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Many countries are currently experiencing an economic downturn. As a result, millions of talented people all over the world have had their hours cut at work or have been made redundant from their jobs.

It can be stressful and disheartening to find yourself in this situation. Perhaps you might be struggling to make ends meet or worried about the future. Perhaps work was such a large part of your life that now you’re now going through an identity crisis. Or perhaps you’re feeling so discouraged that it’s hard for you to be productive.

There’s no doubt that unemployment has major downsides, and that it can be horribly depressing. However, unemployment also offers you opportunities that you might not have had otherwise. If you want to maximise the opportunities that could result from your present situation, consider the following ideas for best using your time in this period of transition:

1. Network like your next job depends on it

Networking is a critically important activity that is all too easy to neglect when you are employed. When you become unemployed, effective networking becomes essential. This is because most people find jobs through their network of personal or professional contacts. It’s far likelier that you will find your next job by talking to people you know, rather than by applying to jobs at companies where you don’t know anybody.

2. Build your personal brand

Virtually every industry has “micro-celebrities” who are well-known. In many cases, these people are highly sought after by employers or clients; they have their pick of jobs, and they could get a new job easily if they were to become unemployed. Typically, they are authors, public speakers, bloggers, or social media influencers; they are thought leaders who have important ideas to share.

You no doubt have outstanding ideas and insights to share, too. There is no reason you couldn’t become famous in your industry niche.

Now would be a fantastic time to work on building your personal brand in whichever way makes most sense to you. You could create a blog about your industry, write articles on topics of importance, book yourself some speaking engagements or build your social media presence. Any of these actions could help to successfully distinguish you from all the other unemployed people who will be applying for the same jobs you are.

3. Spend time with your family and friends

People end up with bunches of regrets in life. Let’s briefly review some of the most common mistakes people make that they later end up regretting:

  • “I wish I’d worked much less”.
  • “I wish I’d spent more of my time with my friends and family”.
  • “I wish I’d had more free time”.

It is common for people to get so busy with work that they neglect things that are really important. But right now, if you’re not working at all or you’re working fewer hours, it gives you the gift of more time to spend with your loved ones. Take advantage of this opportunity, and you will avoid making one of life’s most regrettable mistakes.

4. Start a lucrative side hustle

In the recent past, massive numbers of businesses have either closed permanently or initiated hiring freezes. If you find that there are no job opportunities in your area, or that people are reluctant to hire you as an employee, you might have better success starting your own business.

5. Consider moving to a better location

If there are no appealing job opportunities available in your area, another option would be to move to a place where more jobs are available — or to an area where you know more people.

When you’re employed, it’s challenging to plan and execute a geographic move. A period of unemployment gives you time to find a place that might be better for you to live. If you think it would be beneficial to move somewhere else, now would be an ideal time to do it.

6. Work on your CV and apply for jobs

Working on your CV isn’t the highest priority activity in the scheme of things; you’re likely to find that it’s more important to network. But, if you’re asked to submit a CV, you certainly don’t want yours to be outdated. Update it and apply for whatever jobs you can find that appeal to you.

7. Consider upskilling to prepare for a career change

Many recently unemployed Australians are determining that they are not easily able to obtain new jobs in the same industry that had previously employed them. Not only are they unemployed, they are now realising that they must make a complete career change.

COVID-19 is only partially to blame for these circumstances, as there was already a trend towards automation technology before the COVID-19 crisis disrupted the job market. Many Australian workers were already being displaced by automation technologies before the Coronavirus ravaged the country. The automation trend is likely to accelerate further in the future as employers seek to recover profitability and minimise exposure to the virus.

If you’re having to make an unexpected career change, you might find that upskilling is the most straightforward path to continued career success.

You have many options for learning the new skills you’ll need to make a successful industry transition. If you never earned a university degree, doing so now is one possibility. If you already hold a university degree, you might wish to obtain an advanced degree that would take your career in a new direction.

For example, if you were previously employed as a bookkeeper, your current vocation is in grave danger of being lost to automation. It would be wise to consider future-proofing your career before you seek new employment. Now would be an excellent time to obtain an advanced degree in a related, high-demand subject niche such as financial technology. Or if you previously worked as a chef, you might now consider upskilling to become a food scientist and transitioning to work in the food manufacturing industry.

8. Tackle a home improvement project

When you’re working all the time, it can be a challenge to make time for improving your house or making repairs. If you’re spending less time working, you have more time available to get things all fixed up at your place. This would be a great time to tackle projects like creating a new home office, researching eco-friendly mattresses or unclogging that slow-as-molasses drain in your guest bathroom.

9. Plant a vegetable garden

Food is expensive but necessary. It’s an expense you can’t avoid, but there are productive ways to reduce food costs and free up your available money for other necessities.

Gardening is one of the most creative ways to do this, and seeds are relatively cheap. If you plant a vegetable garden, your efforts could help to reduce your future grocery bills at harvest time.

Even if you don’t have substantial amounts of space to allocate to a gardening project, there are vegetables that can successfully be grown in containers. Every little morsel of food you’re able to grow could be of some help.

10. De-stress, relax and be kind to yourself

Many people find periods of unemployment to be stressful and worrisome. If you share this outlook, too, you can take comfort in being aware that you’re not alone.

This is a particularly challenging time because so many highly talented people are out of work, which makes for fierce competition in the job market. There are few job openings, and there are multiple qualified candidates for each job that does become available. This means you are probably applying for lots of jobs – and, most likely, no one is calling you back. Or maybe you’re going on heaps of interviews, but no one is hiring you.

It would be easy to start getting stressed out – or, even worse, to get angry with yourself. Or to start feeling depressed.

Know that there is an all too real danger of experiencing these negative emotions, and give yourself permission to relax, de-stress and be kind to yourself. It’s beneficial to schedule some time in each day to enjoy some downtime.

These are some of the most productive ways to fill your time while you’re looking for a new job. If you make an effort to keep yourself doing things that are constructive and meaningful, you are likely to successfully weather this difficult period in your life.

This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with UNSW.

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