Whether you’re unemployed or underemployed, there’s a certain threshold that, once crossed, seems to banish all excitement and enthusiasm for the future.
The sweatpants stay on. The Top Ramen returns to the cabinet, and watching Netflix seems to be the only source of entertainment in day-to-day life.
For some, this lethargic despair is induced by a biological clock – perhaps after 30 days without work. For those who are underemployed, living each day without a creative or productive outlet can amplify a case of the underemployment blues.
Not to mention the depressing job market that often demands experience and offers low pay?
If you find yourself moping, feeling sorry for yourself or just feeling generally discouraged – it might be difficult to see this employment gap as something advantageous.
So how do you get out of the slump? How do you defeat the discouragement to regain faith and confidence that you will land the dream job and never eat Top Ramen again?
Well, it starts with a change in perspective…and a quote from Lucille Ball.
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” – Lucille Ball
There comes a moment in the unemployed life when decisions can become pretty drastic.
Deciding between groceries and gas – or which utility bill will have to be paid late – can begin to take an emotional toll on the average person. Volunteering boosts self-esteem, fights depression and can help you stay moving and physically healthy.
Volunteering in an area of your passion can also provide a much needed outlet to feel productive or creative.
While sharing your talents and skills is a great way to regain faith in yourself, volunteering offers the practical advantage of introducing you to more people.
By exposing yourself to a network, you avoid social isolation that could lead to depression and you can even gain helpful contacts for future employment.
2. Work for the Money
Often, people consider jobs outside of their fields as a potential black mark against them on their resumes.
Such irrelevant positions may not offer direct experience for the career ladder, but they pay the bills, and many employers understand this. Working for the money (AKA to pay the bills) is a choice many people have to make.
Yes, sometimes these jobs can be humiliating, frustrating and downright terrible – but in this jungle of a job market, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
When you’re working in a not-so-great job, always keep a goal in the forefront of your mind and remain open to any potential opportunities.
Who knows, the restaurant owner you work for could introduce you to venture capitalists. The newspaper editor who drinks a latte every morning could set you up with a freelance gig.
Opportunity is everywhere, but you have to be open to it.
3. Take a class
There are a ton of free online classes, and with the rise of MOOCs, free education just took on a high-quality value.
Learn for free from some of the best professors and industry leaders in the nation. Take something in relation to your major or teach yourself an entirely new skill. Become a social media guru or a programming wizard – the kinds of skills that are widely sought in the job market.
Whether you do it for fun or for the knowledge, these classes can keep your brain alert and well-oiled.
4. Start a project
For anyone who likes to write, paint, photograph, rant or share information – you may want to start a blog!
It’s a free, relatively low-investment hobby that can help you develop your style and your opinion.
There are, of course, other projects you can take on.
If you can’t afford to upgrade your own house, join a community garden or building project. Begin a journaling project. Start a card collection. Do anything that makes you happy. Remember, it’s your time. It’s your life. Make the most out of it. You won’t be underemployed or unemployed forever.
What can you do now that you may never get a chance to do again? Be kooky and have fun!
5. Take another look at your resume
Now that you’ve taken a class on basic programming and volunteered at the local animal shelter, you will need to update your resume.
Look at your resume with fresh eyes. What makes you special? What kind of attitude do you have? What have you learned as a waitress or a record store clerk? How are you better from working in a soup kitchen or organizing a fundraiser?
The answers to these questions may never make it on a resume, but they can help you gain a better understanding of how you’ve reached a new level of personal growth.
You may have been given the short end of the stick – laid off, or graduated into a bad economy – but think of how resourceful you’ve been. Consider how you’ve risen against the odds to claim your happiness. You’re stronger than you were two weeks ago, a month ago, three months ago.
You’ve learned many valuable lessons about life and about yourself – and you know now that you’re an asset.
Now get out there.
Rewrite your resume.
Rewrite your life.
Nadia Jones is a professional writer who currently helps potential students through her contributions to the Online College Catalogue. Nadia is an advocate for global education and volunteers in Africa to help bring resources to various countries.