Unemployment: the perfect excuse to make yourself more employable

By Nell Fane.

Internships are the key to pimping up your CV, which is the key to getting a job: everyone knows it, so everyone is constantly reiterating it.

But what happens when your CV isn’t pimped up enough to get you that initial internship?  What then?  Well, the answer is basically that you’re not supposed to sit around moping.  You’re supposed to be proactive about it, and to sort-of createyour own skill-acquiring internship.

That’s what a friend of mine did.  He was turned down by a couple of companies for a few summer internships that he really wanted, and instead of taking it personally, he just decided to bring a little idea he had into existence, and set up his OWN company.  And he was subsequently forced to learn all those skills he would have been spoon-fed over the course of the internship, the hard way.  And with this, the amazing www.unisportonline.co.uk was born.

I’m obviously not suggesting that all the unemployed people out there should set up companies willy-nilly; only that no one should just wait for something to come to them.  People should be practical, and in the midst of sending out their applications, they should keep challenging themselves and adding to their skill-set.

I know that sounds a little bit geeky, but all our lives – up until the time of graduation – we are forced to study.  We have to keep learning in order to get by, and so we do.  But, once exams and compulsory education are all over, it’s just so easy to stop learningand furthering ourselves.  ‘I’m not being tested on it, so why should I bother learning it?’ becomes a popular mantra.

The thing is, that’s just crazy.  Who on earth wants to employ some 2-dimensional graduate who doesn’t want to better themselves now that they’re not being forced to do so?  Very few employers.

So in the gap between university and employment, between internship and next internship, or just in your school holidays, you’ve got to get skill-acquiring!  Teach yourself a new language using tapes, go to magic classes, master the art of spreadsheets, or sit down with a book and learn to write short-hand.  You could even set off on an adventure; travel, become independent, write, and fine-tune your photography skills!

At this point, people always say (understandably) ‘but what about my CV? If I just jet off on a holiday, employers will think I’m a dosser’.  I fell into this trap too, until I was hoisted out of it and lectured by my entrepreneur-of-a-big-sister.  I have subsequently been totally indoctrinated.  I’ve learnt that as long as you think you’d be able to justify your actions to an interviewer, or explain why you travelled for three months (and what you’ve learnt in the process), you can do it.  Soon you’ll find yourself stuck in a job, doing the same thing every day, and you’ll never get the chance to pick up such a wide variety of skills and hobbies again.

Ultimately, I suppose what I’m saying is that unemployment will only be boring and unproductive if you decide you’re going to let it be boring and unproductive.  You need to use your time wisely, and stick to the mission statement: ‘I’m going to make myself even more employable’.  That way, every day you are out of an internship, or jobless, you will feel you’re being productive, and thus making yourself more irresistible to employers.  Which will mean you’ll smile more, which will also make you more employable!!

So here are a few hints and tips about brilliant courses and things to do to ‘fill that gap’.  It’s by no means extensive, but it should help to get your juices flowing:

  • Teach yourself a language: there are lots of different online language courses, so just pick one and have a go! Languages are the key to everything, so if you manage to teach yourself even the basics in a new language, the world will be your oyster. Check out www.bbc.co.uk/languages or www.learnalanguage.com, if you’re looking for a place to start…
  • Become an au pair: sign up to www.greataupair.com, or one of the other au pairing sites, create a profile, and become an au pair in a foreign country!! That way you can escape the UK, you’ll learn independence and responsibility, AND you’ll end up mastering a new language.  Total immersion in a foreign culture: amazing, and something you rarely get a chance to do.
  • Complete an inspirational course whilst on holiday, with www.golearnto.com.  A bit more expensive than some, but worth it if you can!
  • COOK!  Everyone needs to learn how to cook, and there are hundreds of courses across the country, spanning from day-long to year-long.  And who knows, doing a cooking course and nurturing a passion might lead to a big fat career change!  Or, if you don’t want to spend a penny, then follow some online recipes and videos, and teach yourself to be a master chef.
  • Go abroad, and teach English as a foreign language.  Check out www.tefl.com for more information… This could end up being your only chance to live in Africa, or Peruor anywhere for a prolonged period of time.  And teaching will help you to discover hundreds of new skills you never realised you had!
  • Complete a free, online touch-typing course:  there are so many different courses to choose from – from www.typeonline.co.uk to www.goodtyping.com – so have a browse, and pick the one which you think might suit you best.  Being able to touch-type is a massive selling point.
  • Set up a blog on www.blogspot.com, and fine-tune your writing.  Once you’re pleased with your standard, and have found your own style, then start entering writing competitions, or sending in articles to magazines.  Everyone needs to be able to write, and once you’re a fully competent and disciplined writer, nothing will stop you!
  • Teach yourself History of Art, or Politics, or Maths, or a subject you didn’t study at school or university, but which interests you.  Borrow books from the library, and totally immerse yourself in your studies.  Or, even better, focus on your perfect job, and think about the skills you might need to get it.  If it involves marketing, for example, then read books on marketing!  Work towards becoming their perfect candidate.
  • If you’re searching for work-experience, then do not underestimate the power of the start-up company.  At a ‘start-up’, you’ll be given a lot more responsibility,so it’s sort-of like taking a course in itself.  You’ll feel much more valued, and although they might not be a ‘big name’ in the world of business quite yet, you will learn infinite amounts from small businesses: things that yearsworking at a large company may never give you.

Just stay positive, remain proactive, and don’t allow the media – and all the incredibly negative unemployment coverage they’ve been dishing out – bring you down.  Focus on acquiring your new skills, and soon you’ll have your feet firmly on the career ladder, ready to march right to the top.

Check out Nell’s blog nellfane.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @NellFane

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