5 Things to do when you’re unemployed. Hint: It’s not job hunting.


Let’s say you get fired, or laid off, or you quit because after two weeks you know you’re at the worst company on the planet. In all of those cases, you will face the interview question: What happened at your last job?

Here’s the answer you should always give: “I left to do x.” And you fill in for x.

Which brings me to what you should be really focusing on when you are unemployed: Learning and growing. Because this is what you are going to talk about in job interviews.

Most people require about six months to get another job. This is a big chunk of time that you can piss away sending resumes to Monster and wondering why no one responds. But you cannot job hunt for eight hours a day. Really. You’ll go nuts. (Wait. Here’s a time-saving job hunt tip from my mom.)

So spend the time creating projects for yourself and executing on them. This is good for you mentally — because you are doing something meaningful with your time and that will keep your spirits up.

But this is also good for you in your job hunt. Because when you talk about why you left the last company, you spin it in a positive light by talking about how you are excited about doing what you are doing. Your interview should include you telling a good story about focused personal growth, and no one will get stuck on why you left your last job. Here are five ways to set that story up:

1. Create a job for yourself. These projects can be wide ranging, but they have to show that you are driven, ambitious and focused. During one stint of unemployment, I worked for free for my boyfriend’s company for a couple of hours a day. That way I didn’t actually have a gap in my resume; a resume doesn’t show part-time or full-time and it doesn’t show pay or no pay. So volunteering at my boyfriend’s company for a couple of hours a day ended up looking like a full-time job on my resume.

2. Focus on ambition and execution and not so much on work per se. Another time I got laid off I spent my days learning to swing dance. I took one or two lessons a day and practiced at night, and after my six months of job hunting, I was good enough to teach dancing just off Broadway. I didn’t put that on my resume, but when people asked me why I left my job, I told them about how I gave myself time to fulfill lofty goals as a swing dancer.

3. Start a blog about the industry you want to go into. Blogging is a great way to keep up in your industry, network without looking desperate, and leverage the fact that you have more time on your hands that people who have jobs. Everyone who is unemployed should be blogging as a way to get their next job. Put your ideas out into the world and connect with people that way. This is why you want to be hired, right? For your ideas. So show them. The reason that people who blog have great careers is that bloggers are always thinking about issues in their industry. Show that side of yourself to people.  You don’t need to worry about the technology — this SiteCreator review should give you confidence.  And here’s my guide for how to start writing.

4. Start a company. Do you have a company idea? Try it now. During unemployment. There’s nothing stopping you. You have time, and you can try ideas to see which one sticks. Also, whether or not your company does well, you’ll be able to talk about it in an interview as a huge learning moment that will deflect from any problems at your last job. The company that never got out of your parent’s basement can sit on your resume as professionally as a stint in the Fortune 500. It’s all about how you write the bullet points: talk about accomplishments and learning.

5. Practice talking about yourself with everyone. High performers practice for interviews. So now you know what you’re aiming for, but you need to talk about it with everyone — parties, at the gym, on the phone with friends. When they ask how you’re doing, talk about what you’re doing like you are in the job interview. And the good news is that the better you get at talking like that, the more you will actually believe your story, the story that being unemployed is lucky because you have learning opportunities.

What’s important to remember here is that no one can tell you what experience you can gain and what you can’t. You don’t need a job in order to learn cool stuff and be on cool projects. You control what you do with your time and you can make it useful. Talk about that. There is no reason to talk about why the last job didn’t work when you can talk about the great things that leaving opened up to you.

203 replies
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  1. Chris Bailey
    Chris Bailey says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m doing exactly what you write here, but this is some of the best advice you’ve given. Got the pink slip at Thanksgiving and it’s been an awesome ride since then. Call it the smack upside the head that I needed to go out and start doing incredible work rather than let my professional life simply become an exercise in sleepwalking. Now, I’m working on building the online community for JobAngels.org and cultivating other partnerships that will help organizations change the way they think of relating to the employees and customers.

    Thanks for being who you are and inspiring folks to get off their rears and start living the work they’re meant to do.


    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Swing dancing was the first thing I thought about. My wife & kids don’t need food or a house. Job HA who needs one, I MUST swing dance!

