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4 Career-Building Ways to Make the Most of Your Free Time

Updated: Aug 18

This is for people who want to make the most of the time they’ve been given because of COVID-19.

You have the ability to change the world, even if in a very small way, for the better.

I help my clients build their careers. I want you to build yours.

People who set out to build their best careers will act with purpose and have a positive impact on the world.

Don’t let an economic recession and pandemic stop you from creating opportunities, innovation, and connections. We have been given the time to invest in ourselves. Got laid off? You have all day. Still have a job? You have your commute time. You have kids? Create opportunities, innovation, and connections with them.

Whatever your situation, never stop building your career. On the following pages, I’ve briefly written up some ideas.

1. Find a New Job

2. Build your Network

3. Improve your Skills

4. Create

I have already seen so many great examples of people taking action during the last 2 months. I’ve watched someone do each of the things I’ve listed. I couldn’t have come up with these ideas on my own.

Inspired by Marc Andreesen’s It’s time to build. If you want to learn more about financial management during these difficult times, check out this article from Bankrate.


Find a New Job

Whether you got laid off or you are looking for a change, this option is still available to those who can demonstrate their value and motivation to a hiring manager. There are several sites where employers actively post job openings online, along with multiple sites where Good Samaritans are tracking which companies are currently hiring despite the pandemic.

First, it’s important to distinguish the following: do you NEED a job for money, or do you WANT a job for experience?

If you need a job, don’t be picky. There will be a time for you to get back on your career path. No one reading your resume will fault you for having six months of experience at a grocery store during this pandemic. You can be of massive help to people and earn money for yourself.

Figure out how much time you can spend looking for the job you want before you need the money. Perhaps you have 2 weeks of cash in the bank. You can go full-on for 2 weeks trying to get a job you want before resorting to one of the essential jobs hiring en masse.

“Sure Thing” jobs

If you need a job, there are several options available to you. Many companies are hiring like crazy right now because of a surge in demand for their products or services. These companies are primarily grocery stores, alcohol brands, certain healthcare companies, cybersecurity and remote-working companies, last-mile delivery companies, and financial institutions.

Take a look at the websites of local companies in these industries to see what openings are available. Find the job opening that’s a best fit for your skills. Put together a resume that showcases your skills that line up with the job responsibilities. Ensure your resume uses key words used in the job description.

“Career Building” jobs

If you want a job, but do not need a job, or are just looking for a change, be more selective and look for something in line with your career path. You can either find your desired experience through the methods described in this section or create a role for yourself as described in the Create section.

One tactic: look online. I know multiple people who have been successful in winning jobs in their desired career paths just from applying online. Do not rely on this option to generate a high return on your time investment.

A tactic usually more successful than looking online: build your network in the industry of your desired field and get referrals. Perhaps you already have a strong network. If you’re out of work, make a post on LinkedIn summarizing and outlining your skills and highlight that you’re looking for something new. The worst mistake you can make after posting on LinkedIn is to forget about it. I have reached out to multiple people via connection requests and comments and gotten no response. You’ve made a post on LinkedIn for a reason – use the opportunities it gives you. Take advantage of the tactics described in the Networking section to make connections that could lead to job offers.

If someone in your network is hiring, see if your new connection is willing to refer you to the job opening. Many companies offer referral bonuses to employees, so it is undeniably in their best interest to help you.

If you find a job posting online, you can follow this same approach for networking prior to applying to the job. Use LinkedIn to find someone who is in the team you are applying to. Get them to refer you.


Build your Network

Be sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date before you start getting active on the site. Check out my profile to get some ideas about how to build yours. If you like what I write about, hit “Follow” while you’re there.

LinkedIn Networking

Find people on LinkedIn that you want to add to your network for career building. Use the people advanced search function to find individuals whose careers you admire. Perhaps they work at a company you respect or have a job title you want. Ask them for advice. If you are a stranger to them, send a connection request with a note.

Send this request and note to a lot of people. Not everyone checks LinkedIn frequently, and not everyone is willing to help, but someone will respond and give you their time. Here is what you can ask them:

- What work are you focused on right now? Has it changed in the pandemic?

- What is your opinion on the future of the [name your field] field right now?

- What skills are you using most in your job?

- What is your company doing in response to the pandemic?

Keep an engaged conversation, be focused, brief, friendly, and respectful. The person on the other end of the phone is a human being and prefers to be treated as such. If you leave a good impression, congrats, you’ve taken the first step to cultivating a strong relationship in your network. Rinse and repeat, create and exchange value. Tell them your career story, if appropriate.

Develop your Career Story

Your career story should be used in conversations and interviews and accomplish the following:

- Convey your experience and education path that led you to that conversation,

- Explain your motivations for asking for that conversation from that individual, and

- Articulate why you believe the conversation will result in a mutual exchange of value.

Your career story is the most critical piece of any networking conversation or interview. It will help people understand why you are in the interaction and set the basis for a successful network- and career-building conversation. Bring it up at the start of the conversation.

