From being an unemployed stay-at-home mom to being a career professional, I’ve learned several powerful ways to keep yourself in the game, even when you aren’t working. By using some of these suggestions, you can always feel employable.
When you aren’t working, whether by choice or by circumstances beyond your control, it can feel uncomfortable to say the least. You may even wonder Am I unemployable now? That’s probably not the case and I can show you seven ways to always be employable.
I can remember times in my life when I felt so worthless because I didn’t have a job. I loved being a stay at home mom. But when I wasn’t making a financial contribution, it was hard to maintain a feeling of being worthwhile. I even began to wonder if I was unemployable.
Later, as I trailed my husband when he was transferred, I wondered how I would get back to work in a new place—yet again. Eventually I was able to take the steps I’m sharing with you now and turn this into my area of expertise. For 8+ years, I’ve been a career advisor and a professional resume writer.
Because of my own experience with being unemployed, I’ve been able to help thousands of people get better careers!
After my divorce and move to a new city, it seemed like it would take forever to find a good job.
Yet, each time, I was eventually able to find not just work, but meaningful work. And oddly, each job has been better than the last.
For many reasons, you might feel you are unemployable now or you might become unemployable if you stay out of the workforce too long.
Sometimes staying at home is a choice: we want to raise our family, we want to take care of an ill spouse or parent, or we might even need the time to take care of ourselves. Other times, we are unemployed because we’ve been laid off, we’ve moved with a spouse that has been transferred, or some other reason that wasn’t our choice.
In this fast-changing world, it can be easy to wonder, “Am I unemployable now?”
What I’ve found out and what I know to be true now is that very few people are truly unemployable. Over the years as the coordinator of career services and in my own resume-writing business, I helped hundreds of people find jobs. Often, that feeling of being unemployable, is just that. A feeling.
Unemployable at First Glance
Here’s a true story that recently showed me that even if we and most of the world thinks we’re unemployable, we probably aren’t.
My mom is 85. She retired about 20 years ago. At that age and without an adding any new skills to her work repertoire, many people would consider her unemployable. She’s older. She hasn’t had paid work in many years. She definitely has not been going to school or seeking additional training.
Yet, last year and more recently, a few weeks ago, my mom was offered paid work. (Not just offered but actively recruited!) She definitely isn’t seeking a job but she still finds it flattering that someone wants to hire her to do something professionally. It also showed me clearly, that being unemployable can be a state of mind rather than an absolute truth.
However, I can see that my mom definitely did some things that kept her from being unemployable. As a young stay-at-home mom, I also did things to keep myself employable. So, if you are concerned that you might be unemployable at some point, here are my favorite ways to proactively overcome that feeling.
My Top 7 Ways to Stay Employable
This is my favorite recommendation to keep yourself employable. Find something that you care about and start volunteering on a regular basis. Volunteering is a fantastic way to get experience, references, and new job skills.
Experience is experience. After many years as a stay-at-home mom, I used all volunteer experience to land a full-time job, with benefits, and a staff of 12! The key to using a volunteer position is to stay with an organization for a while (just like with a job) and to do job-like things.
Another tip is to pick a volunteer organization with name recognition. It doesn’t take a lot of time each week. But the commitment and consistency can translate into a valuable reference. Sometimes, volunteering can result in a job offer as well.
I went to school and got my counseling degree while my three children were young. Each semester I took one or two classes. Eventually, I got my degree. I loved going to school while raising the kids. It gave me time out of the house and I was able to feel my own sense of accomplishment as well as some valuable job skills.
Yet, college isn’t the only way to get valuable skills. Since that time, I have made good use of the internet to learn new skills. I’ve become a certified resume writer. Online classes allowed me to learn word processing. I’ve created two websites. The internet has an endless supply of high quality virtual classrooms.
If you’re a reader like me, books can teach you so many useful job skills. No kidding! Remember the job I got with a staff of 12? I learned to supervise and manage by reading, while getting on-the-job practice.
