Qasim Zafar

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Personal Growth When You’re Unemployed

Beyond the low is a sweet, mellow high.

Just left your previous job? Just graduated and nobody’s hiring? Or perhaps you decided to part with your previous business. There comes a time in everybody’s life when they are, for lack of a better word, unemployed. Maybe your boss gave you the boot, or it could have been the professor’s fault. Or your last business tanked.

In any case, the onset of unemployment is often a bummer. You have vast swathes of free time before you, with seemingly nothing to fill the gaping emptiness work left in its wake except for brooding over the turn of events that led you to this junction of life — a series of regrets on doing things differently, and “if only”s usually follow. Where there was once routine, order and a plan, there is now chaos and uncertainty. The damage to morale is tremendous, however long it lasts.

What people often fail to see is the brighter side of this circumstance — you now have time, the most precious commodity of all. You no longer have to work late answering calls or balancing the ledgers or prepping to meet the boss in the morning. You should put your time to good use and focus on your personal growth. Set some positive goals that will make you feel good when you get there, and follow them through. Here’s how:

1. Catch up with good people.

Who do you feel good being around, but haven’t really had a chance to meet recently? What about that friend from college you used to spend nights sitting on the library steps with, but who moved away and you haven’t heard from since? Or even better, how about the friend that lives two blocks down? Never underestimate the power of sitting down with someone from long ago to have a friendly chat and catch up. It gives much needed perspective and often opens up opportunities you never knew you had.

Remember, this could be your parents, wife and kids too — they have a habit of disappearing behind routine and proximity. When was the last time you actually spent time with them, in a proper, stimulating conversation? How much do you know of what’s really going on in each other’s lives and minds?

2. Acquire a Fun Skill

If you’re not doing anything you can tell your next interviewer about, then in career terms you’re wasting time. Potential employers will see your time spent doing nothing in a negative light — or  maybe you have been interviewing but nobody else wanted to hire you  — which is a big red flag.

Instead, acquire a new skill that you’re interested in and that makes you more employable. If you’re curious about how people figure out things like there are only seven types of women on OkCupid, then try looking at something like Coursera’s Data Science Specialization (disclaimer: yes, I’m interested in things like that and am almost done with the specialization).

Learning activates parts of your brain that you potentially haven’t used in a long time, not to mention that data science is one of the hottest fields around right now, so that’s a badge that will look good on any resume, anywhere.

3. Do What You’ve Been Meaning To Do

While you’re at it, make sure that you do take some time out to catch up on your backlog of life. The trip you’ve really wanted to make but have been putting off? Nike was right, now’s the time to pick yourself up and just do it. Personal growth is not just about learning new skills, but also about gratitude, contentment and doing what you want to do in life.

Doing something that’s been on your wish list for a long time will help you unwind after the previous session of workaholicism, and get you to look forward to the next one, while keeping you positively occupied.

4. Set Some Goals

Setting realistic goals and accomplishing them is one of the most important motivational factors in life. Dedicate some time to setting goals, short-, medium- and long-term. This helps you evaluate whether your life is going where you want it to, and take measures accordingly. Not to mention that making a list of things to do vastly reduces mental clutter and gives you a renewed sense of purpose.

When goal-setting, try to make them specific and measurable, realistic yet challenging, and meaningful. This will vastly reduce your procrastination levels and boost your productivity by orders of magnitude. Alex Vermeer does a much better job of explaining how to reduce procrastination than I possibly could here.

Which is But to Say,

If you don’t have a job it’s not the end of the world. Take it as a new beginning. It’s easy to do things you enjoy while you wait for the right employment offer to come along, all the while increasing your chances of getting that perfect job. Trust me, I’ve been there.

For more on what I’ve done, do check out my resume
Get in touch with me at: qasimzafar AT outlook DOT com

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