How to Stay Busy When You’re Out of Work

I have been out of work for a few months. At first, I enjoyed having a bit of stress free time. As I look back on the most tranquil times of my adult life, they were almost certainly the summer after I finished college, the summer after I finished my law degree and the summer after I was severed by my most recent employer. I used those unemployed periods to bring myself closer to my family and friends and to refocus my energy on planning for the future. I was never idle, even if I was relaxed.

If you find yourself out of work during our current economic slowdown, you should not be idle either. Indeed, even if you have no idea what you might want to do with yourself, there are plenty of


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13 Responses to How to Stay Busy When You’re Out of Work

  1. Fanny says:

    Thank you for that reminder. I am unemployed and sometimes I forget to use my free time wisely. I am motivated to clean up the house today.

  2. Ann says:

    It’s also a good chance to sit down and list all of your skills, then consider what other jobs those skills might apply to. For instance, I know a guy who was a general contractor in the building trade — he knew everyone and just about everything that’s involved in the building trade AND about estimating, but he’d never thought about the fact that he could do an excellent job doing coordinating buildouts for companies downsizing or expanding or managing properties, etc. It just never dawned on him until he listed his skills and areas of knowledge. He’s now working in one of the other fields identified. He’s not making as much as he once did but there’s potential for growth and he’s at least earning!

    Another friend found a field that he absolutely loves and has tremendous earning potential but there’s a huge lag time between work efforts and a paycheck. He looked for and found a part-time job that allows him to still pursue what he wants to do while paying some of the bills so his reserves aren’t totally depleted.

    Don’t make assumptions concerning which friends might be able to put you in contact with the right person for the right job. I actually got a potential lead to pass along to a friend in a field that was totally unrelated to anything I’ve ever been in from a CFO I kow simply because I asked, on my friend’s behalf, whether he knew anyone or of anything in that other field. This guy knew that at one time I was in accounting but thought of me as a carver/sculptor and I’m sure he thought I was about the longest shot out there! LOL But some of us have had varied careers and have made some friends in high places along the way… or have relatives no one is aware of! LOL

    Even though I never intend to return to corporate finance on a full-time basis, I keep an updated resume on hand. If nothing else, it’s good for a giggle occasionally and reminds me of what I left behind!

    I remember, years ago, meeting a cousin and her husband, who was a professional football player. He was out due to injuries and I mentioned to him that now might be a good time to get credentials for another job (he was interested in coaching) “just in case.” Not sure whether he started on it then, but the guy is working as a coach now and, after his initial startled expression, did seem to think that my idea had merit.

    Basically, you have to look forward, not back, and come through rough spots as whole as possible — financially, relationship-wise, emotionally, etc. If losing a job has damaged your ego, taking care of those household chores you’ve put off, not only prepares you for when you won’t have time to do them, but also sends yourself a subtle message that your time is still valuable, so you’d better make good use of it while you can.

  3. Carl says:

    Dave has great and very useful advice. When I was severed with my employer, I found it very difficult to stay home. I would become depressed and very unproductive. What cured my problem was that I got up each morning and showered shaved and dressed as if I was going to work. I would then head to the local library or university and check out what they had to offer. I also, would drop by various companies from time to time to see if they had any opportunities. As this was pre internet, I kept up my network through phone calls or letters. Ultimately, everything worked out and I was back in the business world.

    Networking is by far the best thing that you can do for yourself. As usually, by the time a job ad is placed the job is usually filled. Keep networking and adjusting that resume.

    Dave thanks for the good advice.

  4. Ann says:

    Carl, you definitely did the right thing ’cause keeping busy and networking, rather than having a pity party, is definitely the way to go.

    I was in a position once where the whole group I worked with was let go. While others were sitting around moaning, I contacted my headhunter and started the conversation with “you’re not going to believe this!” I interviewed with the company I eventually went to within 2 weeks (while others were still updating their resumes), even though I didn’t start with them until nearly 2 months later (they actually had to get board approval to hire me because of a pending joint venture). I was still doing some cleanup work at the old company, so I didn’t really even have a break between jobs.

    Hmmm. Guess that also means that it’s not a bad idea to touch base with headhunters occasionally, even if you’re employed, so that you’re already on their minds should disaster occur.

  5. spicoli says:

    all 10 are great things to do when the time is avalible.
    I would also use that time to catch up on my favorite T.V. shows.

  6. Persephone says:

    Excellent advice. Doing anything positive is a step in the right direction while in between jobs. Work out, eat healthy foods, organize your house, get that physical you may have put off. When that job interview presents itself you’ll be ready and when you start your new job you’ll value the time you had to devote to yourself.
    And by all means, continue the healthy habits you put in place during your hiatus from the work force.

