The Unemployment Playbook: Stay Relevant

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Posted by Cara Scharf on June 19, 2011
The Unemployment Playbook: Stay Relevant

If you've recently joined the growing number of unemployed Americans, you're entitled to a few days of moping. But don't dither away too long. Soon you'll need to brush the dirt off your shoulders and put some fresh shine on your personal brand.

With a shortage of jobs and an abundance of hiring freezes, finding a new gig might require some patience. So once you've run some plays from the standard job-search playbook-a quick resume update and some initial applications-it's wise to use your surplus free time to shape up for when hiring picks up.

  • Alert your network. Networking could be your lifeline back into the job market, but only if they know you need a hand. Update any online profiles, then make a contact list and correspondence plan. Keep in mind that it's better to break the ice with another topic and then ease into your unemployment woes.
  • Put together a portfolio. Gather material supporting your past accomplishments-products you've created, projects managed, positive feedback, or public accolades. It'll help you stand out during interviews, boost your confidence, and give you perspective on your skill-set.
  •  Volunteer for a good cause or nonprofit-or create your own. Volunteering is good for the community, but it's also a great networking tool and resume builder. Pick projects that align your personal and professional passions. Consider organizing a charity event or leading a volunteer group. If you're super-ambitious, show it by initiating your own project or group.
  • Find unpaid work or internships. When paying jobs are hard to come by, unpaid work is an ideal way to keep your skills current and make professional connections. Plus, when hiring starts back up, you'll be top of mind.
  • Get smart. There's a class for almost everything, from computer certification or business basics to a foray into photography or graphic design. Enrolling in a class shows you're open to learning new tricks and developing your old ones.  
  • Try freelancing or consulting. Many companies can't afford as many full-time employees as before the Dow dropped, but there's still work to be done. While freelancing isn't always a steady source of income, it's a great way to keep your chops up and build your brand.
  •  Become an expert and start your own blog. Keep up on industry news with trade magazines, newspapers, and message boards. Then share what you know in a daily blog to show you've got your finger on the pulse of the industry. A strong following could lead to job offers.
  • Go to grad school. It's a big investment, but one that's worth it for getting a useful degree that may help you earn more or change career paths. Also, being on a campus puts invaluable job leads and career resources right at your fingertips.

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