Just because you’re out of action does not mean you don’t have opportunities to stay sharp and keep your skills updated. If you are on a job search, there are four great ways to stay at the top of your field.
Participate in forums. It doesn’t matter what your subject is – there is an online forum for like-minded people who congregate and discuss it regularly. Read the posts frequently, respond and join the conversation, contribute your own ideas, start threads that ask questions. If you’re concerned about expressing genuine or controversial opinions only to have future employers find them, just use a made-up name and be vague about your personal details. So hit Google and look for discussion boards, forums and so on in your field and get started today.
Take a college class. You can make the time to attend a course. If you don’t want to be graded, ask to audit the course at registration. Community colleges are widespread and inexpensive, and auditing is sometimes even less. Doing this can expand your horizons and introduce you to new thinking in addition to whatever skill you may be learning. Never underestimate the value of that sort of exposure. Search for community colleges in your area for more information.
Volunteer your time. Just because nobody is hiring you to do what you do does not mean you have to stop doing it. Find a place where you can do 15 or 20 hours per week in your field of expertise. You get to stay sharp, it helps pass the time, will likely improve your mood, gives you some regular interaction, you may learn something new, and it may even lead to a full-time job. Websites like VolunteerMatch.com and Serve.gov are good places to start, or simply identify organizations and businesses in your area that you would like to be involved with and contact them with your offer to volunteer time.
Leverage online learning. The Internet is overflowing with spectacular education resources that are very inexpensive or even free. The problem? When we’re working it is very difficult to carve out the time to consume online learning. One thing the Internet does great is port a traditional class into a video format which allows you to “attend” from your own home and on your own time. For IT and management professionals, GogoTraining is an excellent provider of IT training courses taught by industry experts at rates that are a fraction of what most in-person instruction costs (and even beats the price of online competitors for the quality).
Unemployment can be a challenging time. Take advantage of these ways to stay up on your skills. Your career (and mind) will thank you!