During a career transition, you may find that you can be more flexible with your time than you were before. While you should continue to make finding a new opportunity your priority, there are also many valuable ways to enhance that search by using your time wisely. Here are a few options:

Volunteering: Volunteering is a great way to build connections, learn new skills and make valuable contributions while job searching.There are several benefits. During interviews, you can discuss the new skills you have developed and the experiences that you have had while volunteering your time. You may even find your next opportunity through someone you meet while spending time with others in your community. If you are unsure of where to find volunteer opportunities, you can get started by searching the local and global databases at VolunteerMatch.com

There’s proof that those who spend part of their time volunteering actually increase their odds of finding employment. The Corporation for National Community and Service studied more than 70,000 unemployed people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered were 27% more likely to find a job.

The study found that volunteers were able to find jobs more easily because of the time spent increasing their social and human capital. Essentially, the mental challenge, the ability to stay active and improve or gain new skills, and the opportunity to expand their networks made volunteers more marketable as potential candidates.

Becoming active in a professional association: A career transition is an ideal time for joining a professional association. To get started, you can offer to sit on a committee or help with a special project.

This is not to say that you should join a professional association solely for networking purposes. As with volunteering, your intention should be to give back to the community and to foster genuine relationships with the people whom you meet. Remember that networking is a two way street, so don’t show up with a stack of resumes or try to seek out only the “right” people (such as those with hiring power). You can be strategic and try to connect with people related to your industry or search focus, but networking is not about exclusivity. Be genuine, foster relationships with those who seek you out, and remember to give of yourself to others, too. You never know when a good relationship with a professional acquaintance can turn into an unexpected lead or referral.

Developing a new skill: Have you ever considered pursuing a certification? Or perhaps, have you wanted to learn a new language? This is a great time to start taking action on these goals. Adding new skills and professional certifications to your resume can help you bolster your candidacy. Look into local programs that offer funding for unemployed workers to get free or low-cost training or education.

Participating in these activities help you avoid a gap in your resume, add insightful talking points to your next interview, and give you the opportunity to come across valuable networking opportunities. These activities send a clear message to a potential employer that you are someone who remains active and engaged despite a challenging situation–which can help you leave a very positive impression.

24 April 2014

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