Unemployment’s Silver Lining

For members currently without full-time work and seniors fearful of the economy, take heart – there is a silver lining to unemployment. I’m living it.

If you’re like me, you’re passionate about one communications niche. After interning for the Philadelphia Flyers, experiencing the rush of working the Stanley Cup Final and, as a result, recognizing my passion for the hockey industry, it’s hard for me to look at much else. Yet the sports world is, by far, one of the most challenging nuts to crack.

If you’re still like me, you’re not giving up on that passion, despite the odds. Rather than camping out on the couch waiting for the next job listing to pop up, take steps to stay active professionally and use your time to the fullest.

Before you look at the list below, remember to stay positive. If it’s doing yoga, going to church or chatting with an old friend, find a way to maintain an optimistic attitude. Rejection (or no response at all) from potential employers can get discouraging very quickly. Combat this by surrounding yourself with people who provide solid advice and activities that help you achieve your goals.

Here are five tips to make the most of your free time:

1. Work with what you’ve got. If you have contacts in your chosen field, don’t be afraid to use them. In a confident, not-desperate way, be specific about your needs and what you’re looking for. Be sure to thank them often as they help you find a job.

2. Broaden your network. Ask your contacts if they can put you in touch with other professionals who can benefit you long-term and during your job search. Attend area networking events, even if they’re more general than your desired career path, to meet new people. Check out free webinars and online conferences, and start talking to potential mentors and employers on Twitter.

3. Learn a new skill. Somehow, in the midst of my four years of college (and four years of high school), I never learned to use Adobe Photoshop as proficiently as InDesign. Now that I have time, I’m working through Adobe’s Classroom in a Book chapter by chapter. If you missed out on a specific skill during college, dedicate time to methodically learn it. [Extra tip: If you apply for jobs and see a pattern of skills you don’t have listed as specific requirements, make them your first priority.]

4. Add depth to your portfolio. Find a way to produce professional-quality work in your chosen field. Many industries, like sports, lend themselves extremely well to blogging. Other industries may require freelancing. Find whichever avenue works best, and go after it. Look for flexibility, as your priority still needs to be finding full-time work. And, ensure that whatever you’re working on ties back to communications in some clear way, thereby truly boosting your portfolio.

5. Take a break. Go on vacation, check out a museum, read a book – no matter your financial status, you can find ways to kick back and relax. The job search is draining, so take time to recharge. Enjoy your time off from full-time work.

Did you find these tips helpful? What others do you have for using free time well?

Rebecca Timms is the immediate past president for the 2010–2011 PRSSA National Committee, having served as National President from 2009–2010. She graduated from Rowan University in May 2010 with a degree in public relations and minor in journalism, and is pursuing a career in ice hockey communications.

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