No matter how hard you work or how loyal you remain to your employer, there’s a good chance you’ll experience at least one significant period of unemployment during your life. You might lose your job due to industry changes and layoffs, or you might voluntarily leave on sabbatical – or to handle something important in your personal life.
There’s nothing wrong with taking your time between jobs. But if you want to maximize your chances of finding a great job when you’re ready to kickstart your next career and feel better in the meantime, there are some important strategies you’ll need to follow.
Prioritize Your Finances
First, you need to prioritize your finances. Hopefully, you have an emergency fund set aside to deal with situations like this, or you’ve gotten a severance package that can help you get by until you pick up a new job. Even if this isn’t the case, you’ll need to monitor your budget and control your spending carefully; if you blow through your savings too quickly or overspend, it could set you up for failure.
This may also be a good opportunity to establish a secondary stream of income. For example, you could invest in rental property and work with a property manager to boost its profitability – or you could pick up a side gig.
Reevaluate Your Goals
The gap you have between jobs is also a critical chance to reevaluate your goals. What are you hoping to achieve in your career? How quickly do you want to achieve it? Is this type of job really making you happy? When you’re bogged down with a full-time job and in the middle of trying to juggle multiple career priorities, you may be too distracted to do this.
Take a Class
Consider taking a class related to your career – or one that teaches you something entirely new. Working 40 hours a week and dealing with personal responsibilities doesn’t leave you much time to allocate to coursework. But when you don’t have job responsibilities looming over you, you’ll have a perfect opportunity. Depending on the class, this might be a great way to pad your resume – or possibly get started on a new career path.
Get New Certifications and Training
Similarly, this is a good chance to get some new certifications or training. More certifications will make you a more attractive candidate to hire – and could help you earn a higher salary as well. Undergoing training could also introduce you to new, more experienced professionals in your field, and in some cases, may lead to future job opportunities.
Network and Meet People
Professional networking is incredibly beneficial for your career, even when you’re not between jobs. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, get a glimpse of careers and companies other than yours, learn new things, and potentially even find new job opportunities. It might be your route to finding a new job – or an opportunity to meet a new friend. Plus, you’ll get to stay plugged into the community, and you’ll stay active and social during your employment gap.
Stick to a Schedule
No matter what you choose to do when you’re between jobs, it’s important to stick to a schedule and a routine. Without a job to keep you focused and consistent, it’s easy to lose track of time. Your routine will keep you structured and organized, so it’s not as jarring when you return to a full-time job. It’s also good for your mental health, especially if your routine includes things like meditation, exercise, and healthy meal preparation.
With extra time on your hands, you should consider volunteering for a good cause in your area. It’s a great way to give back to the community. It’s an opportunity to meet like-minded people. It’s a chance to refine your skills and stay engaged with others. And best of all, most organizations are always desperate to get new volunteers – so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting involved.
Optimize Your Work From Home Setup
Many employers now allow a much greater percentage of work to be done remotely. Use this time to really dial-in your work from home setup for maximum productivity. Even if it’s not an entire room, establishing a dedicated workspace for remote work is critical. Next, look for ways to reduce background noise and minimize distractions.
Don't Wait Too Long
Finally, don’t wait too long to start applying for new jobs. It’s totally fine to take a break – especially if you’re participating in some of the recommendations of this list – but if you have a long employment gap, it can look bad on your resume.
Give yourself a few months at most before picking up a new job and resuming your career path. At the very least, you should pick up a side gig or part-time job so you can make some money and continue your career progress in some measurable way.
Your time between jobs doesn’t have to fit a formula, nor does it have to follow conventional advice. But you should be aware of the risks, rewards, and opportunities in your employment gap so you can properly plan for them.