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Whether you quit, were fired or got caught in a time of layoffs, being unemployed is no fun. And these days, the longer you’re unemployed, the harder it is to find a job.  Potential employers often pass over the long term unemployed, thinking that something must be wrong with you if you haven’t been able to find a position after a couple of months. However, a time of unemployment doesn’t have to be a blemish on your resume.  Instead, you can use the time to make yourself more attractive to potential employers who want to know that you are a mover and shaker who rolls with the punches, rather than someone sitting around at home moping.

The biggest thing you can do while unemployed is start furthering your education. Enrolling in a higher degree program that may make you more valuable in your field is a great way to spend your days. You can add pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree to your resume and raise your profile during interviews. Even if you’re not going after a higher degree, consider taking computer or program classes at nearby colleges to add to your expertise. For example, if you’re an office administrator, a six week class to get a certification in the latest Microsoft Office Suite will make you more attractive than someone who spent the time watching daytime TV. Getting better acquainted to new programs, tools and ideas integral to your field is key.

Another way to use unemployment to your advantage is to consider volunteering. While working for free may not seem like a good idea when you’re not pulling in a paycheck, it has its advantages. It shows potential employers that you’re not content to collect unemployment and that you’re eager to put your skills to work, one way or another. It also is a great resume filler because instead of having a work history gap, you can put your volunteer position on there and show that you still received experience and knowledge of your craft, even if you weren’t getting paid for it.  Finally, if you manage to volunteer with an organization whose name holds some weight in your industry, you may impress your potential employers with the brand. Volunteering with the ASPCA when you want to work in the veterinarian science field or pet grooming looks like added relevant experience instead of an employment gap, as well as freelance writing (with an emphasis on free) for writers, volunteering to work with children when you have experience in education, and volunteering at hospitals and clinics for those in the medical field.

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