My passion for nutrition and health is kept up-to-date by reading. The books I’ve read over the past twenty years feed the knowledge base I use in coaching, writing, and advising.
I am so appreciative of all the expertise that is available and easy to obtain through libraries, bookstores, and ebooks. As well as teaching valuable skills, books also helped me stay motivated during the times when I wasn’t working. Sometimes, the learning needed to be different ways to think and look at the world.
Four: Take Care of Yourself Physically
Looking and feeling good can help you maintain a sense of employability. Remember my 85-year old mom? She’s energetic and active and apparently no one worries that her age is any hindrance to her being able to work.
Maintaining a healthy weight and physical fitness helps preserve vitality and energy. These are underrated qualities to feeling employable. When you are active and energetic, you will naturally do things that keep you feeling that you are making a contribution, no matter what you are doing.
Sometimes people worry that they are too old to get a job. It’s rarely age that is the real issue. It’s the youthful energy—not the youth itself that’s missing.
I have to add blogging to the list of ways to stay employable. Depending on what you blog about, you will be forced to continually come up with content. You will be forced to network. You will be forced to put yourself out there. If that isn’t all enough, you will be forced to learn more technology, more social media strategy, and more internet stuff than you ever dreamed you would be capable of.
This doesn’t all happen overnight. Blogging is the gift that keeps giving as far as having to learn new things and develop new skills. You no sooner feel mildly competent in one area and then you have to grow into another area.
In addition to learning the mechanics of blogging, all that writing builds your knowledge base and your expertise in your blogging niche.
The blog itself might become a source of meaning and income or it might be the path to feeling like you are employable.
Six: Stay Connected
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, we forget to keep up with our connections. Now with email, Facebook, text messages it is easier than ever to keep up with former co-workers and bosses.
Seven: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
I believe that when we stay put, as in not pushing ourselves to grow or get out of our comfort zone, we can stagnate and begin to feel as if we don’t have a meaningful contribution to make.
I do want to clarify something here. Not working does not in any way make you a less valuable person at all. Yet, even knowing this mentally, we can still feel that if we aren’t working, we aren’t valuable. So, by actively pursuing the feeling of being employable, we increase our feelings of well-being and value.
It’s easy to settle into life and to do more of what gives us comfort. That’s not 100% bad. In fact, we need a certain amount of this. However, when we quit seeking out experiences or ideas that make us uncomfortable, we lose some of our edge. Not only that but life becomes less pleasurable and we don’t operate at our optimum.
Getting out of your comfort zone keeps you pursuing new ideas and activities that can lead to miraculous journeys, experiences, and relationships.
How My Mom Made Herself Employable at 85
The part I didn’t tell you in my story about my mom was that up until my dad died two years ago, she had pretty much been housebound taking care of him. She wasn’t doing a whole lot except keeping him at home and as healthy as possible.
After he died, she became active in her church, she began volunteering (tutoring daily at the grade school), and she began getting out of her comfort zone by participating in new groups and activities.
Within one year, she got her first paid-job offer. After two years, she got another offer. She actually accepted a job for the upcoming school year, just a few months after turning 85.
What to Do if You Are Wondering Am I Unemployable Now?
The most important thing to remember is that your value is NOT dependent on having a job. Even if you don’t do ANY of the things I suggest, you still have incredible value.
However, if you feel stuck and want to do something to shift that feeling, any of the above can help with that. As a bonus, you will make yourself employable for the time when you are ready to rejoin the workforce.
The other thing to be aware of is that the above tips are also things that can increase your feelings of competence and well-being. It really does feel good to learn and experience new things.
Enjoy your Unemployed Time
Looking back, I wish I had been able to enjoy my times of being unemployed more. Without a formal job you have the flexibility and time to do many things you can’t while you are doing a 9 – 5. It really can be a time to develop new skills and spend time with family.
I look back and think of all the things I missed out on because I felt I didn’t deserve them because I wasn’t working. Sometimes money was the issue but it certainly wasn’t as much an issue as how I felt about not working.
So, use this time to enjoy life AND increase your employability!
Keep showing up my friends.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.