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How to Stay Productive While Unemployed

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Three of my passions are creating delicious food in the kitchen, writing, and planning.

I like to browse books for information that is useful to the job-hunting process.

I like to browse books for information that is useful to the job-hunting process.

Long Days at Home

I am used to working, so when I moved to Boston, leaving behind my job of the past three years, I had to deal with being unemployed for a while. At first, the days seemed so long. There was so much I could do, but I wasn't sure where to start. Since then, I have gotten my act together, evaluated where I was and where I wanted to be and figured out what I needed to get done. I am hoping that this article will help those who may not know where to start, or what to do. These are my suggestions, although everyone has different needs.

It is easiest to get things done when you have a workspace set up.

It is easiest to get things done when you have a workspace set up.

What to Do

  1. Set up a workspace, and get organized
  2. Take time to determine your job or career goals for the next one, two, and five years
  3. Make priorities, and evaluate your day
  4. Make a routine, and stick to it
  5. Try to avoid wasting time when you are trying to be productive
  6. Keep track of everything
  7. Prepare your "Job Search Portfolio"
  8. Work on self-assessments, to help you get to know yourself and what you could put into your resume or use in a job interview.
  9. Draft a resume, and tweak it based on what type of jobs you apply to
  10. Be ready to type up a cover letter to go with a resume when the time comes. I spend time browsing books and looking online to view different formats of letters and to give me ideas on how to put together a professional-looking cover letter
  11. I like to be prepared for a job interview, so I start going through a list of possible questions before I even get the call, and answering them the best I can. I like to keep a typed copy of the basic questions and answers, so that when I do get the opportunity to go on an interview, I have something portable to look over beforehand. Another clever suggestion that was made to me was to actually practice answering the questions—either to a friend or family member, or in front of a mirror
  12. Aside from preparing an interview list, it is helpful to prepare for an interview in other ways. Make sure you have clothes that are appropriate. For other tips, check out my article, "Interview Preparation."
  13. You may want to spend time building profiles on job or career sites. Some employment agencies also have sites you can build a profile, including your resume.
  14. Spend time hunting for jobs.
  15. Research companies that interest you.
  16. For a more in-depth look into a certain company or type of job, go on an informational interview.
  17. Research salaries or hourly pay for different jobs you are interested in.
  18. Always be prepared for a phone call, and stay organized so that you will have the information you need.
  19. Turn every job or task into a learning opportunity.
  20. This advice is from Tom Schumacher: Check your credit report.

Set up a Workspace and Get Organized

  • I have a desk with a desktop computer, but any area may work, as long as it involves a seat and a work surface. Maybe a sofa with a coffee table, a chair beside a side table, or else a kitchen table. Even a bed would work for some people, although I would probably doze off if I tried to work on mine.
  • It is ideal to have access to a computer with internet, and a printer. If you don’t have them, career centers or libraries often have ones for the public to use. Those who have laptop computers can be especially flexible, and can even get some of their work done in public places. It’s nice to go to a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a restaurant for a change of scenery. If it is nice outside, you could even go to a park or a beach.
  • Online, make sure you set up an email account, if you don’t already have one. Most places nowadays communicate that way, and many resumes are sent through e-mail. Take care not to create or use an e-mail account with a ridiculous or unprofessional address or user name if you plan on using it for the job search.
  • A telephone is needed, so potential employers can contact you.
  • Stationery and envelopes are good to have on hand. Although many things are done online, there are still reasons to use standard mail (also known as “snail mail”).
  • A system for organizing information and papers: folders in a file system, a binder, or whatever else is your style. Some people may feel more comfortable keeping everything on their computer and organizing virtual files. If you have everything on your computer, you may want to back up the information on a disk or USB flash drive. I organize both on my computer and in a binder. It’s always easy to find what I need to do any type of task.
  • It’s handy to have a notebook to take notes with. I always have paper nearby, in case I need to jot something down. I also have a composition book that I use to record details of my job search or write down ideas of companies or job types that I am interested in researching.
  • An address book or log is handy to keep track of the information you might need.

Daily Prioritizing and Evaluating

In the morning, consider your priorities by asking yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish today?
  • What do I need to do to accomplish this?
  • How long will this task realistically take?

At night, evaluate your day by asking yourself:

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Did I waste any time? Doing what? What could I do to avoid this in the future?
  • Did I achieve a work/life balance? If not, how could I improve it tomorrow?
  • Is there anything that I didn't accomplish today that I would like to add to tomorrow's list?

