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How to Keep Your Skills Fresh When Unemployed

There’s a security [3] out there that tracks the average (mean) length of time someone is employed and that figure broke thirty weeks in January. The average person looking for work will not find it in seven months… seven months of job hunting. Seven months of going to job fairs. Seven months of searching online at job websites.

If you’re submitting resumes and calling companies, there are only so many resumes you can submit, calls you can make, before you start burning out. If you start burning out, you reduce the chances you’ll ace the interview because your brain is being beaten into submission by monotony.

That’s why it’s important for you to sprinkle in other activities throughout the day. It’s hard to do this because when you don’t have a job, you feel like you have to get one. To get one you have to submit resumes, call companies, and do all the things involved in “job hunting.” Then you fall into a vicious cycle… no job, want job, must search, keep searching, burn out… you get it. So how do you introduce activities that aren’t directly related to looking for a job but improve your prospects?


You have skills and volunteer organizations need skills. Whether you have trade skills or office skills or you’re just a fast and hard worker, local volunteer organizations can use you. By working as a volunteer, you don’t lose unemployment benefit eligibility and you can flex some of your skills and keep them sharp.

Also, this gives you a great answer to a common interview question [4]: “what have you been doing since your last job?” Being able to say that you help an organization solve a problem is a fantastic answer.

Freelance Consulting

If you’ve exhausted your unemployment benefits and are still having difficulty, consider freelance consulting. A lot of companies need talent but can’t afford to add someone to their payroll, so offering your services as a consultant can bring in some much needed income while keeping your industry knowledge and skills fresh. If you think you might be able to do this, consider going to some local business events like chamber meetings to meet other business owners or search online sites like Craigslist for freelance gigs.

The freelance road isn’t for everyone and it’s not easy but if you’re able to leverage your skills this way you could accidentally start your own business or find your next job.

Pick Up a Complementary Hobby

Want to teach yourself something useful by accident? Pick a hobby that builds on a skill you might find useful in your main career. Let’s say you’ve been doing web design for the last five years and you’ve become pretty good, why not take up a little reading on graphic design or search engine optimization? Start a blog tracking everything you learn and you never know, that might blow up and become a nice side income for you. If nothing else you pick up some new skills that complement your career skills and you become a better hire down the road.

Do Something Fun

Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had a chance to. This won’t really keep your skills fresh while your unemployed but it will keep you fresh. It’ll break up the monotony and make you a more appealing candidate when your job prospect improve and you get called into interviews. You want to go into interviews with a lot of energy and excitement, which are very difficult to fake especially after months of searching.

And when you do something fun… it’s fun! 🙂

Do you have any good suggestions for what a job seeker should do, outside of direct job hunting activities, that can help him or her become a better candidate or a better person?