How To Stay Busy While Unemployed

I’ve been unemployed for almost a year, so I know how vital it is to find ways to stay busy. Unemployment was unavoidable for me: I finished graduate school in Mississippi, moved to South Carolina to join my fiancé, and began the process of becoming a permanent resident of the U.S. During this time, I could not seek employment, hold a driving license, or leave the country.

I probably don’t need to explain why being unemployed often makes me crazy. It’s really difficult to have nothing concrete to do, or any money of your own, and still feel like you are living a complete life. I’ve gone through cycles of loneliness, hopelessness and stagnation. To be honest, this actually felt worse after I finally got my green card, because now I have no “excuse”—except, you know, the economy—and underemployment is likely my next step.

However, the time out of work has also given me a lot of opportunities, which have helped me to make new friends, develop as a professional, and learn more about myself. Looking back on the past year, I realize how much time I didn’t waste, and how many positive experiences I was able to have.

If you are currently unemployed, I hope these suggestions will help you to make the best of the situation. Stay strong!

1. Volunteer

I cannot recommend volunteering enough. It gives you a place to be, people to interact with, and a sense of routine. I like volunteering for all the selfish reasons: I’ve met awesome people, learned more about local nonprofits and my new home, and I’ve got some extra lines for my resume. But more importantly, giving back reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for. It’s hard to throw yourself a pity party for being unemployed when you are reminded that there are families struggling to feed their children. Spending a year volunteering has made me understand the value of a compassionate and connected community.

2. Go To The Library

You can get books, and often magazines and movies, FOR FREE! Really, is there anything more wonderful? The library was a lifesaver for me this past year. I read so many books in order to explore possible career paths, reflect on my life, and to stay engaged with the world around me. Libraries often host free events, too. If you need a little more motivation, make yourself a book list or a target number to reach by the end of the year.

3. Learn A New Skill

Is there something you always wanted to learn, but never had the time? Now is your chance. Check the listings at your local community college, or other education centers, to see what classes they offer. You may be interested in learning a foreign language, taking dance lessons, or teaching yourself HTML/CSS. (If it’s the latter, I recommend Treehouse!)

Or learn an uncommon skill like lockpicking. You never know when this skill will come in handy.

Contrary to popular belief, lockpicking is a skill that professional locksmiths use to do their jobs. There are actual international competitions dedicated to locksport too. If you’re down to learning an unconventional skill, order an essential lockpick set to start you off, and get ready to go through the many lock picking guides and tutorials online.  If money is tight, check out free courses online, or books from the library.

4. Get Creative

Even if you’re not the arty sort, being creative definitely helps with your mood. Write poetry or a novel (in November, NaNoWriMo is your friend), keep a journal, play music, or work on a sketchbook. Even putting together new outfits can be a creative exercise. If you crave a little more structure, try an adult coloring book—they’re very therapeutic.

5. Start a band

If you’ve always wanted to be a musician, now could be the perfect time to make this dream a reality. Not only will it keep you busy and productive during your unemployment, but it can also help you to network and find new employment. There are lots of opportunities for musicians these days to make money online. You can try to make money with music websites such as SoundCloud, Spotify, or YouTube, or you can try your hand at crowdfunding to finance your music career. You can also try to promote yourself by networking in your local area and visiting local venues. By networking and promoting yourself in your local area, you could potentially find some bookings, which will help you to make money while also getting your music out there.  Even if you have little to no people in your band, you’d be surprised with how you can fill a room with your music with a single instrument such as an electric guitar, paired with equipment that mimics the sound of instruments, like a Beat Machine for drums, and so forth.

6. Stay Active

It’s no secret that exercise is a miracle drug that keeps you healthy inside and out. Trust me, do not quit being active because you are unemployed. Even if you just take a walk once a day, you need to keep your body moving to keep it happy. Try a new routine at the gym, or a group fitness class. If you don’t have a gym membership, try running, cycling or working out with an exercise DVD at home.

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7. Catch Up With Friends

In this day and age, you probably have at least one friend who is in a different city to you. Now is a good time to be better about calling, emailing or sending snail mail. (Get yourself some beautiful stationary on Etsy.) Since my family are five hours ahead of me, it used to be difficult to organize a Skype conversation, or to reply to Whatsapp messages right away, but now I’m enjoying the fact that my flexible schedule allows us more time to talk. Also, none of my local friends are unemployed, but a few of them do work from home, so I try to have lunch with them sometimes.

8. Organize Your House

If you are unemployed, you will likely be spending a lot of time at home. I have to admit that my house is generally in a cycle of being super messy or being super tidy, and rarely anything in between, but it’s true that this is a good time to do any home improvements like painting, decorating, or hanging new curtains or artwork. Take some time to go through your wardrobe and make donations. Experiment with furniture arrangements or photo displays. Build a fort!

9. Go Outside

Following on from the point about being at home a lot… This may start to get to you. That’s OK. Make sure to get some sunlight when you can. Walk somewhere to meet your partner or a friend for lunch, visit a local park, or go for a hike. Now that it’s warming up, I’m spending at least an hour every day outside on my porch (with a glass of sweet tea like a real Southerner, of course).

10. Cook

No matter what costs you may be cutting right now, you still need to eat, so you will likely still need to cook. Enjoy it! Learn new recipes, experiment a little, and maybe even share your creations with someone you love. To keep your grocery bill low, check out The Kitchn’s 10 Low Budget Pantry Items.

11. Watch Netflix

Yes, I said it. Everyone will assume this is what you’re doing anyway, so why not just give in?! In all seriousness, it’s OK to want something on in the background for company. (This makes me feel like such an old lady, but it’s true.) Rather than just streaming it all day every day, actively decide which shows, movies and documentaries you really want to watch, and limit the amount you login every day. You will absolutely enjoy it more if it’s not the main part of your day.

Good luck with the job hunt, darling! You should also know that there are hobbies that can give you some extra cash, that way you will stay busy and earn some money!

View Comment (1)
  • Thank you for the inspiration. I am not unemployed, but on sick leave and this will help me. I noticed this article is date so how is things now? Did you profit from the active unemployment?

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