Unemployment sucks. You’re broke, you’re discouraged, and you constantly smell bad. No one likes it, but it doesn’t have to be terrible. At best, unemployment is an opportunity to take chances and risks that you just don’t get to take when you’re sitting in a cubicle all day, pretending to input numbers while you’re actually playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood from 10-3. There are so many things out there in the world that are waiting for you. And hey—maybe some of those things, like volunteering, will even help you get a job or make a difference in the world. So if you’re unemployed and freaking out on the fruitless job search, take a step back, evaluate, and try these six things.
1. Start a blog. Five months after my college graduation and four months after I started applying to at least 40 different entry-level jobs, I was exhausted. Jobless and alone, I thought about something productive I could do while I hunted that elusive job, and one of the first things I thought of other than moving to Paris and becoming a full-time absinthe sipper was beginning a blog. Starting a blog is a great way to stay active, sharp and working.
Few people know how difficult and time-consuming it really is to start, customize, promote and maintain a good blog, but it definitely teaches you several key skills. For example, dedication. Holding yourself to phantom deadlines is what blogging is all about: without a boss screaming at you to get those posts published already, you have to be your own motivation. Blogging also keeps your writing and communication skills sharp, lets you learn how to market yourself/your brand to an audience, and puts you in touch with some really great people who may be able to hire you for real money. Yay!
2. Get in shape. I know I’m not the only one to say that no way am I actually waking up at 5 a.m. every morning to work out before work. I am in a deep, committed and loving relationship with my bed, and mornings are when we get to have our alone time. So when you have nowhere to go in the morning except deeper under your blankets, use the afternoon daylight hours to join a gym and get in shape. Channel all that wasted energy into working out, so that when you get a real, big-boy job, going to the gym and working out will have become a good habit. Who knows? You may even want to break up with your bed and have an affair with the elliptical.
3. Move somewhere totally new. Remember that absinthe-sipping dream I mentioned earlier? Yeah, I’m totally serious about that. Once you get a job you won’t be able to fulfill absolutely crazy dreams like picking up and relocating on a whim. If you can afford it or don’t mind getting yourself a job at a French cafe for a few months, move somewhere new and allow yourself to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Moving somewhere new may also open up new opportunities for jobs or careers you didn’t consider before.
4. Start volunteering. Volunteer work looks good on a resume, especially if you have employment gaps. Even though volunteering may be stretching your money to the breaking point, it’s worth it to expand your horizons and try to make a difference in the lives of even a few dozen people. You’ll be happier and maybe you’ll even be able to put your struggle into perspective, and recognize that there are many people in the world who are much less fortunate than you are.
5. Take a crazy class. When I was unemployed in and after college, I took pottery and ballet. So now, I have two entirely useless skills that I love. I can make a few mugs on a pottery wheel and they don’t even leak or anything. I am also moderately turned out and can’t even remotely stand en pointe, but that’s not…the point. The point is that unemployment gives you the chance and the freedom to try new things, usually things that are fun but completely useless. They do make good stories, though. I am constantly telling the story of “that time my pottery instructor got a face full of clay” because I forgot to turn off the wheel.
6. Be a bartender. I say “bartender” and not “server” because bartending is much more fun than waiting tables. You can get a job at a hoppin’ bar and invite your friends to drink your free booze, therefore working and having fun at the same time. Bartenders also make hella tips, and the hours mean you can use your daylight hours (the ones you’re actually going to be awake for) searching for jobs and trying to stand en pointe. I don’t recommend trying that hungover, though.