      • anji8791
        anji8791 says:

        oh i hear ya brother, it makes you want to pull out your hair don’t it? How the wealthy just can’t relate to being out of work? Yea, I have zero money coming in, I’m going to blow money on dance lessons…

  2. Matt Tillotson
    Matt Tillotson says:

    Swing dancing. That one did not enter my consideration set when I was laid off!

    I think the best time to start using social networking tools, whether that’s blogging or Twitter or whatever, is long before you need them to help you. Start helping others and adding value with these tools first. Then, should you need to leverage them to get value back, you’ll be dealing from a position of greater strength, with a growing network and some equity already in place. Start yesterday.

  3. Angie
    Angie says:

    Although I agree with this post in essence and believe wholeheartedly that finding a project or volunteer work is THE way to go during a job search, I disagree with the way that you seem to suggest spinning those experiences. Candidates should be extremely cautious about talking up these projects too much — if they get hired on an oversell, it could make for an incredibly awkward situation. They need to show that they took initiative, remained active, and learned and accomplished new things, but they should not pretend to have gained skills UNLESS they have actually gained the skills.

    P.S. Your poll needs to be updated
    P.P.S. Would you like me to write your polls?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. I would like you to write a poll. Thank you. Please send it to penelope@penelopetrunk.com. And please be interesting.

      Here’s my problem with the poll. I think it’s so fake to put up a poll that I am not genuinely curious about. But all the things I’m curious about don’t seem to fit into poll format.

      Blah. Help.


    • amanda
      amanda says:

      Wow, I was laid off yesterday as well. It’s amazing to see how many people are out of work. I’m trying to decide which avenue I want to pursue now that I have an open schedule. Thanks for the great advice!

  4. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Maybe your new poll should be ‘what do YOU do when you’re unemployed?’

    Here are mine:

    1. Lose weight. Yes, really. All those things you gripe about not having time to do when you have a full-time job, like exercising and eating right, you have plenty of time to do now. Bonus: confidence boost and better presentation that will pay off in interviews.

    2. Forget starting a blog about the industry you want to get into. Go get an internship. I was interested in the music industry, so got in touch with a local record label and asked them for an internship. (I was in my 30s.) Because of my age and experience, I definitely stood out from all the college kids. And then they hired me. Moral: don’t sit around and think about stuff when you can actually do stuff.

    3. Indulge in a hobby. This is somewhat similar to your “ambition” point above, but I mean a real hobby, not necessarily something that will earn you a living. A while ago, between jobs, I picked up pottery painting. I loved it so much, I ended up getting a part-time job at the studio just to have painting time. Met a lot of interesting people at the studio, too. You never know where life will lead, so follow ALL avenues, not just vocational ones.

    4. Volunteer. Do something for charity. Now that you’ve got a little downtime, it’s a good time to give back. You never know when you or someone you care about will need to be on the receiving end. Pay it forward.

    5. Do nothing. For god’s sake, get some rest while you can. Chances are your unemployment, even in These Tough Economic Times [tm], willbe shorter than you think. Sleep. Veg out. Work on your tan. Take the vacation you never took. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Enjoy yourself a little.

    • Allison
      Allison says:

      #2) Internship – I applied to a number of companies for internships, both advertised and cold-calling, and was told that there are tax obstacles to taking on an intern who is not a F/T college student. Does it vary by state (I am in MA)? It’s virtually impossible to get an entry level job in the industry I want without an internship.

    • Andrea
      Andrea says:

      Hey Allison – I’m in MA too, so apparently it’s possible to do it. It might depend on the # of hours they have you work, not sure. They do realize they don’t have to pay you, right? :)

      • Allison
        Allison says:

        Yeah, that’s how I tried to sell myself, as unpaid labor! I wonder if it had to do with the size of the companies (<25 employees), or maybe they get a tax credit for college students. Thank you for replying, an internship is definitely still something I would do (I just got a job but it’s not in the field I want).

      • Heather Maietta
        Heather Maietta says:

        It is possible to get an internship without being a college student. Some companies are interested in f/t students because they are not required by law to pay them for their time. Perhaps this is the reason for your rejection? Maybe approach the company suggesting a volunteer internship or experience where you can learn about the industry and infuse your expertise into the organization.

    • Ashurbanipal
      Ashurbanipal says:

      I really like your #2 Andrea… This week i’m definitely going to go to a business that interests me and attempt to get an internship

    • Adjoa
      Adjoa says:

      I have to say, I like your idea about getting an internship. That is tremendous, especially when you find you actually have the time now. I just shot off two emails to firms for an internship placement. I pray I get one soon…who doesn’t want to give out FREE work.

