Unemployed? Keep Your Competitive Edge While Out of Work

Many of my clients are currently employed, while others are out of work as a result of lay-offs, company closures or cutbacks. Those that have lost their job have told me that they are constantly worrying how they can keep themselves viable as a candidate, while continuing to search for a job.

I have some simple and straight-forward steps that you can take to keep your ‘toe in the pool’ and make yourself not only a highly-relevant but also keenly-competitive candidate:

1) Education
Did you want to obtain a particular degree that is common in your field, but never had the time to finish or even start? Now is a good time to invest in yourself and take advantage of your schedule flexibility to start coursework. It could make the difference later on down the line as many human resource and hiring managers evaluate education levels on resumes as part of their screening processes.

2) Professional Development
Examine industry organizations offering up educational seminars, sessions, workshops, trainings, conferences, conventions, certifications and continuing education units. Show prospective employers that you didn’t sit around waiting for moss to grow. Instead, you focused your time between jobs by gaining industry-specific knowledge to keep you current on sector trends. This can go a long way towards enhancing your candidate profile. The whole purpose of professional development is to tell employers that you are a continual learner who is taking active steps to hone your knowledge and stay abreast of current trends.

3) Industry Affiliations
Memberships with professional organizations or trade associations that are relevant to your career search area can also enhance your image, help you gain valuable networking contacts, and provide industry-specific educational opportunities. Membership fees may seem steep, but the access they provide could prove fruitful.

4) Volunteer
Volunteering wins hands-down as the easiest (and most fun) way to build credibility, current experience and skills. By volunteering, you can learn new things, gain new skills, add current experience to your resume, meet new people, become a known quantity, and even learn of job openings before they are posted because you’ll have an inside track as part of the organization.

But the best part is this: by volunteering and engaging in altruistic behavior, this triggers the release of endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals that can boost your mood. Being out of work can be tremendously discouraging; having an activity that is fun and makes you feel good too can be exactly the thing you need to get yourself into a proactive, positive job search mindset.

Finally, volunteer also sends a subliminal message to an employer: You aren’t going to just show up and push papers around your desk from 8am-5pm; you are an active and engaged person. You are not only a good company citizen, but you are also a good community citizen. By virtue of your involvement in the community, undoubtedly, the company reaps benefit from your volunteering with a positive grassroots community ‘plug’! It also shows that you have initiative!

5) Read as Much as You Can
Get online or go to the library, and voraciously consume any news and trend information you can find in your target career area. You’ll come across well-read, knowledgeable and resourceful to prospective employers when in an interview, or writing a cover letter. An added benefit is that you will also have a lot draw from when meeting people at networking events. You’ll be guaranteed to impress!