It can be difficult being without a job. I should know as I’ve been actively looking for the next opportunity for a while now. I’m thankful, however, that I can choose to be particular about my next position and only look into opportunities with companies I’m truely interested in and jobs that I would genuinely enjoy. This isn’t the fastest way to get a job, but it’s my hope that it’s the most healthy in the long term. You don’t always have the sort of time and resource to be picky about what job you get.
Nevertheless, this has resulted in massive amounts of downtime while I await calls and emails from recruiters or hiring managers. It can be excruciating without having a solid career direction in your life, even if it’s something you hate.
I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve been doing to not only keep myself occupied, but also hopefully stretch my capabilities and learn more along the way.
Exercise – This is one of my favorite ways to pass time during the day. When you’re not working during the day, it is very easy to fall into a slump of sitting around and languishing physically. I like to keep busy by either going for long runs or attending a functional fitness class like Crossfit. Don’t forget to check Groupon for 10 class packs to save money!
Read – Both fiction and non-fiction are healthy. Reading stimulates your mind and helps you keep your mental edge. It doesn’t really matter what genre as long as it challenges you to think critically about the subject matter at hand. I recommend David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest or Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore for good literary fiction. For non-fiction if you like a challenge, go for Capital by Thomas Pikkety.
Pick up a new skill – This, I think, is one of the most valuable things you can do when you’re between jobs. What’s something you wish you could dive into but never had the time to do when you were working? Well now you have all the time in the world. It’s important to keep a schedule so you keep up with this skill. It’s too easy to start off strong then sort of dither once you’ve put in a few sessions and things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like. Create a reminder, schedule an hour or two of study time at regular intervals, and make sure you do it. Look at Coursera, EdX, TreeHouse or other resources. I have been occupying myself with learning more about statistical learning techniques and machine learning with EdX.
Hone a hobby – Similar to picking up a new skill, a hobby will likely be less focused on developing professionally and more on maintaining and strengthening your mental faculties. Whether it’s language learning, playing guitar or learning to knit. Hopefully you’re reading regularly and studying for new skills, now you can hone more active mental and creative processes with a solid hobby.
It’s important to stay motivated. Looking for the right job takes time. If it were easy then you’d have dozens of stories of people talking about how they love their job. Often times it is just the opposite. So if you are taking time out, in between jobs or just unemployed at the moment, stay positive. Negative thinking is self harming and self-fulfilling. So keep busy, stay positive, and take small actions that fulfill the gaps that bring you closer to the person you want to be professionally and personally.