Between jobs. Between gigs. Looking for my next adventure. Seeking new opportunities. All over LinkedIn, people are finding creative ways to say they are unemployed.
Whether traditionally employed, self-employed or freelance, for many of us 2020 was the year we had to look for something new. And 2021 is not likely to change, at least until we are all vaccinated and life returns to something approaching the old normal.
That means time on your hands, without work but with plenty to think about. Where will I find my next job? What kind of work do I want to do?
When you’re unemployed, the secret to success is to fill your days with meaningful activities and stay motivated until you grab your next adventure.
Take stock of your career
Being laid off or watching your company go under can make you doubt your career choices. After the initial emotional turmoil of losing your income passes, look back at your career. Think about why you got into it. What have you enjoyed about your last few years of work? Was it the work, or the people, or (if you are lucky) both? If you enjoy the actual work, congratulations! If not, maybe it’s time to think about doing something else.
Spend some time deciding what kind of work you really want to do. Give yourself a destination: a particular type of work, or a specific industry, or even a specific company. If you are a freelancer, that destination can be a type of work or a particular set of clients.
Go after the work you want
Now head towards that destination. Target your search for that company, industry, client or function. Use your network to help you reach the right people and find out about opportunities before they are posted.
Looking to make a career pivot? To change to work you love, figure out what skills or experience you need to get that dream job. Then build those skills: take courses, volunteer, interview a friend or former colleague working in that area. Set up a schedule for the work. Set a date to be ready to apply for this new kind of job or client. Then work towards that goal.
Review your finances
Being unemployed can be terrifying. Not only do you lose your daily structure, you lose the money that pays for your lifestyle, whether grand or modest. Take heart: this is a monster you can tame.
Sit down with your bank statements. How much money do you have in the bank? How much, if any, is still coming in? Will you have unemployment benefits? How much and for how long?
Now look at your expenses. What are the essentials? Housing, utilities, car loans, paying off debt, medical care or insurance, groceries. Beyond that, much of what we consider ‘essential’ is really optional. Your lattes and gym membership are not essential. Neither is Netflix.
That doesn’t mean you can’t spend on these things, if you can spare the money. It just means that, if you are like most of us, surviving a period of unemployment requires cutting your spending. Making those cuts early makes the money you have last longer.
Unemployed, not uninspired
When you’re between jobs, it’s natural to obsess about finding the next one. Searching, applying, networking and interviewing can take over your life.
Don’t let that happen! You are more than your job or your work. Set yourself some non-work goals, too.
Re-read your favorite books from childhood. Clean out the basement. Organize your closet (I recently cleared out 21 black, grey and navy blue suits that I hope never to need again).
Set some longer term goals: learn to cook, or crochet, or refinish furniture. Take online courses for fun, not just to learn something for your next job. Start walking.
We rarely take the time to just do fun things. Set some of your free time towards that now and you will thank yourself later. Enjoy this downtime; who knows when or if you will have this opportunity again?
Keep your balance
Being unemployed is not all bad. Every day is an opportunity to be used wisely. Mix your activities between looking for your next income, building your employable skillset, and doing what’s right for you: managing your money, managing your time, and participating in activities that build your energy.
You will find that next position. And when you do, you will be ready and energized to make the most of it!