Time Wasters

It is good to take a break to do something fun every once in a while, or to wind down after a long day, but during periods you want to be productive, be careful of the following time-wasters:

  1. Playing games
  2. Browsing through music
  3. Browsing the internet aimlessly for news, articles, entertainment, or blogs
  4. Social sites. It is so easy to pop in with the intention of only checking messages and statuses, and before you know it, an hour has flown by!
  5. Checking your e-mail excessively. I have been there. Going through my e-mails can be time-consuming, and when I leave my e-mail logged in and I hear the notification that I have received another e-mail, many times I will stop what I'm doing to check it out!
Time management and goal setting are two great topics to read about.

Time management and goal setting are two great topics to read about.


  • Look into your personality traits, skills and talents, interests, and work values.
  • Determine your "personal brand," which is a summary of important, unchanging attributes, such as work ethic, leadership, honesty, or creativity.
  • What is your professional reputation? Are you reliable? Can you keep information confidential? Are you always on time?
  • Keep in mind that when you get a new job, you have a clean slate, and can turn what used to be a negative part of your reputation around. If you used to be late often, make it a point to be on time. If you were a little grouchy before, be more friendly. You can reinvent yourself at any point in your life, but when you switch jobs it is the easiest time to do it
  • Define your "personal mission statement" and remain focused on it during the job search. You don't want to work at a place that goes against your beliefs and values.

Job Search Portfolio

You'll need to get information together to create important job search documents, such as resumes, job applications, and questionnaires.

  • Employment history: For each company worked for in the past 10 years or so: Company's name, address, phone number, supervisor's name, and whether or not they can be contacted. Your job title and description of responsibilities. Dates and length of time worked there. Amount of pay (starting and ending), salary/hourly.
  • Job Objective or Summary: What you want to do, and where.
  • Key messages: Who are you? What are your skills? Where do you want to work? When and how have you done your best work in the past? Why should (insert company's name) hire you?
  • Achievement stories: Think of times you faced a problem and overcame it. What did you do to resolve the problem, and what were the results of your efforts? How did the company benefit from it?
  • Skills: Everybody has skills. Think of ones that you have used at work, as well as the skills you use in other areas of your life. When you look through lists of possible skills, it is a surprise how many you have gained throughout your life.
  • Personal story: Why do you want to leave your job, or why did you leave your last job?
  • Job and personal references: You will want to spend time thinking about those who could be your job reference, if you don't already know. You may also want to contact them to let them know they are (or ask them to be) one of your references.
  • Certification: This would include degrees or academic honors, technical skill certification, awards from an employer, or even membership in a professional group.
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Read More From Toughnickel

Job Hunting Websites

There are many places to look for jobs:

  • Newspapers
  • Recruiters
  • Employment/Temp Agencies
  • Internet: job search sites, company sites, state or government job sites, using key words in a search engine, or the employment section on social sites, or classified sites
  • Career fairs
  • Career centers
  • Networking: a friend, family member or acquaintance may know of a job that could be a possibility for you
  • Community bulletin boards
  • Call or visit companies directly, and ask about employment opportunities

Learning Opportunities

  • Is there anything you can do to increase or update your skills?
  • Learn new computer programs.
  • Improve your typing skills.
  • If you're not very organized, it could be a great time to gain or enhance the skill.
  • Take classes at a local college, or take an online course.
  • Take advantage of free resources at your local career center, YMCA, community college, or library. There are many opportunities out there.
  • Maybe this would be a good time to devote some of your time volunteering. You can learn a lot.
  • Enhance your writing skills by starting a blog, or writing online. I joined HubPages while unemployed, and it has given me more experience typing, writing articles, and researching, as well as providing a creative outlet to express myself. It also helps me to feel less alone.
  • Take up a new hobby or interest. There are so many ways to learn. Check out books from the library, or look online for opportunities. There are some free classes online. Recently I started taking a beginner course on coding, and that has been illuminating! Who knows where your new skills could come in handy?
  • I used some of my free time to browse through books on different subjects, including ones on writing, job-hunting, and creating resumes and cover letters.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Kathryn (author) from Windsor, Connecticut on March 06, 2015:


That is very true! Self assessment is valuable way beyond the process of looking for a job. Thanks for reading and commenting, and have a wonderful weekend.

~ Kathryn

sanasiddiqui on February 24, 2015:

Self assessment is a very important factor to become a good and productive employee.

Kathryn (author) from Windsor, Connecticut on October 12, 2013:


This was a hard experience for me to go through, and writing this was very helpful to me, and really put my opinions and tips on this subject into a useful hub that has helped me out, and hopefully others.