David Deal is a marketing executive who has improved the brands for companies such as Razorfish and musicians such as indie artist AM. David writes his own blog, Superhype, and you can find him on Twitter @davidjdeal.
If you are one of the 14.5 million Americans without a job, you might consider yourself unlucky. But according to David, unemployment does not have to suck. Here are some ways David says unemployment can work for you:
- Bond with your family. No matter how hard you work at finding a new job, you’re going to experience more free time. I have relished spending more time with my family, especially the everyday moments such as helping my daughter create a Facebook page to sell Girl Scout cookies or going on a date with my wife to a coffee shop where she works on her novel while I research job leads.One day I joined my daughter at school, seeing the world through the eyes of third-grade students. (Bulletin: third graders at her school know more about Apple Keynote than most experienced marketers.) I played in the snow with children. We studied famous geniuses in history (I offered my own for further study: Jimi Hendrix). I did not want the day to end. Finally, let me tell you something about being inside your own home more often: setting aside time to vacuum the floors and scrub the kitchen alongside your spouse or partner is good for the soul.
- Learn new skills. Unemployment can be an incredibly enriching time. I have used my down time to deepen my understanding of social networking tools like Groupon and Quora -- topics that are important in my chosen field. I have volunteered my time and writing skills to consult with a colleague of mine in media/entertainment for the sole purpose of learning more about the industry. And don’t restrict yourself to professional development. Learn for the pure joy of it. In recent weeks, my family and I have pondered the mysteries of Mesopotamia together at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, explored Islamic art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and learned to draw together. There is no excuse to fritter away unemployment without learning from the comfort of your living room. So long as you can type and use a search engine thoughtfully, you can learn. Try this: set aside 20 minutes a day to research one topic you read about in the news. It’s a habit you’ll probably take back to work with you, too.
- Help others. Being unemployed has made me more sensitive to people in need. When I was fully employed, I felt like I was constantly solicited by people looking for work or counsel on building their careers. I tried to help them when I could. Now I know how those people feel -- and I have more time to help. I’ve had the opportunity to critique resumes of young marketing professionals and assist colleagues seeking referrals. I have helped a rap artist write a proposal to a potential brand sponsor. It feels good to give more time and empathy. Here is something you can do right now: collect material things you no longer need (clothing, books, etc.) and drop them off at a donation box. You no longer have the excuse of being too busy.
- Create something new. Blogging is one of my creative outlets, and unemployment has made me a better blogger. I can no longer rely on work I was doing with my employer for content, so I’ve had to find more fresh ideas on my own. I have braved frigid conditions to blog about how a small town in northern Wisconsin approaches Black Friday, written bulletins about events I’ve attended, and I’ve blogged about unemployment. You need not be a blogger, musician, or artist to create. If you enjoy social media but lack time to blog, you can contribute a comment on someone else’s blog. Or you can grab a camera, walk around your neighborhood, and start taking snapshots. Then share them on your Facebook wall. You’ll be surprised: familiar territory looks different through a camera lens.A tip: check out Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes (even if you have no children). It’s the book my family and I have used to draw together.
- Be random. Unemployment is one time in your life (college being another) when you have every right to embrace beautiful moments of absolute randomness simply because you can. Find a local arboretum and go on a hike at 9 a.m. on a Monday just because you can. Watch a movie at noon just because you can. I’m not suggesting you do those things instead of looking for work. Quite the contrary -- save those moments of random fun for after you’ve been expending energy into a particularly grueling job interview or networking lunch. Looking for a job is demanding -- physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Being random is an effective antidote.
By taking David’s advice, you can make the most of a difficult time. You might even become a more well-rounded employee and person. Someday you may look upon your time of unemployment as a stepping stone to great success.