A job search client was telling me about all the professional networking groups he attends, about an interviewing workshop he was going to, and was quite interested when I mentioned he might like to join Toastmasters, an internationally known group for learning and practicing public speaking.
I commended him for his diligent activities, but, immediately encouraged him, as is my tendency, to make sure he relaxed, enjoyed some of his free time while he had it, and basically not to overdo things.
I do this to balance out the messages I believe we usually get from our culture, our own ideas of ‘what people will think’, and guilt coming from ‘not working hard enough’ to find a job.
To my suggestion he replied, “Yeah, but I need to stay active or I get too down and unmotivated to do anything.”
In thinking more in depth about his strategy, I definitely see wisdom in his approach. I realize that even for myself, having a schedule of regular activities each week helps me organize my own flexible working style, and having some of my time committed to different pursuits does provide more structure and efficiency to the work I do during the rest of my unstructured time.
There are other obvious benefits to keeping busy as well: you meet new people and have more opportunities to network and make business contacts and friends; you might learn new skills that could be added to your resume.
An activity such as weekly volunteer work or consulting jobs you do independently can also be added to your resume to fill the job gap created during your work search.
So while I do also encourage you to enjoy this “time off” while job searching by relaxing on the beach, in your hammock out back, or casually watching sitcom reruns, why don’t you also flip through a community college continuing education brochure for interesting classes, or look through your local newspapers and free magazines for information on local networking groups and events. Keep your eyes & ears out for somewhere to volunteer in your community a few hours a week, whether or not the work is related to your professional field.
If you can use your professional skills to benefit a local non-profit as a volunteer, that’s excellent, but not necessary.
Consider joining a local group that does activities in an area of interest to you, such as the Sierra Club or the PTA, or join Toastmasters to improve not only your public speaking skills but your overall conversational skills and confidence. Presentation skills are a great transferable skills, always helpful, whether you’re addressing the School Board, training co-workers on a new system, or giving a ‘roast’ for your father’s 65th birthday party.
Stay active and engaged in your life and community and the energy you put out there will fuel you for the job search activities you now need to fit into your newly busy schedule!