7 tips on how to boost your career while being unemployed

boost your career while unemployed
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So many people have literally been forced to watch their entire worlds collapse around them over the past year. Jobs have been lost, cars repossessed, school fees and rent payments missed. And the worst part is there does not seem to be any end in sight, in fact even as I write this, there are discussions about the “Third Wave” hitting South Africa in the near future. I did not even realize we had finished the second one.

One of the biggest problems people are facing, especially those that have been retrenched, is that it has never been more difficult to find a new job than it is currently. The broad problem is that the pool of job seekers is currently just so massive, and employers are able to pick the best of the best for any available positions. One wrong move and the hiring manager simply moves on to the next candidate, that’s of course if you are lucky enough to get through to the interview stage of course.

Keep your job search on track

I recently came across a lovely article with 7 great tips on how to boost your professional career while being unemployed. Because of the current situation in South Africa, I thought many of you might find the article quite interesting. I have summarised the 7 tips for you below, however, if you are interested in reading the full article you can do so on hellogiggles.com

Please also remember that if you are struggling with keeping motivated during this difficult time you can check out these two motivational articles;

  1. Motivational quotes for your job search
  2. Motivational job search playlist

Anyway, let’s get into the 7 job search tips

1. Give yourself a break.

For those who have never experienced sustained unemployment, giving yourself a break may seem like a strange piece of advice. But for those of us familiar with the high emotions, stress, and amount of time generated from constant job applications (aka job-seeker burnout), it’s perhaps the most important tip of all.

According to Isabel Sachs, founder of creative career platform I Like Networking, taking the pressure off yourself is vital for the process. “First, know you’re not alone, and second, take a break,” she says. “If you are constantly applying to lots of jobs and not getting anywhere, it’s a sign that your strategy is wrong. It’s best to select a few jobs to apply to and really work on them. It takes time and it’s painful, but you won’t be able to succeed if you’re totally run down.”

Sachs suggests to those who are unemployed to start their job hunt with a total reset day. “Don’t apply to anything for a day, go for a walk if possible and ask yourself, What do I do well? What do I enjoy doing? How would I like my workday to be?” she explains. “The next day, when looking for jobs, make sure they fit at least 60 percent of all of that [criteria].” For Sachs, it was this time-off approach after she lost her own job—spending “a few weeks of [watching] Netflix and crying”—that led to her realizing her own career dreams and setting up her new company.

2. Give your CV a total overhaul.

A changing pandemic-era workforce calls for a totally new approach to CV writing. Amanda Augustine, the resident career expert for TopCV, TopResume, and TopInterview knows a thing or two about wowing hiring managers. She refers to a 2018 study by TopResume, which shows that the most impressive résumés do three things: presents a compelling career narrative, strikes a visual balance, and illustrates a candidate’s value, each with your specific career goal in mind.

“Employers want to see more than a timeline of your education and experience,” she explains. “They want your résumé to read like a story, explaining why you’re qualified for the job you want. Instead of listing everything you’ve ever done or learned, emphasize the details that support your current job goals and downplay or omit those that don’t.”

Augustine also suggests offering proof of your qualifications by including “specific examples, figures, or case studies that illustrate your abilities. Wherever possible, quantify your contributions and achievements to show the value you’ve created for your past employers.” However, if your roles don’t do this for some reason, Augustine says to focus on showing the person who is reading your résumé that you’re good at what you do. “For example, if you were a waitress, did you get the busiest section, or were you asked to train new employees? What wouldn’t get done if you didn’t show up to work for a few days? What balls would get dropped?” she says.

It’s not only the content you need to think about, but also how your résumé looks is equally as important. “When it comes to the design of your résumé, less is truly more,” Augustine notes. “Avoid custom formats and elaborate designs that make it harder for employers to find the information they care about. Stick to a clean, consistent layout that makes it easy for readers to quickly skim your résumé and understand your career story.” This is also the case for creative jobs, for which Augustine suggests saving your design skills for your online portfolio, which should always be linked at the top of your résumé.

Free CV templates for South Africans

3. Network.

Both experts and job seekers say that networking is invaluable, especially in lockdown and with an overcrowded job market. After all, it’s that all-important human connection that helps you stand out. LinkedIn is your best friend here: Make sure that it’s completely filled out, up to date, and matches your CV. Set yourself as “open to work,” engage with others whose careers you admire, and post updates. You never know who you’ll connect with or the opportunities it could lead to.

4. Find a job hunt buddy.

The experts also suggest finding a job hunt buddy. “The job search can be incredibly lonely,” Augustine notes. “Partnering with someone in a similar position can make the journey more manageable. By checking in with one another on a weekly basis and sharing information, you’re automatically doubling your job-search efforts and resources.” This can also keep you on track when motivation is low, especially when you make those weekly chats fun with drinks and snacks.

5. Think outside of work.

As much as improving yourself professionally is important, what makes us most attractive as employees is our personal interests and skills, aka what makes us unique. For recent graduate Issy Aldridge, unemployment has led to a totally new voluntary project and skill set, working as a web and social editor for That Fangirl Life podcast. “Everything I’m doing with the podcast in terms of community management, marketing, and social media is directly related to the field I’m hoping to move into,” she explains. “I’m creating content for our Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn channels as well as working on the website, which we hope to launch around May of 2021. At the moment, this is all unpaid work, but the subject of fandom is something I’m so passionate about.”

Aside from professional improvement, personal projects can also do wonders for our self-esteem and motivation levels. Kaarlo tells me that her “passion project”—setting up a website and writing to creatively express herself—helped her get up and out of bed on days when the job hunt forced her down. “Producing content that was meaningful to me gave me a sense of purpose and pride, and I think it’s ultimately what led me to have more confidence and land my new job,” she says.

6. Structure your time.

Structuring your time is key, especially without the familiar order of a normal workday to keep you in check. Charli Kabe, who has been unemployed since March 2019, finds that sticking to a “normal” workweek helps. “I ‘work’ Monday to Friday. No applications or job hunt-related stuff on the weekends. This helps to monitor the passing of time,” she tells me. “I also set small goals to structure my time; three job applications a week [can] build up. No matter how desperately you want to get back into work, setting unrealistic goals will hinder you in the long run.”

Alternatively, Scott suggests breaking up your day into smaller slots. “I ‘chunked’ my day down into two-hour slots, which helped me to not feel too overwhelmed. This routine—mixed in with regular breaks to meet friends for a walk or an online workout—gave me a purpose each day, especially after a few weeks into lockdown,” she says.

7. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

All practical advice aside, the most important message from experts and job seekers alike is not to be too hard on yourself. You are, after all, looking for work during an extraordinary time—it just might mean you have to change your career plans for the moment, think outside the box to set yourself apart, or learn to deal with excessive questioning from friends and family.

“My advice would be simply to remember that at the moment, everything is just pretty shit,” Alridge says. “There are so many people out of work and looking for jobs that it’s important to remember that rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection of your personal skills. You might be amazing in your field, but just might not be what that company, in particular, is looking for and that’s okay. The phrase ‘rejection is redirection’ is one I am loving right now!”


I hope you enjoyed these 7 job search tips as much as I did. They are great pieces of advice that if put into action will most definitely make a difference to your job search. Just remember to maintain a positive attitude and set realistic expectations.

Good luck out there guys! And please let me know in the comments below what you thought about these 7 tips.

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