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16 Smart Ways To Make The Most Of A Period Of Unemployment

A hiatus from the workforce can happen for a number of reasons: a layoff, illness or the simple need for a sabbatical. While planning for the next job may be at the bottom of the priority list during this time, if a professional knows they will be looking for a new post at some point down the road, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a smooth return. That includes not only staying in touch with your network but also making sure you’re caring for yourself and ensuring you’re returning to a workplace and a career that’s right for you.

Making the most of your time away from the workforce can mean you’re in a stronger, happier position when you return. Below, 16 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss some key things professionals who are temporarily unemployed can focus on to take care of themselves and ensure a smooth transition back to work.

1. Stay In Touch With People
It’s a relationship game. People move on at the same pace, while you step out of the “madness.” During your off period, invite people to share your peace and contemplation. Join them now and then to be involved and show you care. Every healthy relationship is built on reciprocity. Make that important. - Arvid Buit, TRUE Leadership

2. Work On Your Communication Skills
Anyone who has been away for a long time should work on their communication skills. The basis of all relationships is communication, and when you are away from the social context for too long, you could lose touch with social dynamics, cultural awareness or even self-awareness. - Able Wanamakok, Find Your Voice Asia

3. Stay On Top Of Tech And Social Media Trends
Too often, when people spend a period of time in unemployment, they lose track of technology. If you are looking to get back into the workforce, make sure you’ve studied up on technology and social media. Find and know the current trends in each and use them to your benefit by finding ways to create more efficiency. - Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

4. Take A Thorough Stock Of Your Career
Whether it’s sudden or planned, take advantage of being unemployed. This is the perfect time to thoroughly take inventory of all the things that you like and dislike about your career. Use this list to guide you to the next employment opportunity so that you don’t fall into the trap of simply chasing a paycheck. Know what you want, and don’t be afraid to ask for it moving forward. - Jarret Patton, DoctorJarret PLLC

5. Be Prepared To Discuss Your Employment Gap
Telling your story is essential. Whether during an interview, on an application or in a casual conversation, an employment gap almost always becomes a question to be answered upon return. Expect questions, and be prepared with a short answer to refocus on the future. What you say and how you say it carries forward. Keep it short—five to six sentences—and always end with a positive statement about your future together. - Erica McCurdy, McCurdy Solutions Group LLC

6. Gain Clarity On What You Want Out Of Life
During a period of unemployment, I believe the most important thing a professional can work on is getting crystal clear on what they want out of life. Strengthening core values and gaining clarity on goals will lead to greater self-confidence, and someone can then seek a job they want, not just search for another place to clock in and out. - Marc Zalmanoff, Marc Zalmanoff LLC

7. Manage Your Network
Networking is key. Manage your network while you are away from the workforce so it is in place when you are ready to return. Especially with a gap in experience, our network can help to get us noticed for all the right reasons. - Krystal Yates, EBR HR Experts

8. Focus On Personal Growth
A period of unemployment is an opportunity to focus on personal growth. Any professional can benefit from three major areas of personal growth. First, work to understand different communication styles and learn to effectively communicate with each. Second, understand the impact of mindset on your results and create a mind-shift for success. And finally, understand emotional intelligence and cultivate it within. - Lillit Cholakian, NewGen Global Leaders

9. Work To Understand New Norms And Expectations
Embrace the new norms and change that’s ahead. Understand beforehand what the expectations are of you as an individual, what policies have shifted and your role and accountability. In addition to some of the operational pieces, work to upskill yourself in the areas of collaboration and communication to ensure a successful return. - Joshua Miller, Joshua Miller

10. Continue To Follow Industry Advancements
Change comes quickly when you are removed from the industry. It is important to keep up with your industry’s advancements. Continue to read trade journals, participate in webinars and keep in touch with the industry leaders you know. When the opportunity to rejoin the workforce comes, you will likely spend less time catching up and more time making an immediate impact. - Michael Timmes, Insperity

11. Maintain Your Professional Social Media Presence
Don’t disappear completely. You likely have some professional presence on social media—LinkedIn, Twitter and so on. Comment on your network’s posts. Don’t be afraid to chime in when you have something to add to the conversation. Additionally, you’ll keep up with your profession’s goings-on and stay current, which will serve you as you reenter the workforce. - Kim Neeson, Kim Neeson Consultancy

12. Fine-Tune Your Value Proposition
Being “in-between” jobs is an important period for deeper self-reflection and preparation for the envisaged next job opportunity. It is certainly a period for fine-tuning one’s value proposition, closing off any gaps and staying relevant in knowledge, competencies and skills. It’s important to ensure positive-yielding routines during the period and not get derailed or demotivated. - Thomas Lim, Singapore Public Service, SportSG

13. Think About What Worked Well And What Could Have Been Better
A period of unemployment should be an opportunity for self-development and insights, which can help you clarify what is important and how your values feature in your goals. It can be a time to evaluate what worked well and what could have been better; doing so might help you target a position that’s better aligned with who you are and who you want to be, leading to a period of growth and self-confidence. - Remi Adebonojo, RESILIGENT

14. Learn To Communicate Your Unique Value
The professional in between roles needs to have total clarity on who they are as a leader and why they are here on this planet. It is important to communicate these two key value statements to everyone in their network. Rather than looking for a particular role, a professional who can communicate with conviction what they are here to do in their short lives will attract roles that come to them. - Andrew Tallents, The Tallents Partnership Limited

15. Hone Your Skills In A Volunteer Position
What’s stopping you from being on a corporate or volunteer board during this time? Investing your time in a passion play for something meaningful may resonate with a potential employer. Can you afford to gain experience by doing meaningful work (extra bonus if the work sharpens your skills for the next opportunity)? Any employers should be interested, and this should give you an employment boost. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

16. Take Care Of Yourself
Work on the person staring at you in the mirror. Work on yourself—body, mind, and soul. Practice mindfulness and resilience techniques, and be proud of who you are. You’ve got this! - James Hotaling, N2Growth

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