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Dress for the Job You Want (and Other Tips for How to Act Employed While Unemployed)

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This week is Thanksgiving week in the U.S., and as we all know the holidays can be a particularly tough time to be unemployed. Facing conversations around the dinner table can be uncomfortable when we don't have anything good to report. Even though the current unemployment rate in the U.S. is quite low at the moment - only around 3.9% - all of us may face a season of unemployment at some point in time, and being ready to make the most of that time can mean the difference between a miserable holiday season and one that is full of hope and promise for what's to come!

With that in mind, I want to share a few ideas for how to make the most of a season of unemployment (and make family holiday gatherings a bit more tolerable!), beginning with a mindset shift: instead of viewing a season of unemployment as a setback, I want to explore ways to make the most of this season and turn it into an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Here are ten ways to make the most of a season of unemployment:

#1: Establish a Daily Routine
It is my experience that routines are the bedrock of a successful, fruitful, flourishing life. Routines reduce decision fatigue and help us stay consistence. But it's easy to lose track of time when you're not bound by the typical 9-to-5 work schedule! One simple habit is to maintain structure and discipline is to get up and go to bed at the same time each night, and follow a daily routine that will help you stay focused and motivated throughout your job search.

#2: Set Clear Goals
What do you want from this season? It's good to define your short-term and long-term objectives. Do you need something immediately to keep cashflow going? Can you afford to take your time looking for just the right fit? Some suggestions for helpful goals in this season include updating your resume, learning a new skill (more on that below), or being intentional about networking opportunities (more on that also below). Having specific goals will give your days purpose and direction.

#3: Network, Network, Network
Networking is important at all times, but it's especially crucial during periods of unemployment. As hard as it might be to attend industry events when you aren't currently employed, being in the right place at the right time is half the battle when it comes to finding a job. Connect with professionals on LinkedIn, and don't be afraid to reach out for informational interviews. Practice your elevator pitch and keep business cards handy. (I realize many people are moving to digital cards or QR codes, but in my experience, it is still best to have real, live business cards. More on that in a future post). Building a strong professional network can open doors to new opportunities.

#4: Learn New Skills
There is so much free and paid content online to help you acquire new skills or enhance existing ones. Check out online courses, webinars, and workshops that can help you hone your existing skills or add new ones, and add them into your daily routine. And be sure to add any skills you acquire to your resumé! Investing in yourself will not only boost your confidence but also make you more attractive to potential employers.

#5: Volunteer or Freelance
This not only adds valuable experience to your resume but also keeps you engaged and connected with your industry. Volunteering is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills and maintain a sense of purpose. Additionally, you'll have an answer for "what are you doing" besides "trying to find a job" while passing the potatoes! Everyone knows that candidates are always more attractive when they are currently employed—even if that employment is volunteer-based.

#6: Dress for the Job You Want
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten was, "Dress for the job you want!" Even if you're not leaving the house, dress as if you were going to an interview or to the job you want. It's amazing how much looking professional not only boosts your confidence but also sets the tone for a productive day. This is also a good time to hone your personal uniform—a great way to save time and reduce decision fatigue when you do find yourself back in the throes of work. And what's more, you never know when you might run into someone who has a lead for you. Looking the part goes a long way.

#7: Create a Dedicated Workspace
I was at a friend's house recently, and he showed me his home office... in his bedroom closet! It was a great space, away from the sound of children playing, and with just enough space for his desk, a lamp, and his computer. Whether it's a corner of your living room or a home office, having a designated area for work will help you stay organized and focused. Minimize distractions and treat your job search as a full-time commitment. Believe it or not, this will also help with your mindset and confidence. Even if you never leave the house, having a place to "go to work" is key to staying motivated and encouraged. 

#8: Practice Self-Care
Taking care of your well-being is always important, but it's absolutely crucial during times of uncertainty. Whether it's exercise, meditation, or spending quality time with loved ones, make sure to prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

#9: Stay Positive and Persistent
Job searching can be pretty demoralizing at times—believe me, I know! But maintaining a positive mindset and being persistent in your efforts will boost your confidence and increase your chances of success. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and remember that this season of unemployment is just a chapter in your larger career journey.

#10: Start a Mastermind!
One of the best things I did during a season of underemployment was to form a monthly Mastermind group! I invited five other professional women to join me, and our monthly gathering quickly became a real source of encouragement and inspiration for each of us. Our Mastermind is a combination of peer support, peer coaching, and brainstorming, and we each leave feeling more equipped and confident in our professional pursuits.

Remember, it's not about the time you spend unemployed, but how you use that time that counts! Are you growing personally and professionally? If the answer is no, you're wasting your unemployment. Take a look at this list and make some changes. Then write to me and tell me how it went!

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