      But I wouldn’t neglect blogging. Instead, having the two (interning and blogging about that) embrace one another sounds swell!

    • Sebastian
      Sebastian says:

      I am unemployed and have been since November and I have to say that you put up some pretty good points. I have some ideas that I would love to make happen, but I’m broke and have nowhere to start. I guess that receiving a little help would work and I’ve always wanted to help people and make people feel happy. One of these days I would really love to go back to school for the degree I really want in the field I’ve always loved and wanted to do. I believe everyone has to start somewhere.

  5. Dallas
    Dallas says:

    You have lived one of the coolest lives. I love reading your stories about your past risks, adventures and successes. I also appreciate how honest you are about your failures and missteps. This post in particular was really inspiring to me.

    I’m working now, but I’m using every spare minute I have to build my own company and pursue my personal dreams. The around-the-clock schedule means less time for things such as obsessively watching the Food Network and leafing through magazines, but those are things I should probably do without anyways!

    Thank you, Penelope.

  6. Allison
    Allison says:

    It has taken me exactly six months to find a job. I start my new job on Monday. While unemployed I worked on writing projects, started a blog, and traveled. I would talk about those things during job interviews. My experience was that interviewers understood how scarce jobs are right now and were not put off my the gap in my employment history, but interested in what I could do for myself when left to my own devices. The best thing is that I am coming to see that the blogging, writing etc. is my “real” job, which I will continue to do while I’m working and after I’ve moved on from this position (of course I’m not telling my employer that).

    And thanks for changing back to a serif font. Much better.

  7. Megan
    Megan says:

    Thanks Penelope! All wonderful suggestions for that weird transition time…especially when still figuring out what to do with my life. I’m planning on volunteering at various places to get a better idea of what suits me, as well as explore hobbies I haven’t had time to while working (all after taking a nice, long vacation!).

  8. gregcnorca*AT*aim
    gregcnorca*AT*aim says:

    This is good advice about not taking a 100% onslaught to Monster.com and job boards, and more so letting the game come to you.

    American life is changing rapidly and it has to be accepted. If you are among the lucky people that dont have change forced on you, it’s a nice feeling. But there will be millions that are foreced to find new and totaly different priorities rather than living for the old ones.

    Make the most of change if at all possible because freedom can come in unexpected ways.

  9. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)
    Kristin T. (@kt_writes) says:

    I’m a freelancer writer, so I’m never unemployed, exactly, but there’s certainly a feast or famine nature to freelancing. A couple of years ago, right after getting married and spending a ton of money on a fabulous honeymoon trip, I unexpectedly lost my biggest client. For about four months I had almost no billable work.

    It was a bit nerve-wracking, financially, but to keep myself occupied, I started devoting several hours each day to something I’ve always wanted to do–I started my blog and put together a book proposal. Now, when I look back, I’m so glad that client decided they couldn’t afford me any more. That time was like a gift–one that’s changed my life in really significant ways.

  10. Anca
    Anca says:

    I have a good list of things I’d like to be doing now that I’m unemployed. But lately I just can’t seem to work up the motivation to change out of my pajamas and get off the computer. I’m becoming stuck because of boredom and a wide-open schedule. The only time I get things done is on days when I have some other activity scheduled.

  11. Paula Thornton
    Paula Thornton says:

    Job, schmob. I like what Marshall McLuhan said in 1967:
    “You can’t have jobs. You can only have roles.”
    “A job is a specialist activity with a fixed boundary… So jobs are out.”

  12. Mark F..
    Mark F.. says:

    Penelope add two more bullets – 6 & 7:
    6. temp – thats right temping is a way to try different things, keep your skills up, and be positioned to go f/t if things get better.

    7. Volunteer – you sort of covered this but expand on what you do, how you give back…it’s also a great way to meet people in different fields that could be your next introduction to the elusive job!

    Finally hit the gym or the road to stay in shape and reduce stress…if you don’t have $ for an expensive place, put on a pair of sneakers and walk or jog, bicycle, use the old treadmill in the basement, hit the tennis courts…whatever you can do….finding a job takes energy, and you need to look your best and have the energy for a marathon vs a sprint (not just your clothes, or make up but your physical being)…
    P, sorry if I am a broken record on this but as the head of HR for a major corp I talk to tons of people looking for work and I know what makes a difference…
    Hope this helps someone in their journey!!!

