Though the unemployment rate has dropped to 9 percent (whew!), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average length of unemployment is at an all time high of nine months. Regardless of how long you're out of work, Lauren Milligan, a job-search coach with ResuMAYDAY, says one thing is certain: "When you do secure an interview, one of the first questions you'll be asked is what you've been doing during your recent unemployment." Don't sweat it. We've rounded up some top career experts to share their best tips for building your resume even while you're not officially working.
Assess your marketability
Certified career coach Cheryl Palmer recommends evaluating your skills to see if you're maintaining a competitive edge. If not, put this time to good use. "Attending professional association meetings can bring you up to speed with what's new and what's hot in your field. If you don't know the latest software, now is a good time to take a short course," Palmer advises.
If you lack specific skills or simply want to learn something new, Roy Cohen, author of 'The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide,' recommends exploring resources and options that are available for training through your state's Department of Labor. "Lots of money has been set aside for this purpose and [the support is] free," he says.
Learn project management
Debra Yergen, author of 'The Creating Job Security Resource Guide,' says, "If you want to make yourself more marketable in 30 days, figure out a way to chair an educational event at a local hospital." The time spent organizing can add valuable project management experience to your resume and dramatically increases your value to a future employer. Yergen says the need is great. "Due to state and federal funding changes in 2010 and 2011, almost every hospital is short-staffed when it comes to their education and marketing departments." It's a win-win.
Leverage your expertise
Richard Deems, co-author of 'Make Job Loss Work for You,' suggests putting what you do know to work by teaching a class or writing articles for your local business journal or regional periodicals. Sharon Blaivas, a career coach for www.ShakeUpMyResume.com, adds, "Contact a local school, library, or community organization and offer to prepare a presentation or panel discussion with other professionals."
Volunteer for a worthy cause
As executive director for the nonprofit Step Up Women's Network, Jenni Luke has seen former volunteers transition to full-time paid positions. Luke says, "Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding and lead you to meet people you may never have connected with otherwise." It's best if the volunteer work also happens to be aligned with your passion and expertise for your professional industry.
However, if you decide to shift the direction of your career, Cohen points out that offering to work for free as an apprentice or intern helps get a foot in the door. But, he says, be prepared to justify why you'd be willing to work for free and how your "employer" will stand to benefit.
Network, network, network
In addition to your LinkedIn connections, Artie Lynnworth, author of 'Slice the Salami: Tips for Life and Leadership,' says volunteering is another way to network within professional organizations. The bonus, he says, "is a chance to stay connected to the industry group while networking, and be seen as a helpful person." Lynnworth notes that organizing speakers provides great access to high-powered and influential individuals, as does working with the industry group leaders, committee people and organizers.
Next: The Ultimate Guide to Resumes