With the national unemployment rate at 8.6%, chances are that you or someone you know is out of work and looking for a job. And sometimes the most agonizing part of the job search process is waiting to hear back from a potential employer. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have sat for a few interviews, you can occupy your time in much better ways than endlessly pacing the floor, waiting for that phone call or email. Here, we’ll look at things you can do while unemployed to bolster your resume and make yourself a better job candidate overall.
- Volunteer in a leadership capacity. Volunteering is an excellent way to get organizational experience and add value to your resume. Doing this is especially beneficial for new college grads who may have little to no paid work experience, but can also be a smart decision for career-changers and those re-entering the job market, according to Monster.com. However, the type of volunteer work you do makes a big difference. Try to take on a leadership role at a nonprofit in which you oversee the work of others, or even an unpaid civic position on a city board where you can list clear leadership abilities and accomplishments.
- Call up your references. Maintaining a good rapport with the people who serve as references on your resume is a smart move since what they say about your strengths and skills can directly impact your ability to get a job. If you’ve been sitting for a lot of interviews, give your references a head’s up that they might be receiving calls from your potential employers soon. This gives them time to prepare a few positive words about you ahead of time. Not only can you find out if they’ve been contacted recently by a potential employer, but you can also network with them to see if they’ve heard of any job openings in your field.
- Get a couple pairs of eyes on your resume. A weak resume could be holding you back from getting a job. During the job hunt, show your resume to at least two people — one a strict grammar nerd (like your old high school English teacher) to check for glaring errors, and someone else you know who does a lot of hiring and has inside knowledge of what employers like to see on a resume. Search online for resume writing tips to help your resume look polished and streamlined.
- Research career fairs in your area. Career fairs are a great way of finding potential employers that you may have never before considered. They allow you to get your name out to a number of hiring personnel at one time, in one day. Research career fairs in your area by checking with your state’s workforce commission, reaching out to nearby convention centers, and going online. You may have to take a trip to the nearest large city, but the trek could be worth it if it connects you to a job.
- Educate yourself on the job market and your industry. Whether or not you’ve completed a degree, be sure that you’re constantly learning. Read books and follow blogs about job-hunting to help you identify strategies for success when you’re in a rut, and follow the blogs and read the books of industry professionals in your field. You may even want to read self-improvement books to help boost your confidence and overcome personal barriers that could be holding you back from getting a job.
- Take free online courses. A number of highly-ranked institutions, such as Stanford University and MIT, offer free, open college course material to all takers. While you will not receive college credit for these courses, you can add to your knowledge base and make yourself a stronger job candidate. Check out the 2,000 open courses offered by MIT and the introductory courses available for free from Yale.
- Clean up your social networks. Making your Facebook account private is the step most people take to keep potential employers from learning too much about their personal lives. However, this can backfire if a hiring entity thinks you have something to hide. You might consider opening your site, but ridding it of any offensive content, such as profanity, objectionable photos, and angry rants. At the very least, adjust your settings to make any objectionable content private, while leaving the rest of your site open for potential employers to explore if they wish. Consider "liking" the Facebook pages of the companies to which you’ve applied and joining groups related to those companies. Finally, make sure you have a LinkedIn account so that potential employers can easily pull up your work accomplishments online.
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