  13. ABCs of Investing
    ABCs of Investing says:

    This is a great post – I haven’t been unemployed in 15 years (crosses fingers) but I still have regrets over the time I wasted when I was unemployed before that time. And what a horrible interviewee I was – just awful – no wonder I couldn’t get a job.

  14. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    Very useful post. Thank you. It was gratifying to see that I’d followed these suggestions, although I have to work on practicing the interview part while in conversations. Somehow I have to get past the idea that starting my own craft/vermicomposting business is not legitimate enough to promote. Depending on how I present it, people do show interest. Starting a blog, a homebased business and developing a product were all huge learning curves and required the time I had available after I quit my job in July. Now these projects have some momentum and a bit of a routine, which is great, since I’m slowly getting parttime work in my field. The time off rejuvenated my energy and interest for my work, and I still get to do my projects.

  15. rainie
    rainie says:

    This is good advice. I was laid off in November and spent December in a continuous wave of panic. In January, I got contract work that may soon lead to a full time position. I haven’t spent my time as wisely as I could have.

    I have gotten really good at being interviewed – I used to get really nervous and my lips would stick to my teeth. My anxiety level is definitely tied to how much I would like to do the job for which I’m interviewing. I think since I have not gotten to interview for jobs I would really enjoy, I’ve been much more relaxed.

  16. 8020 Financial
    8020 Financial says:

    This is a genuinely helpful post Penelope. I’m certain it will encourage a lot of unemployed people.
    I must admit I have mixed feelings about a lot of your other stuff, particularly when you’re mean spirited (e.g. the Tim Ferriss post), but you really nailed it with this one.

  17. Heather Maietta
    Heather Maietta says:

    Informational interviewing or field research is another great way to make use of your time. You are able to have a detailed, focused conversation with a person in your industry of interest, it allows you to gain visibility with people who have the power to hire you, and it is a great way to get out of the house, which we all know is terribly difficult when you’re unemployed. Most employers are enthusiastic about informational interivewing because they can essentially talk about themselves the whole time, and who doesn’t enjoy that, right!

  18. Marianne
    Marianne says:

    Awesome! Love that post.

    I always encourage my (career coaching) clients to do things that don’t involve job hunting. Most think I’m bonkers at first but soon come round… thanks for the backup!

  19. eliz
    eliz says:

    This is why people love you (and love to take shots at you) – €“ practical, progressive and inspiring advice. (And written just for me, it would seem.) I have already started the blog, and I’m already researching my business. For those who find themselves un- or underemployed, success will be determined by how they spent their time.

  20. Liz
    Liz says:

    This is one of your best posts ever. Insight like this is the reason I always come back. Most people just don’t think through things, and won’t allow themselves to be honest. This IS the way it works.

    Is it possible for you to post a spin on this with tips on ways to keep up with all of these important skill and image boosters when you have no time because you are scrambling at a job that, although it pays the bills, adds nothing special to your resume? It’s easy to say, ‘I’m just lucky to have a job,” but I can feel professional opportunities slipping away one exhausted night and missed networking event at a time.

  21. geri
    geri says:

    I think another point is get in touch with old friends, family, or make new friends and build up a support system. As someone who has been unemployed for quite some time and single and pet free it’s very lonely spending days upon days in front of a computer, or in bed as someone else mentioned. Even networking for work, you forget how to be friends with people. I realized quickly that I need social interaction…even if it’s just a phone conversation and someone to talk out loud to everyday! Some days I want to panic and fret about not having a job, and I need to hear from someone else that I need to chill because life inside my head is much more insane than reality.

    I would love a post on how to job search on the job boards and success stories of people who’ve actually found a job on monster/careerbuilder/yahoo jobs/indeed/beyond….etc etc…So many times I have visited these sites to be faced with 50 sham or shady jobs to every 1 “normal” job posting. I particularly am discouraged by the job postings that require the jobsearcher to visit another site that is fee based. An example, PR Crossing or the plethora of direct marketing and telemarketing job postings. Why do they not have their own category? Craigslist is user monitored so many of the bad job postings get flagged, but what about the aforementioned sites? Who regulates these postings? And how is applying through these sites more effective or not as effective as dealing directly with the company or HR department? Not really complaining, just a frequent thought in my head. Thanks!

