Keep Your Head Up: 8 Ways To Self-Improve While Job Searching

We’ve just about escaped those cold days of winter. And as much as those sitting at warm desks can complain about the rain, if you’re still struggling to find a job this time of year, it can be even worse. But now is the time to change. Throw on a sweater, grab a cup of coffee and take this time to turn your cabin fever on its head.


Learn Some New Skills:

1. Master A New Language

Launched back in 2012, Duolingo opened the doors to easy and accessible language learning – and it’s free! So download the app, or work through your browser and refresh/begin your second language skills. Boosted employability? Check.

2. Improve Your Software Skills

Ever been a bit too scared to tackle Photoshop? Well now is your chance to jump out of your comfort zone and get learning. Software skills are very sought after, and there are thousands of tutorials on how to use specific programmes online. Beyond Photoshop, it may sound simple, but mastering Powerpoint and Outlook are must-haves for future jobs – if you’re not working you may lose your touch and it’s essential to remain in the loop with current job requirements.

3. Pick Up An Instrument

Granted, you probably won’t become instantly more employable if you can play the Friends theme tune on the piano, but it can’t hurt. Again, the internet has a huge collection of musical tutorials and even if it only becomes a small-talk conversation topic, it makes you appear interesting and diverse.

4. Become A Better Cook

It’s a well-known fact that good food makes people happier. That extends to yourself, your family/room-mates and your future colleagues. Honing in on your culinary and baking skills while you have the time will be incredibly beneficial, and the internet (especially Youtube, Pinterest and Cookbook Café) will act as your portal.

5. Learn How To Code

Give Coursera a try for a giant portal to online learning with almost 1000 free courses available. Or if you just want to code, sign up for free online coding lessons with the Code Academy. A grasp of basic HTML and CSS can be an amazing asset that currently employed job-hunters may not have time to acquire.

Get Out Of The House:

6. Get Involved In Volunteering

It’s common knowledge that employment gaps are easily noticed by employees. While it’s dishonest and dangerous to lie on your résumé, why not consider channelling some of your ‘free’ time into voluntary work. Your spirits should be lifted by the fact that you’re helping others and future employers will appreciate your selfless efforts.

7. Travel (As Far Away As You Can Afford)

Feeling adventurous? With friends or on your own, leaving the house for the day or weekend is a brilliant idea. Look at cheap travel options and if you want to stay somewhere, consider couch surfing. You’ll meet new and interesting people, plus they can give you recommendations on where to go exploring. If you gain nothing more than a nice Instagram snap, the freedom to roam will do brilliant things to your motivation.

8. Join The Gym

Exercise releases endorphins; Endorphins make you happy. It’s really that simple. And while some may not be able to afford the big name gym memberships, there are cheap and pay-as-go gyms available. Failing that, head to YouTube or download a free exercise app and practise those lunges in the comfort of your own home.

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Kill Them With Kindness: Ineffective Motivational Tactics

Office break rooms are often riddled with “you can do it!” style posters. You know, the ones that have a picture of Sequoia trees in California with something about how long they took to grow. These are great posters with great (and albeit cliché) sayings and quotes, but what do they really do for your employees? Honestly, absolutely nothing. While it’s interesting that Sequoia trees take 3,000 years of trying weather conditions and sustained effort to grow 300 feet, your employees don’t care. In fact, only 19% of employees are happy with their jobs. The other 81% would rather not see your motivational posters while they begrudgingly work for 8 hours to bring home the bacon.

Sometimes it is just another job.

“Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” –Confucius

Especially in rough economic times, your employees may feel stuck. This doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged. They might very well be engaged in fear of losing their job, however, this doesn’t imply they are happy. Stagnancy creates an atmosphere of disengagement. Even though it is easy to fall into the habits of stagnant behavior in the office, giving programs and advancement opportunities keep employees engaged while they are at work. Workplace giving programs, like donating to a charitable organization, motivate employees to make an impact, and that often will translate into their work. With the growing number of benevolent Millenials entering the workforce, 90% of companies offer a wide range of diverse charities to donate to in order to foster an atmosphere of community.  Opportunities for growth can increase engagement as well, so they begin to see it as more than just another avenue for a paycheck. The more employees value their place in your company, the more engaged they become.

An engaged employee isn’t necessarily a happy employee.

“It is the working man who is the happy man. The idle man is the man who is miserable.” –Benjamin Franklin

Engagement and happiness in a company are two completely different aspects of an employee’s attitude. Simply saying your employees are happy with their jobs, so they must be engaged, or even that your employees are unhappy so they must be disengaged, are false equivalencies that will only result in furthering their detachment. There are over 70 million employees who are disengaged from their jobs. This isn’t to say they aren’t happy, in fact they could be extremely content in the security your employment offers them. However that doesn’t mean they are fully dedicated to the projects you’ve left on their plate. It is expected of American employees to work until we can’t anymore. A lot of disengagement can be attributed to this. In a study of 21 developed countries, the United States was the only country that doesn’t consistently offer 10 to 30 days of paid vacation. Regardless if a U.S. employer gives their workforce vacation, they don’t use it because they are trained to work hard no matter the cost, even the costs to their health. In fact, middle-aged men at risk for heart disease who skipped vacations for 5 consecutive years are 30% more likely to have a heart attack.

Employees won’t always like their jobs.

“Do not hire a man who does work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” –Henry David Thoreau

Truth is, they don’t have to like their jobs to be engaged or motivated. Now, those 24% who are actively disengaged find reasons to not be at work while in the office because they honestly hate their jobs. The majority of the workforce does not fall into this category, however. The workforce is primarily disengaged, with 63% of employees sleepwalking through the workdays. Although they are disengaged, it’s not so drastic they can’t be “checked back into” their work. Effective motivation doesn’t come from overplayed sayings on pictures of nature. It just simply doesn’t work the way you hope; all you’re doing is evading the hard work. “Nothing worth it was ever easy,” or so they say. So, engaged employees may not be an easy goal to achieve, but when you take the time and the effort to find what motivates your workforce, it’s worth it.

(About the Author: Sean Pomeroy, CEO of Visibility Software, has worked in the Human Resources industry since he graduated from Radford University with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After working in HR as a generalist for a government contracting company, he moved to the HR Technology arena and began assisting companies in the selection and implementation of HR software.)

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photo credit: Felix’s Endless Journey via photopin cc