The job application process can often feel like a full-time job itself. Between searching online for postings and tailoring your resume and cover letter, it’s downright exhausting! It’s hard to know how long you’ll be searching for that perfect job, too—it could be a week, and it could be months.
Despite the uncertainty, one thing is for sure: you don’t want to look back on those days as lost time. Make the most of your freedom by continuing your education, exploring yourself and working on your professional persona.
Here are some super productive self-improvement activities you’ll wish you’d done once you’re back in the nine-to-five saddle:
Take a class.
Any professional writer will tell you that it’s important to be diligent when it comes to improving your craft. Tons of nonprofits, community colleges and other universities offer great continuing education courses that will keep you on your toes, and now is a great time to pursue something you didn’t have a chance to do in college! It’s also a great idea to take a class on something non-writing-related to supplement your writing skills. This could could be web design, graphic design, coding, WordPress, HTML, etc. Employers love seeing applicants who are actively working to grow their skill set, and it’s important to bring a wide range of skills to the table. Refreshing your skill set is something professionals should always be doing; there’s a reason why many companies require and offer continuing education for their employees. The industry is always evolving and there’s always something new to learn.
Keep learning (for free!).
If you’re strapped for cash or unable to find the right classroom opportunity, consider looking online. There are tons of high quality educational resources on the internet these days, including online classes, video tutorials and downloadable ebooks. The best part? Many of them are free! Interested in technical writing? Check out this Wikiversity course. Dreaming of a career in journalism? Poynter News University has hundreds of free resources for emerging journalists. And for all things blog-related, CopyBlogger and ProBlogger offer some of the best content in the industry. Don’t let this list limit you, though. Google will be your best friend here.
Read books, read newspapers (yes, these still exist), read long-form pieces online, read poetry, read, read, read. After all, great readers make great writers! It’s also important to add some books on writing and grammar to the mix—keeping yourself fresh and reviewing some of those tricky rules will make you a stronger writer and employee
Reach out to alumni.
College alumni networks are there for a reason. Many alumni from your college are willing—and even eager—to help graduates from their alma mater. Invite them to coffee, ask their advice, request a referral (some companies reward employees with a bonus if they help identify a new hire), and see if your college’s career center can offer any recommendations for connections or resources. That’s what they’re there for!
Know you should be doing that mysterious thing called “networking” but not quite sure how to start? Volunteering is a great way to get plugged into your community and a new social group. Sometimes volunteer positions turn into jobs, but even if they don’t, they offer a great way to serve, learn and meet people. If nothing else, the experiences you have are sure to result in some excellent writing material!
Create a personal website.
As a writer, you will be asked again and again to provide examples of your work in a portfolio, and you can be sure that potential employers will be Googling you as soon as they receive your resume! To be seriously considered for many positions—especially freelance gigs—you absolutely need an online portfolio. Most include a brief “About Me” section, a resume, contact information, and a selection of work that you feel best represents you. Plus, having a personally-designed website proves you’re skilled with digital media tools, a must for all early career writers. Check out our tips on how to get started and what to include with your portfolio!
Connect with writers in your area.
Meetup.com is an excellent resource for connecting with like-minded people in your area, especially if you’ve recently moved. There are thousands of writing-related groups registered on the site and chances are there’s one near you. Becoming part of a local writing community isn't just a great networking opportunity—the camaraderie and support you’ll receive from other writers can be a huge motivation boost too. Perhaps most importantly, many of these groups give you the chance to solicit feedback on your work, which is crucial at any stage of your career.
Contribute to online publications.
Even if you’re not paid, as a writer, getting your name in “print” is a huge asset. The next time you’re perusing your favorite blogs, take a look at their submission guidelines. Many mid-sized online publications receive a lot of their content from unpaid contributors. You’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try! Plus, even if your work doesn’t get published, learning how to pitch story ideas will be a huge asset to you down the road. (That said, remember not to sell yourself short. Don’t take an unpaid opportunity unless you feel you’re the one benefitting from it the most!)
Join professional organizations in your field.
Just like joining a local writing group, becoming a member of a professional organization plugs you into the social scene in your desired field. Even better, most professional societies offer assistance to job seekers, and some even have job listings right on their websites. Consider signing up for their email newsletters to get info about events and job opportunities right in your inbox! Here are just a few that might interest you: Society of Professional Journalists, American Copy Editors Society, Society for Technical Communication, American Marketing Association, Social Media Professional Association, Grant Professionals Association.
And last but not least…
Write for fun.
Now is the perfect time to work on that novel, poetry collection, personal essay, or blog! Of course, it’s important to pursue your passion for writing for your own personal satisfaction, but it’s also a great way to bulk up your portfolio and provide writing samples to potential employers.
Don’t let unemployment be your “lost period”! Developing yourself professionally is a lifelong process and at this stage in your career, the world is your oyster. Take advantage of the wealth of information available to you in the digital age and don’t be afraid to connect with others in your industry. Keeping busy and productive won’t just make your unemployment experience more enjoyable, it will probably make it shorter, too!
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