  22. Jim B
    Jim B says:

    Great post with lots of totally practical advice.

    I’m working through a slow search process and agree that 8hrs a day searching on the big job boards is very draining.

    I learned to expand my network by doing a couple of small, free assignments for someone who was starting a very interesting company. There was no full time role for my skill set but I managed to tap in to the CEO’s network and 3 months later I’m getting regular networking meetings as a result of the relationship.

    I agree that a job search is unfortunately a slow process and I’m not there with an offer yet, but I really think its about accepting that it will take time and developing any type of productive activities in the interim.

  23. Craig
    Craig says:

    I enjoy reading your blog even more now because you used the word “piss,” as in “piss away.” You gave me a laugh, and you give us all a nice dose of realism.

  24. Martha Finney
    Martha Finney says:

    I LOVE the idea of launching a project.In my own blog and book, I’ve written about how to increase your A Player status when you’re between jobs, and I always recommend assigning yourself a white paper on some aspect of your profession or industry. This way not only are you keeping your brain in good working order from the exercise, but having a white paper project also gives you a legitimate reason to reach out to people you’d love to meet in order to interview them.

    Your gap-time is a precious opportunity to grow yourself beyond your past job description. I don’t agree, however, that you soft-shoe yourself around the issue of being laid off. If you have been laid off and must now address that issue with a potential hiring manager, be real about it. Keep your head held high. This is the era of the no-fault layoff, and any hiring manager who would look down at you for having been let go is someone who doesn’t deserve you. Better you should know *before* you say yes to a job offer that that person has a screw loose!

    Fab blog Penelope!! Would love to connect with you!

  25. Jeffrey
    Jeffrey says:

    Excellent post, especially like the mention that job hunting for 8 hours a day will make you go nuts. When I talk with candidates it is good to hear that they have pursued other interests while unemployed and your idea of volunteering time to prevent gaps in your resume is excellent advice.

    I had a candidate that who spent his time off getting scuba certification and being a scuba instructor; which he put on his resume. He didn’t get the job because he didn’t keep his business skills up to date while doing scuba instruction. I applauded him for being active but then suggested that he balance his time between personal passions and maintaining marketable skills in his chosen industry.

    Again really liked this post!

  26. Alexandra
    Alexandra says:

    Thank you! This is a fantastic post. I am a free-lance writer who’s had some downtime and I started teaching classes on journal writing. It’s great for developing public speaking skills for me and a public service for others. I also highly recommend Toastmasters as a place to develop professional public speaking skills in a warm and supportive setting for an extremely reasonable price.

  27. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Excellent post — the part about working at a part-time job for no pay was particularly good. I never thought about it, but having something to fill in that gap with will definitely set you aside from the other applicants. Volunteering can do a similar job.

    After I got laid off, I found that http://www.freeagentnet.com was a good place to get started figuring out what to do with myself. Most of the sites online cater to either job hunting or hard-core networking, but this is the only one designed as a place for unemployed people to go to figure out what to do with themselves during the unemployment time. It’s not a substitute for something like like http://www.linkedin.com, but rather, an additional place where you can meet people more informally and swap tips, and stuff.

    I’m hoping that my time in the [figurative] unemployment line isn’t too long, but your tips are great in the meantime!

  28. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    Wow: a lot of the reasons I was really excited about being laid off are on your list. So I’m glad to see that I’m on the right track! Thanks for the boost in confidence! (and PS: I love swing dancing!)

  29. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This is very useful information. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what to do if you are laid off…and have a small child/children at home. For me (and many others, I imagine), being laid off would likely mean not being able to afford my full-time babysitter anymore. I’m not sure that my next career is likely to have to do with full-time childcare, but being home with a toddler all day doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for much else.


    • Robin
      Robin says:

      Good question, Sarah! Just what I was wondering as well! Most of the advice re: job hunting seems geared for those who are not–either by choice or by necessity/circumstance–primary caregivers of children (and I guess this could be the case for caregivers of adults, too).