  7. Ann says:

    Actually, for those of us in the wintry north, now’s a good time to take care of those household things and updating of resumes and keeping in touch with old friends, etc. I’m certainly better at being productive with those things when I don’t have the distractions of nice weather and the garden.

  8. Liz says:

    As I prepare for my journey into unemployment in the next week, this really hits home. My resume is now posted with a couple of the major boards and I am in the process of contacting all those recruiters that have called me over the past couple of years looking to place candidates at my current organization. For me the biggest thing is not getting dragging into the bad-mouthing and negativity that has pervaded my current organization as people continue to leave, the halls become quieter and a depressing atmosphere is everywhere. To combat this, I have turned my office into a mock Tiki Room. Although it is cold and dreary here in Chicago, I have turned my office into a tropical haven by hanging grass table skirts around my desk and on my white board, added a couple of inflatable palm trees and added fun slogans to my white board. Everyone (who is left) has gotten in on the act – stopping by to laugh about the funny times, leave their own creative additions to my white board, etc…

    From a personnel perspective, I have decided to re-engage in volunteer opportunities and will be heading to the Gulf Coast again to help rebuild homes after the Katrina disaster. This will be my second trip (the last one was also after a layoff). I will say it absolutely gave me perspective when I returned last time. As much as I thought I had hit hard times, it was really revealing to realize how luck I was that I still had a safe home to live in and still had a healthy family.

    Keep the positive attitude, take a step back and remember the things that are really important in life!

  9. Ann says:

    Liz! I wish you all the best and, knowing you, believe you won’t be on the unemployment lines for long! Love the volunteering idea. Also, take it from one who knows, make sure you have/keep health insurance!!! My danged hand cost me over $20k. When I did look for health insurance (after the fact), I was turned down for individual. Luckily, I found a program for people who can pay but are turned down for whatever reason and, as of this week, am insured again. Whew!

    You’ll come through this just fine!

  10. Jimbo says:

    Dave, has excellent advice but then he is a good lawyer.
    I learned from hindsite to make sure you are networking while employed as well. Keep a good list or business card stack handy, and as Dave said don’t be afraid to email or call all of them. You don’t know who might have a position. Using LinkedIn and Facebook is also good to keep in touch with old colleagues. Being unemployed is a new thing for me as I have been blessed to have had continuous work since college, two jobs and 20 years. Now a new beginning for me, looking for a new job, maybe even a new profession. The last piece of advice is to always, always stay positive as it can get worse. So enjoy each day that God gives you, because He put you here for a reason.

  11. Pingback: Seventeen Things to Do When You’re Out of Work - Blog

  12. TPS says:

    Just wanted to let you know you are speaking to my soul, so much that I submitted an article to several magazines this week on this particular topic. When I was younger I would have been beating myself up about the job market, what will I do next, etc. I am not stupid; of course I am concerned. But it makes absolutely no sense for me to be miserable, deprived and all around unwell at this time. It’s only been a few weeks for me, but at 41 years old, I know that while I’m waiting for the phone to ring after sending out resume after resume, it’s perfectly sane to enjoy the simple, inexpensive pleasure I could not only a month or so ago. A bubblebath in the daytime; going to the grocery store during the day when it’s practically empty instead of packing myself into crowded aisles on a Saturday; getting a full eight hours of sleep every single night just because I can. I download audio books for free from the public library so I can keep the tv off and enjoy something new, fresh and engaging.

    While friends of mine (I’m sure) are certain I’ve lost my mind, I just can’t imagine how running around like a chicken with my head cut off would do me any good. I might be unemployed another month or another six, but is it any better to feel and look depleted, anxious and stressed when going to interviews? I think not, so I’ve got to run now. Time for my steam facial. NO matter what I do, the phone isn’t going to ring any faster, so why not be gorgeous, healthy and content while waiting? I start every morning with a delicious breakfast, a good workout, time for prayer and then I’m off and running to the sites. This economy might break my bank, but I’ll be damned if it’ll break my spirits. As Ali would say, I’m just too pretty!

  13. rick says:

    I don’t want to sound disrespectful but this is all good if you have money saved aside and a spouse that is working. But most of us don’t have large piles of cash lying around and some of us don’t have spouses or family to fall back on. Some like me have done one thing and one thing only for several years and now that the well is drying up, our buckets are empty without much water in site to save us. I just want a job now. I am within weeks of losing my house. My self respect is almost all gone. My friends distant themselves, maybe they feel the stigma of bad carma can carry over to them. Before I go to sleep at night I beg the Lord to help me find a job the next day so that I can keep my house, self respect and my life as I know it. I want a job, is there anyone out there hiring
    Pmaha. nebraska

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