For most of us, our career paths are not a simple straight line. Instead, there are multiple twists and turns—some planned and others unexpected—along with diversions, reroutes and new and unexpected directions that appear as time goes by. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time people spend at their jobs is now only about 4.2 years. Our paths also include times in which we’re gainfully employed and times at which we find ourselves in between jobs, either by choice or circumstance.
For most people, filling the time in between jobs can be a real challenge. We want to make sure that we’re using this time to our advantage, but figuring out how to do so effectively—especially if it’s a longer time period than we’d like it to be—can be difficult. With all of this weighing on your shoulders, it’s really in your best interest to try to structure and use your time effectively when you’re in between jobs—both for your long-term health and happiness as well as to help set you up for your next job.
Build and maintain your network
In today’s job market, cold calling and responding to general job ads is way less effective than it used to be. These days, a significant percentage of new jobs are obtained by leveraging your network, which includes your personal and professional contacts. That said, are you taking full advantage of your network? While you’re in between jobs, building and maintaining your contacts is an invaluable use of your time, and who knows—it may not be long before one of your connections comes up with a job opening that perfectly fits what you need and can offer.
Look for contract/freelance work
Just because you’re between full-time jobs doesn’t mean your time has to be completely work free. In today’s job market, many companies utilize contract and freelance staff for a wide range of projects. Consider seeking out opportunities in your field or in an area that fits your background and skill set; not only will it provide you with some income, it will also help fill in any lengthy time gaps on your resume—and who knows, if you do a particularly good job on a project you might be considered for a longer-term position when one becomes available.
Take a class
Keep your mind and skills sharp while in between jobs by taking a class. You can pursue a subject in your professional field—which may help you during your job hunt—or you can take a class in a completely unrelated subject that interests you. Either way, your time will be structured, educational, and well spent.
Another good use of your time and energy in between jobs is to volunteer—not only will you be helping to support a worthy cause, you’ll also be keeping active and may possibly even acquire some new skills. Also, you may discover some completely new interests, which may help reshape your career aspirations.
Create a backup plan
If things just don’t seem to be going your way and the amount of time that you’re unemployed is becoming a real issue, then it may be a valuable use of your time to come up with a backup plan. Take some time to research alternate fields of interest, industries where your existing background and skills may be easily transferable, and jobs that seem hot right now and have an abundance of openings. It may turn out that your backup plan pans out and makes you happier and more fulfilled than you previously were.
Just because you’re in between jobs doesn’t mean that your time can’t be well spent. Use the strategies and advice presented here to make sure you’re using your time effectively.