Back To Career News

Career Success Guide: How to Stay Employed (Even When You’re Unemployed)


Whether you’re just starting your career, or have been working for years, one thing is certain: it’s harder to find a job when you don’t have one. That’s helpful to know if you’re considering quitting a job without having another one lined up, but if you’re a recent grad, newly laid-off, or just plain between gigs, well, there’s not much you can do, right? Not so fast.


(Photo Credit: Steve Worsethandetroit/Flickr)

“If you aren’t doing work, you aren’t employable,” writes founder Dan Schawbel in PayScale’s Guide to Early Career Success. “Companies have a bias against professionals who are unemployed or simply not doing anything with their time. …But even if you haven’t had many paying jobs, you probably have some valuable work experience you can leverage to get hired.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The goal is to keep moving and building your resume, even if you’re not working full-time at a paying job with benefits. Depending on where you are in your career, that could mean:

1. Volunteering.

If you’re like most of us, you have at least a short list of organizations you’d love to help out, if only you had the money. Now’s your chance to give back, using your time instead.

The best volunteering opportunity is the one that allows you to support a cause you believe in, while using skills that will be valuable to a future employer. That way, you’re keeping your experience up-to-date while building your network and doing something good.

2. Getting an Internship.

Especially if you’re a recent grad, internships are the way to get professional experience in your field before you find the paying gig of your dreams. Internships can also be valuable for workers who are in transition from one industry to another.

If you have a college degree, no matter when you graduated, your college career center is the place to start your search for the perfect internship. Many will offer distance advising services, if you’ve moved out of state.

3. Freelancing.

Volunteering and internships are all well and good, but unless you have a trust fund, you need some way to pay the rent while you’re looking for a full-time job. Freelancing can help you do that while you bridge the gap between job titles in your resume.

Schawbel recommends as a starting point for your search. If you already have some work experience, now’s the time to lean on your network, as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out to former colleagues and connections to let them know that you’re looking for freelance opportunities. You might be surprised to find that they’re overjoyed to hear from you. Even years after the official end of the Recession, many companies find it easier to make room in their budget for freelance help, but not full-time workers. Your email or call might come at the perfect time and help out a former co-worker as much as it helps out your wallet and career.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your advice to unemployed readers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.