult task of finding your next source of income.

Although you’re not working for someone at the moment, you still have a job to do, said Kimberly Schneiderman, a practice development manager at RiseSmart, a company that provides outplacement and career transition services.That job is to represent yourself and continually build your expertise to stay relevant in the marketplace.

To that end, here are seven smart career-building activities to focus on during your time in between gigs.

1. Work on your personal brand

When you’re looking for jobs, your application materials — your resume, portfolio and online profiles — are essential to creating a good impression on employers. David Gilcher, lead resource manager at Kavaliro staffing firm, said one of the first things you should do during your “in between” phase is update your resume.

“Your resume is your brand statement,” Gilcher told Business News Daily. “Employers want to know what you’ve been up to [and] are interested in learning about the technologies and tools you’ve used lately. Be sure to list your recent accomplishments. Make sure those items are very clear to see on your resume. Once your resume is good to go, make sure it’s online as soon as possible.”

Gilcher also advised polishing your social media presence and showing off your latest work and skills.

“Social media is a great way to show what you’re all about and what you know,” he said. “You can use … blogs [or LinkedIn] to post about topics relevant to the work you do. Providing your insight in a public forum can help potential employers see your perspectives and depth of knowledge.”

“Let the world know about what value you can bring to their business,” added Fred Mouawad, CEO of Taskworld. “There are many tools available, like Wix, where you can build a website/portfolio with zero coding skills. However, web presence is not just limited to having an online portfolio. Follow influencers in your industry on social media, [and] write articles showcasing your expertise.”

2. Find relevant volunteer opportunities

Volunteering in your area of interest is a great activity to pursue between jobs, said Marian Valia, another practice development manager at RiseSmart. This could entail working an event hosted by a prominent industry player, or even offering pro-bono consulting.

“Volunteering in an industry [you] would like to land a job in works in two ways,” Valia said. “First, it allows the job seeker to network with their area of interest and tap into the ‘hidden’ job market (jobs that haven’t been posted yet). Second, this is a great way for job seekers to better understand if the industry is right for them.”

Gilcher agreed, adding that it can also be personally rewarding to volunteer.

“Having those ‘feel-good’ moments when you’re in between jobs can be a morale booster even if times [are] tough,” he said.

3. Learn a new skill

On an average, it takes about one to three months to find a new job, according to Money. However, it can take up to six months to find a job that you really like, Mouawad said.

“That’s long enough to learn a new skill,” he said. “Learning a new language, doing short-term professional courses or even pursuing a hobby can make your resume stronger and justify breaks in work experience.”

“A mastery of [industry] skills will set you apart from your competition time and time again,” Gilcher added. “If you’re concerned about having the money to pay for the courses, it is worth noting that many courses are free. There are thousands of resources either online or out in the real world that are within grasp to use for your education.”

4. Keep a close eye on your industry

When you do land an interview with a potential employer or client, you’ll want to show them how you’ve remained connected to the industry during your time away, Schneiderman said. She advised professionals who are looking for work to make sure they’re staying on top of industry trends by reading trade journals and speaking with peers in the industry to stay in-the-know.