Although we don’t like to think about it, there may come a time in your career when you’re unexpectedly let go from your job. It could be because the company lost a key client, or because they decided to outsource the department you worked in.
As tough as that transition can be, there are steps you can take to propel your career forward when you’re between jobs.
Use your time to invest in your skills
Most people think that the only way to develop your career is through “on the job” experience. However, every single day professionals around the world are adding strength to their skillset by investing in education.
This includes books, classes, workshops, online courses, personal mentoring, and live events. These resources often allow you to hone in on very specific skills, which can perfectly complement your core skill set.
Many digital courses are now packaged as “certifications” that you can feature on your online portfolio. This means the course is an investment that you can showcase to future employers.
This is something you want to do strategically. For example, an online course in graphic design is unlikely to improve your chances of landing a role as a senior accountant. So you want to invest in material and experiences that will either build new skills, or increase the depth of your existing ones. Doing so helps strengthen your unique leverage as you re-enter the application process.
Here’s how I approach this strategy. I work as a digital content writer. The specific skills required for my role can differ greatly from one company to the next. For example, one business might be looking for a writer with experience creating content that ranks sites higher in Google. While another company may need a content writer with experience in paid Facebook marketing.
To balance this diversity I continually invest in books and courses. Content and copywriting are my core skills, but learning more about SEO, paid marketing, and content marketing increases my immediate value to a company.
Connect and network with people in your industry
Another great method for moving your career forward whilst between jobs is by networking. More specifically, by making connections with people working in the companies you’d like to work in.
Send them a simple message on LinkedIn and ask them what it’s like working there. Then once the conversation is moving you can ask them what kinds of skills the company looks for when hiring new talent.
This kind of recon gives you great direction for the “skill building” strategies we discussed earlier. But it’s also important to note that you don’t want to give the person any impression that you’re trying to steal their job. You want to be as sincere and non-threatening as possible.
I’ve also landed exciting freelancing projects by contacting people in my professional network. For example, I once discovered that someone I knew worked for a digital agency in Melbourne. It turned out she no longer worked there, but happily gave me the Managing Director’s email address. I promptly touched base with him and landed a meeting that week.
Leveraging your network is crucial because you’re operating with people who know and trust each other. And when there is trust, opportunities can come to fruition much faster.
Find freelance clients and expand your portfolio
This avenue lends itself to some professions more than others. But if it’s viable for your current skill set, then freelancing is an incredible way to develop new levels of experience whilst between roles. Freelancing is especially attractive in this context because you get paid to do it!
As mentioned, freelancing is great because it keeps you involved in your profession, whilst both generating income, and adding depth to your resume. But because this article is about moving your career forward, I tend to avoid being too precious about making money from freelancing in this context.
I say this because oftentimes the value of doing great work for someone, and being able to add it to your resume, often outweighs the money you’d make from it. Plus, if the person you freelance for loves your work, then they’ll happily refer you to other people.
This in turn can lead to more opportunities, more income, and a broader professional network.
Do you need further guidance moving your career forward? Have a look at our professional career coaches who can offer guidance and support.