There’s no denying unemployment sucks. It’s easy to lose energy when your get up and go, gets up and makes itself scarce. And as for the 22-esque catch associated with getting relevant work experience- you may as well just give up, right?
Wrong! Spurious, false and altogether incorrect! Without work you’ve got more time and freedom than most: use it. Take control, grab the mole by the claws and take employability back into your own hands. The trick is to view unemployment as an opportunity for personal development. To that end we’ve come up with ten DIY projects to increase your skill set, renovate your head-space and help get that career ball rolling…
Before you start constructing a brand spanking multi-skilled you it’s worth taking stock of what you’ve already got. Employers want a candidate who knows exactly what they have to offer. A little self-evaluation can help you identify personal strengths and enable you to better communicate them. Don’t sell yourself short by ignoring important soft and transferable skills such as:
- Communication: tenacious cliché and scourge of the CV it may be, but it’s also important. The trick is to be specific: how do you communicate? Are you particularly good at presentations and public speaking or do you have the swishest telephone manner known to man?
- Teamwork: Specifically how do you deal with conflicting interests, organising groups and leading? Always think of examples. Likewise can you manage and plan projects? Effective project management is a job in itself that’s worth researching and developing (see below).
- Initiative: often overlooked and hard to sell without specific examples, the ability to think and work independently, successfully improvising and going beyond specific aims is a highly valuable trait that’s rarer than most admit.
If you’re stuck for ideas of how to analyse yourself Honey and Mumford’s learning styles and questionnaires are a great place to start.
Do your Homework
Make it your business to know everything about the industry you want to go into. This may seem obvious and even a simple task, but it’s probably more involved than you think. You need to follow current affairs: Are there any podcasts or publications you can follow? Find out about the biggest players: What do they do? How do they do it? What are the main issues in the field and what are the main skills, software and processes involved? This is detailed research that could open a lot of doors and reveal avenues which previously remained hidden. There’s a tonne of information out there; half the battle is knowing where to look.
Although project management is a profession in its own right, the ability to organise, prioritise and ensure stuff gets done is a highly valuable asset in any career. Once you’re familiar with some key concepts it is also an ability you can concisely advertise on a CV. Having an understanding of project management can also improve your leadership skills and the ability to work in a team. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a compilation of highly recommended books. It’s also worth exploring the use of Gantt charts to help you schedule and prioritise tasks.
Yes almost every man and his monkey can navigate a computer interface, but there is a difference between domestic and professional use. Be honest with yourself: Do you really know how to use spreadsheets properly and can you remember anything about databases or mail merging? With such a vast resource like the internet at your finger tips you can teach yourself all of these things free of charge. Failing that there are plenty of great books out there. You could also learn how to touch type properly. All of these are CV worthy key skills.
Furthermore if you’re looking to work in media or marketing, getting to grips with blogging and social media could be a big bonus. Again there’s a difference between a casual user and someone who really understands professional application. Spend some time getting to grips with search engine optimisation and social media analytics.
Always, always a useful ability to have. Let’s be honest you’re not going to become fluent without completely abandoning all hope of a job (which sort of defeats the objective). Never the less it is more than possible to develop a functional word bank which could be invaluable in industries that require travel or have international relations. Look up international hot spots for your desired profession and surmise which languages could be the most advantageous. There are also some great apps out there (such as Babbel or Live Mocha) to help!
Every workplace has to have a health and safety person. By learning first aid with St John’s Ambulance or an alternative method you can add volunteering and a life skill to your CV. Not only that, but your potentially saving an employer the money and time required to train up a first aider which can only improve your prospects of being hired. When it’s down to the wire between you and another candidate first aid could be one of the things that helps tip the balance.
Software and Coding
Does your dream job involve any technical software? If you’re interested in design there’s graphics packages such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or if you’re on a budget you could try dabbling with GIMP (steady on) for free. Alternatively you could learn video and sound editing by getting to grips with basic programmes such as Audacity.
What about STEM related software such as Solidworks (industry standard CAD software) or coding? Coding is a powerful skill both in things like web design and in building programmes to make calculations and processes more efficient. There’s a tonne of material on C++ and HTML online.
Volunteering doesn’t just mean helping out at the local charity shop. There could be plenty of ways of putting your professional discipline to good use within the community. Maybe a local group needs a simple website designed, if you’re a teacher you could help with extracurricular activities, there’s coaching, counselling, and tonnes of other things underfunded groups are likely to need help with. Unpaid experience is better than no experience.
The buzzwords of all recruitment buzzwords and like many buzzwords seemingly devoid of meaning. Orrr is it? How often have you been told “it’s not what you know yada yada…” Without getting caught up in fancy lingo, it’s all about making connections. Whether it’s peers looking for the same thing or people already working in the industry, there are things to be learned and gained from everyone. Try following people with the same aims on twitter or entering discussions on online forums. Look out for industry events or public meetings. The bottom line is if you can find a community who want/have the same things as you professionally sooner or later they’ll help make things happen.
Make the Most Out of Every Situation
Life’s what you make it, every cloud has a silver lining and every cliché is a cliché for a reason. Instead of focusing on the jobs you don’t get focus on what you did get. When you get an interview think on what you can learn from it: maybe you can get some advice from the interviewer, they could tell you about a source of info you never knew before or even a tip on your application before you leave. Ultimately a positive can-do attitude and motivation is going to be your biggest asset in your quest for employment.