The gift of unemployment is time

Use the time your are given

Career Opportunities podcast logoThe gift of unemployment is time
By Douglas E. Welch



As you might tell from recent columns, I am doing everything I can to keep our career conversation on an optimistic level. You can’t ignore the problems in today’s economy and workplace, but you can focus your attention where it does the most good. That said, it can be hard to be optimistic from day to day as you face the realities around you. If you aren’t out of work yourself, chances are you know someone who is. The media keep hammering us left and right with this statistic and that report. Instead of focusing on these external issues, though, I find that focusing on the internals — who we are and what we do — seems to generate the biggest results. We can effect our daily lives and our individual selves, even if we can’t fix the bigger problems.


One of the first areas you should focus on is your family. Everyone is probably nervous and out of sorts. Expenditures are being delayed and life is a bit on hold until you get your work situation settled. You may not notice it, but this type of stress gnaws at everyone invisibly until some large blow up occurs. Everyone is trying to put on a brave face and “be strong” but cracks can start to appear. Now, more than ever, you need to do something fun with your family or everyone is likely to break under the strain.

After you spend hours every day looking for a new or better job, turn off the lights, shut the door to your office and do some living. Make meals together. Eat together with your family. Spend time curled up on the couch together watching some fun movie. These types of activities cost you little, but help to remind you that life is not all doom and gloom. You still have a family that supports you and you can still support them in these important ways.

The odd part is that although many of us have more time than ever before to spend with our families, we don’t do it. We find a hundred different activities, job search related and not, to hide among. These are often the same people who professed a desire to spend more time with their families when they were working. Take this one big advantage in being out of work — time — and spend it in the most important way possible. Be productive in your job search, yes, but take solace in your family and your home life. Do something you have been meaning to do for months or years. Make the most of the time that is given you. You will be back in the daily grind before you know it. This time will disappear and you will regret it.


Another important use of your time is gaining new skills. Once again, you have the time to engage in these pursuits and you need to take advantage of it. Start you own self-study course in a new programming language, project management training, engineering or architecture, whatever you think will be useful, but also interesting to you. Take some college courses, if you can, to expand your skills and knowledge. This isn’t a time to be standing still. If you are not learning new skills, you are falling behind. Where your work was often the challenge that drove you to learn new skills, now you must be self-directed. You must seek out new challenges and new opportunities to learn. Each new skill you acquire is one more positive item you can note on resumes, highlight in interviews and take pride in for yourself.


Finally, spend more time thinking…about everything…work, life, hopes, goals, dreams. Day-to-day work often drives out any time to think about such things. Don’t dwell on the bad things, though. Think about what you want, what you need, what you want to accomplish and perhaps even new directions you can pursue. Too many of us are so intent on watching the road ahead of us that we can sometimes forget to ask if that is where we really want to go. Use this time as an opportunity to re-evaluate your work and your life. You many find that you were on the right track all along, but you could also find that you need to take a hard turn at the next crossroads and go a different direction.

Unemployment gives us a great gift — time. Don’t squander it. It will be gone far too quickly. Take the time to enjoy the small joys in life that can get ignored when we are on the career fast track. Use this time to build the career you deserve.

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