G often accuses me of getting on a soap box when it comes to giving career advice.  Perhaps it is because a large part of my job is to coach and mentor the people around me that I have taken it upon myself to do this to other people in our lives too.  While being on a soapbox is generally not advised (and something I need to work on), I do think some of my advice as merit.  At the heart of each of these lectures (and typically these are delivered to the unemployed, uninspired, unhappy, or unmotivated) is one key thing–just do something (how very Nike of me).

It seems that so many people become content to just exist, but in reality if you aren’t satisfied with your life you are the only one who can really change it.  For example, I have a friend who has been unemployed for about a year.  She has been collecting unemployment, but has been applying for jobs–she hasn’t found a job yet.  She never finished her college degree (which is likely contributing to the difficulty of finding a job, since she wants more of an office job that pays around $20/hour).  Given this situation my first question would be–how has she spent the last year? Ummm….well see that is the thing–all she can say is she was looking for a job.  In my opinion [getting on my soapbox] she should have been doing something.

Here is a list of things she should have considered:

  • Volunteering – making new networking connections and potentially learning new skills–not to mention helping a cause.
  • Starting a blog – don’t use mine as an example, since I rarely seem to update, but there are lots of other people who who made valuable connections, or started new careers by writing about topics that interest them.
  • Take some classes – even if you have minimal income there are lots of low cost classes (and depending on how long you have been unemployed you can even qualify for financial aid).  This can allow you to learn new skills, and shows future employers that you care about your personal/professional development.  You can also make valuable contacts in your classes that could eventually be a lead to a new job.
  • Start some projects – ideally choose projects that are visible, like creating a website, or organizing an event.   This will help you build new skills (or showcase existing ones), and gives some great examples of your recent work to use as job interview fodder.
  • Take part time work — many people are hesitant to do this (my friend responded with the question “why would I work when I can make more on unemployment?”), but taking a part time job (or full time lower wage job) gives you an opportunity to learn a new business, make an honest day’s income, and meet new people–all of which can add up to new opportunities in the future.
  • Start your own company – when you can’t find a job, create your own!  There are so many business that require very little to no capital.  Many entrepreneurs started out this way — when one door closes, another door opens.

There are lots of other things you can do, but each day besides just looking for jobs you should try to:

    1. Do things that help you meet new people (you never know where your next job will come from).  These don’t have to be in person, but can be via facebook, twitter, or other online communities.
    2. Learning new things – whether you take a class, read a website or create something, teaching yourself new skills (particularly ones related to your field, or things related to your passions) will help you grow and make you a stronger candidate for a position. Bonus points if you can get a new degree or certificate in the process.
    3. Showcase your work – creating new things or projects can provide interesting work samples to show a future employer; and if someone likes your creation could even lead to more work (just look at all the etsy sellers!).

      The key thing is that you can’t expect things to come to you, focus your energy and channel your efforts into a new and productive direction–and with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease I believe something good is bound to happen.

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