How to Make Money & Bulk Up Your Resume When You’re Unemployed

Trisha Miller  | 

If you’ve lost your job, you might feel as if you have and abundance of time that you don’t know how to fill. Of course, some of that time will be filled by searching for work and making your finances stretch, but there are other skills you may be able to take advantage of during this delicate time. Depending on the field you’re trying to find work in, you might be able to “practice” those skills or even do some odd jobs in order to gain experience that you may not have had before. Now is the time to train yourself as much as possible instead of letting this time slip away from you.

How Do I Add New Skills to My Resume While I’m Unemployed?

In another article, we discussed how to make a “job plan”, which means making a plan for finding a job within a strict period of unemployment. We also talked about the tricky balance between finding a job and re-gaining control over your finances and finding your dream job. However, there’s no better time than right now to start preparing yourself for that job. What I mean is, you shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the “perfect opportunity” to just fall into your lap. Applying for jobs is, of course, a step in the right direction, but there is so much more to it than that. Now is the time to not only make your resume look nicer, but you should be able to put more on it.

You might be wondering, “If I don’t have a job right now how can I add more to my resume?”. That’s a valid question. You won’t be able to add new employers to your work history, but you can start honing the skills that will be required for your ideal job. Sometimes, the best way to learn is to get hands-on and practice things that you aren’t good at until you start to become better at them. If there are skills that you felt you could have been lacking (most of us have something we can improve upon) start working on those little by little everyday while you have the extra time. On your calendar, start setting small improvement goals that you think you can work on daily so that you don’t lose your competitive edge against other candidates.

In addition, if there was a skill that you always wished that you knew how to perform, start teaching yourself how to do it. Better yet, reach out to someone who might be able to teach you how to do the new skill. Take a class at a community center or, if possible, take a class at your local university. While all newly learned skills will probably be beneficial in some way, targeted courses intended to learn specific skills will be that much more impressive to an employer. There just simply is no alternative to hands-on, real life experience performing the skills that are most valuable to your employer. Even if it seems intimidating, we all have to start somewhere. You might not end your unemployment as an expert in said skill, but you’ll probably have a plan for exactly how to get there.

Employers will take notice of the fact that you didn’t waste your unemployment period. You weren’t just waiting for a job to come to you, you did the work and brought yourself up to the level of the job you deserve.

How Can I Make Money While I Search For a Job?

Let’s say you take our advice and dive head first into an exciting and currently unmastered skill. Or maybe you have a little bit of experience, but you’re not quite at the level you want to be. You can start working right now to both hone your expertise and possibly make a bit of money on the side. Let’s get one thing straight, your skills are valuable and your time is worth money. Even if you’re working on improving those skills, they are still beneficial to you and possibly to those around you. So, if you’re like most of us, you might be a bit strapped for cash during your unemployment. You can use your time to fine tune your skills and do some work for those who might need it.

Now is a fantastic time to start networking with other individuals in your community that could be interested in your competencies. Do some research in your field to see what kind of work other professionals are doing and what services they are providing. Do some research about what it takes to provide those goods and services and what realistic, competitive pricing looks like. After you have some of that information, you can start to determine if you’d be able to provide similar products to customers in your area. Friends and family are always a good place to start if you want to get an idea of who to start networking with. You might not be looking to make this type of thing a full-time freelance gig, you might just want a few clients in order to make some quick cash while you’re unemployed.

With that being said, there are a few other things you should be aware of. First and foremost, don’t start a job unless you are certain you’ll have time to finish it. Even if it is just an “inbetween” job, don’t sign up for something if you’re not going to take it seriously. Think of it this way, if you’re name is going on it, so is your reputation. You might even want to ask your customers for references in the end. I mean, that is the end goal here right? If you leave them with a bad experience, you won’t be able to add your work to your resume and that is essentially time wasted.

The other thing to keep in mind is, how you report your money. Law dictates that you must report any source of income. If you’re planning on making some extra income this way, remember that you should be filing invoices for the work and you’ll need to keep track of everything for your taxes. Be prepared to report all work via your annual taxes and have statements to back up everything you’ve done, even if you aren’t receiving a W-2 or 1099 form from an employer. If you don’t and the IRS finds out about your non-taxed regular income, you could be audited, which is an experience you don’t want to have to deal with. So, keep that in mind, but there’s no reason that you shouldn’t make a little cash on the side if you have the time and skills.

Losing a job is difficult and can add great stress to your life. It’s easy to feel helpless after such an event. However, if you put your mind to it, you can actually use the time in between jobs to your advantage. Impress your future employers by going full force into a crucial skill. If you have the determination, you can even leverage some extra money to fund your unemployment, while you search for your dream job.


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Trisha is a writer and blogger from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan, an avid gamer, cat lover, and amateur SFX artist.

This post was updated July 28, 2017. It was originally published August 4, 2017.