      It’s really hard to network your way into a job, or find a job in any other way, when you’re home with an infant and 2 preschoolers (who need constant attention/supervision, sometimes don’t nap, or don’t nap at the same time–which leaves you no kid-free time to devote to a job search–and continually interrupt job-hunting efforts) and you:
      a) don’t have friends or relatives available to babysit
      b) don’t have $ to hire a babysitter or even a mommy’s helper, let alone pay for hours at a daycare center
      c) don’t have a car because your husband has the family car to get to and from work, as he can’t take public transportation, and works hours that make carpooling difficult; and if there’s no $ for a sitter, there’s no $ for another car!
      d) can’t really take public transportation. (Ever try to ride a bus with more than 1 child (younger than 5), without car seats or even seat belts?)

      I’d like to see a blog post or article addressing THESE issues!

  30. Nick Schmidt
    Nick Schmidt says:

    I think there are some cost in this “5 Things”..I’m not being critical of your post because I’m unemployed right now, but I used to be an accountant & have my bachelors in accounting too. So my accounting side is coming out.

    1. Create a job for yourself.
    Yea not really many costs here.. But it depends what you do. Sounds like this could be retitled to: Volunteering.

    2. Focus on ambition and execution and not so much on work per se.
    This makes sense but in your example it mentions a dance lesson. Well that cots money unless you know the instructor and they give it to you free.

    3. Start a blog about the industry you want to go into.
    Yes you can do you own blog for free with blogger and others. However you need a computer & the internet. Both cost money. Unless you use the computer & internet at a local library. Yes, some businesses has free wifi, but you still need a computer to be able to use the internet.

    4. Start a company. There are tons of costs to starting up your new company, but it depends on what type of good or service you are going to develop. Should a list the great list of costs with this?

    5. Practice talking about yourself with everyone. This is actually probably the only one free unless you have a phone. It’s only free when you talk face to face..

  31. bilbo
    bilbo says:

    Yeah, I was thinking of starting a Texas Holdem Company. I’d play Texas Holdem at the local casino and then try and incorporate the logic I see used into a software program. Then use the software program for training purposes.

  32. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    “But you cannot job hunt for eight hours a day. Really.”

    I must respectfully disagree. When you have a job, you are working for someone else. When you don’t have a job you are working for yourself. Why should you put out less than a 100% effort for yourself?

    No, you won’t spend forty hours a week mailing resumes and going to interviews. You will also dig up information on potential employers on the web and/or at your local library. You will network — not just through LinkedIn or the teeny-bopper web sites, but at real, live meetings of your professional association. (You don’t belong to one? Why on earth don’t you?)

    In my case, I was once unemployed for a seven week stretch that seemed like an eternity. My local section of the American Chemical Society was an invaluable source of information and job-hunting resources. I met people and learned of job openings I never would have found any other way.

    If you take a part-time job, fill the rest of the forty or fifty hour week with your hunt for a full-time job.

    So yes, you can job-hunt 8 or 9 or 10 hours a day. Don’t give yourself less than a full effort.

  33. some guy
    some guy says:


    This is mostly good advice, but as mentioned, much of the activity takes money–dance classes, commuting costs for all that volunteering, etc. Unpaid internships are for the rich and the upper middle class- not working class folk. In my case, I do not have any income- no unemployment insurance, any cash, any car, or much more than a sofa at a friend’s house and an internet connection.

    Of course I am doing more than just posting resumes–also doing some online and offline networking. Job searching is a slow, soul-destroying process for me because I do not have the contacts that the middle class and wealthy do. The job search is nothing close to a meritocracy- it keeps the wealthy and connected employed, and that’s about it. Try keeping your mood up when you can’t pay your bills or “enjoy” your unemployment. People with money call it a ‘sabbatical’.

    • Jim C.
      Jim C. says:

      There’s a lot to what you are saying. Actually, unpaid internships are for people who can sponge off their parents as well as for the rich.
      But something in the way you worded your comments suggests there’s a load of self-pity there too. People at interviews can sense that, and they cross your name off the list.

    • Erica Stratton
      Erica Stratton says:

      At the moment I’m about in the same boat you are. Hardly any money, sleeping on a sofa with an internet connection, etc. But I found a couple ways to get around:

      1. Is there a bus system where you are? Buses suck and take twice as long to get you places as a car, but mine costs only a buck per ride.

      2. Mooch off of friends. Do any of your friends have cars who would be willing to help you out, take you to volunteer or network? If they’re looking for jobs too, you can form a kind of “job search carpool”.

  34. Cherie
    Cherie says:

    This is great advice, because when someone gets fired they sometimes panic and jump at the next job that comes along just to fill their time. Just like during after the breakup of a relationship, it takes some time to move on from a job loss! The power of small is what works in a situation like this. Take some time, do some things to fill your time so you aren’t OBSESSED with a new job, and you will have an easier time finding the right job next time around.

