Stay positive and productive when you’re in between jobs
This is the perfect time to figure out what you really want from your career.
Whether you left a job because you hated it or you left because you were let go, it's tough to be in between jobs.
At first, it may feel like a vacation. You can go to the gym in the middle of the day! You don’t have to make small talk with Ted from accounting! And you definitely don’t have to deal with your horrible, no good, very bad boss!
But then you remember that—newsflash—you’ve got to find a job. You have to read job ads, write cover letters, customize your resume, and go on interviews. Plus you have to deal with rejection—or being ghosted—over and over again. Having to face the hard facts can be daunting.
“The best ways to stay positive and proactive is to know exactly what you want to do next in your career, and to have a system,” says Adunola Adeshola, founder of the career advice website employeeREDEFINED.
Monster spoke with career experts to get their advice on how to make the most of this downtime and become an even better job candidate.
Stick to a schedule
Resist the urge to binge watch Netflix until it asks if you’re still watching. (Stop judging me, Netflix!)
“The best way to stay positive and productive when you’re between jobs is to consider your job search your full-time job,” says Alison Doyle, a job-search expert at the New York City-based personal finance site The Balance. “Even though you’re out of work and may be stressed, your job search will be more effective if you have balance in your life.”
Doyle says to create a schedule for your job-hunting activities like networking in-person, applying to jobs online, and following up on applications and interviews. Mix it up so you don’t get bored.
Rely on your support network
“When you’re between jobs, the stress of frequent rejection or not getting enough callbacks can wear you down after a while,” says Angelina Darrisaw, founder of the New York City-based career-coaching firm C-Suite Coach. “It helps a great deal if you are not internalizing that stress and dealing with it alone.”
Your friends, mentors, and family can provide advice and encouragement. But they can also provide connections to new opportunities through networking. Tell people what you’re looking for; they may know someone who can help. You never know who your cousin’s husband’s best friend is and how he can introduce you to his sister-in-law’s brother who works at one of your dream companies.
Tap professional resources
If you were laid off, Darrisaw recommends asking your previous company if they can provide resources, such as a few sessions with a career coach, to help you navigate the job-search process.
“If you are in between jobs for another reason, find someone who has been in the same place before,” says Darrisaw. “It will help to know that what you are going through is totally par for the course and to hear from others who have been there.”
Set specific goals
“Don’t just say that you will search for jobs from noon to four,” says Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, a Palm Beach-based organizational psychologist. “Rather, give yourself specific goals that are measurable and attainable. Reward yourself when you meet your daily and weekly goals.”
One day your goal might be to find three jobs you’re interested in, customize your resume for each job, and write your cover letters. The next day you might want to go on an informational interview, go to a networking event, and get coffee with a mentor.
Think about your long-term goals as well. Adeshola recommends considering why you left your last job (and any previous ones) and what you want next. Ask yourself what types of responsibilities you want to have, what type of culture you want at your next company, and if you want to change careers entirely.
“Knowing the answers to these questions will give you the direction you need to stay focused, positive, and proactive,” says Adeshola.
Develop new skills
“When you get rejected, learn from it. If the company doesn’t hire you, you might as well learn why,” says Hakim. “That way, you can make any necessary tweaks to your resume or gain some additional experience.” So if you can, ask for feedback, even when you don’t land a job. That way, you’ll be positioned for self-improvement.
“It's very rare to have a block of time off in our adult lives,” says Pamela Weinberg, a New York City-based career coach, “so use the time to gain some new skills that can help you in your next job, or to learn something you've always wanted to learn but haven't had the time.”
Read job descriptions to find out what your target companies are looking for—coding, grant writing, etc.—and use this time to acquire those skills. You’ll feel more positive and confident, and that will shine through on your application.