It should take you no longer than 60 seconds to talk through. Rehearse it, but make sure it’s natural. You should be using your story ONLY in situations where you are having the conversation because you are convinced that conversation will improve your career through either information or a job.

Revive Old Connections

You probably have a much larger network than you think you do. Who have you not spoken with in ages? Who would you like to catch up with? Reach out to those people – I have found that old connections are eager to connect with people during this period of isolation. At the very least, you’ll get to chat with an old friend or colleague. You may find some bonus information or career building opportunity.


Improve your Skills

Netflix is great, but if you are replacing your commute time (you used to listen to podcasts, remember?) with Netflix, you are wasting time you could be spending investing in yourself.

Books

My wife has been reading 3-4 books per week since her graduate program went virtual 6 weeks ago. I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of knowledge she has taken in over the last 40+ days.

Here are some topics and book recommendations based on what I’ve read recently:

- Leadership

- Entrepreneurship | Bonus Entrepreneurship

- Networking

- Financial Planning

- Health and Fitness

- Anything else you want – send me your recommendations.

Webinars

Everyone is putting out webinars. It’s the new hot thing. Sign up for some that sound interesting to you. Sure, they’re predominantly focused on COVID-19 implications (my webinars included), but also contain relevant information that will be useful well beyond the current pandemic situation. Just within my network, there are webinars on “Finding your Why,” market entry in China, internships, parenting advice, fitness, cooking, and networking.

Just last week, I watched webinars on LinkedIn engagement, startup fundraising, college student internships, and management consulting.

People are putting out free, valuable content. Take advantage! Give yourself the opportunity to learn something.

Online Courses

Get certified in one of many different technical skills offering free training online:

- Google Analytics

- Tableau

- Udemy/Coursera

Some people are of the opinion that these courses don’t necessarily give you the skills you need to succeed in the real world. Go find out for yourself. If you agree with those opinions, try another option in this essay.

Ted Talks

Ted Talks are a consistent, quality source of information and inspiration. There are videos on almost every subject and can leave you triggered, educated, or excited.

I encourage you to look up a topic you’re curious about, you care deeply about, or a random one, if you’re bored. Those videos can have a big effect on your life.

Create

We are all passionate about something. We all have tremendous knowledge and skills in something. We all want solutions, knowledge, positivity, happiness, inspiration, motivation, support, advice, and success.

Share what you have. Create something from your skills and knowledge. Some examples include:

- Build Technology: Do you have an idea for a tech-enabled solution to a common problem? Build it. If you don’t know how to build it, find someone who does. See the Networking section above.

- Record Podcasts: Can you and a friend talk for hours about a random subject? Structure that conversation around an idea or piece of advice, get a microphone, and record a podcast.

- Write a Book: Do you have an idea for book? Google the idea. If you can’t find the exact book already available, run your idea by some friends and family. Get positive feedback? Start writing. Make an outline, get it reviewed by the same friends and family, make adjustments, and get to work. Reach out to me if you want to hear more about how I wrote my first book in two months while working full time.

- Write Articles: Maybe your idea isn’t big enough for an entire book. Write an article. I’m almost done with my book, but wanted to write this piece on COVID-19 Career Building…not long enough for a book, so I made it an article.

- Design and Share a Workout: As a daily gym-goer, I have had to radically adapt my weightlifting workouts to utilize almost no equipment. I’ve used 24-packs of my wife’s Coke Zero, my backpack full of laptops and full water bottles, and finally some Amazon resistance bands for weights I can use to replicate dumbbells and plates. I found these ideas on Instagram, but would love to see more structured, innovative ideas for home workouts with limited space, equipment, and time.

- Recipes: I am very lucky that my wife is an incredible cook. Thinking back to my single days, I would be desperate for inspiration for easy ideas for healthy, cheap, filling meals in a time when all restaurants are closed. I’d love to see these ideas from people who are not professional chefs.

- How-tos: I find myself on Youtube watching Do-It-Yourself videos as often as I have the confidence to do something for myself. What is a hack that you’ve come up with for some piece of your life? Could it help other people? Write it up or film it.

- Comedy: We could all benefit from some humor in today’s world full of stunner news headlines. Do some virtual standup comedy for a group of friends. Maybe when we get back to being social again, you’ll have found a calling in the world of standup.

- Internship or Pro Bono Consulting: In college? Work with a company to create a role for yourself. Figure out where their needs are. Where can you learn and benefit the company? Out of college? What is your area of expertise? Can you find a company that needs it? I have secured two consulting relationships with startups over LinkedIn. I found early stage startups that interested me, connected with someone associated with that company on LinkedIn, and had an introductory call where I offered my services. Smaller companies are more flexible and able to take someone on to help in an innovative and creative way.

In Conclusion

Learn something, create something, help someone.

You have skills, eagerness, and energy. You want to contribute, grow, and learn. You want something meaningful for your resume and you want to do something meaningful with your life.

What is it going to be? Do any of the ideas above excite you?

This is a call to action. Get to work – create opportunities, innovation, and connections. Keep building your career.

The world will thank you.

- Arun

findprofessionalsuccess.com

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