  35. Maryellen
    Maryellen says:

    I’ve often had folks tell me they’re going to take a lesser role. I urge them to take a more junior role in a different career. You’ll learn new skills but can call it a break and step back into your current career at the same level more easily. One time that I was unemployed I worked at a gift shop. It barely paid what unemployment paid, but it was worth it. I had always dreamed of opening a gift shop. Working there got it out of my system. (I loved the shop and the Saturday hustle, didn’t like the Tuesday dusting and cardboard boxes.)

    I took some of your earlier advice and started the blog. I have so many ideas yet find myself hesitating to get them out there. It really is work. I needed that push. Thanks.

  36. Brian
    Brian says:

    It’s like you’re talking to me =) I had wanted to get into the ergonomics business for a while. Company downsizing gave me the opportunity to focus on it full time with an ecommerce store. It’s been very exciting as my learning curve was resuscitated from it’s flat line state at my old job. I already knew a lot about ergonomics, but the business aspect of finding partners and putting everything together has been intensely enjoyable.

    As I do still plan on taking another regular job at some point, I would be interested to hear more details about how to list such an experience on your resume in a way that doesn’t oversell it, but still makes it look legitimate.

  37. Daniel Durazo
    Daniel Durazo says:

    Wow, what great suggestions, thanks Penelope.

    I thought you might be interested to know that we’ve started a new show at SmallPlateRadio.com called Job Search Radio. Each Monday at 1pm eastern (11am pacific), we feature guests who are experts in the art and science of finding a job. Listen live and participate by submitting questions or download the podcast for listening later or on the go.


  38. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    If you have an internet connection you can work writing articles for internet marketers. Look on elance, craigslist etc.

  39. Joel
    Joel says:

    Penelope, i swear you have the best blog i have ever read. It has seriously changed my life for the better, for that I thank you

  40. Craig
    Craig says:

    I agree with the comment above. I found you through a link one day. For someone who just survived our company’s first wave of layoffs and had to take ta 10% pay cut, you have now become a daily “must.” I visit you every day, along with Freelance Folder and FreelanceSwitch. Thanks and please keep up the great work.

  41. Elizabeth Pagano
    Elizabeth Pagano says:

    Or make a sabbatical out of your time off so you’ll have “good stories” and “personal growth” to talk about. Or work for a company that will pay for your next sabbatical – like McDonalds. http://tiny.cc/rx39l. Thanks, Penelope. I think you’re amazing.

  42. Mike Miller
    Mike Miller says:

    Creating a Job is easier said than done. Some People have families and need to pay rent and other everyday stuff. So what are they doing when they got laid off??? One of my friends used a Video Resume and had never gotten a Job faster than using that kind of feature. There are several web sites out there like http://www.mayomann.com or http://www.visualcv,com which allow to add that feature. As far as his experience goes…. that rocks.

    What do you think?? A go or a no?

  43. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    This is great but also remember that there is extra down time, I am doing all of the five things you mention but I spend some of my time giving back to the community by volunteering.

  44. tanya
    tanya says:

    ugh – this post is like a kick in the butt. I did start a blog about a month ago and also did pick up some other temporary work and skills, but being basically unemployed for over a year and a half has left me totally depressed and 20 pounds heavier. How do I get back on the bandwagon? I am a highly educated woman whose skills were more useful for Washington, DC, but had to move to another city for personal reasons. No one here gives a fig about my previous experience or knows what to do with it. I feel like I have lost some of the most precious work years of my life (no kids, under 30). Help!!

  45. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I am currently trying to update my resume. I have hit a stumbling block and not sure what to do. I live in Alexandria, Virginia and not worked in two years. The last job I had was working as a Freelance Subcontractor at Voice of America. I was only paid for two months but had quite a bit of training. The responsibities I had were operating cameras either remotely or manually in a studio there. I was paid by a company called ITI. I am not sure how to put this on my resume, whether to put it as just Freelance Subcontractor or add the ITI part to it as well. Another thing, do I list the months I was paid or do I include the months I was trained as well. I never can remember. The time in between I plan on telling about my activity in my local church and volunteering I have done at a local public radio station near my apartment. Any advice would be a great help. Thanks.

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