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3 Free Ways I Took Control of My Career Trajectory When I Was Unemployed (& Underemployed)

When I graduated with an Environmental Science degree in the summer of 2015, I was accepted for a volunteer internship placement at a wildlife rehabilitation center. As I finished up my placement, I briefly spoke with the head of the charity about my interests and career goals. I was told that I would be contacted if any government grant positions for new graduates became available in January. As I was one of the only summer interns eligible for such a grant that year, I was offered a full-time position.

In my three years at the charity, I was the sole full-time employee. My duties changed every day, and many times throughout the day. While all of that was happening, I was also focused on my own professional development. I was only able to take online courses through work if I could find grants and bursaries to cover them, which prompted me to become a better grant writer. Having recently stepped away from the position and found myself both underemployed and unemployed at different times, I have tried several new-to-me ways to continue developing my career.

Here are the free ways I’ve helped my career while unemployed or underemployed:

1. Using Facebook Strategically

I have had a Facebook account since 2010 (yikes), which means over the years, I have “liked” tons of pages and “joined” many groups. All those have value, which I’ve only recently started discovering. When I recently re-started my job search, I created a mental list of “dream” companies that I would like to work for. Once I created that list (your list may not be companies, but dream job titles, job locations, etc.), I began stalking them on all platforms. I started commenting on some of their posts and messaging them with questions. Why? To get noticed.

Even when those companies weren’t posting new job opportunities, I wanted them to see my name, contributing to positive and intelligent discussions or asking smart questions. That way, if and when I applied to a position in the near future, I could potentially be recognized by someone at that company. Many companies also use Facebook to post jobs and training opportunities first, so it can make your time online feel productive if you have a specific goal in mind (comment on one post today, find a new local company doing work you love, etc.).

2. My January LinkedIn challenge 

Throughout university, I tried updating my LinkedIn page on a regular basis. But honestly, it took a backseat to everything else that was going on in my life after graduation. Once I had a full-time job, I didn’t think that I needed to update it regularly because I was happily employed (*sigh*). I’ve smartened up since then. This past January, I set a goal for myself to find relevant articles to my field of work and share them with my LinkedIn network every day. I included relevant hashtags because I’d recently read that this is will eventually be a way for potential employers to find you. While I only have a basic LinkedIn profile (the free one), I do get notifications that someone outside of my network is finding me in searches and viewing my profile. And for now, those are wins for me.

3. Free Professional Development

Along with making a list of my dream companies, I made a list of key, unique phrases to help me hone in on relevant jobs during my search. I want specific jobs in specific cities, and I don’t want to spend hours looking for them. While I’m looking for another great job in my field, I want to stay on top of upcoming trends and desirable skills, even if I am under- or unemployed. This means I have to find professional development opportunities myself. I’ve found that once you have your list of ideal employers, you can more easily find opportunities than just Googling into the wind. Is National Geographic one of your ideal employers? Try checking out their free online courses in education outreach and learning.

I also found the Jane Goodall Institute had a really great free course focusing on effective service learning, which is applicable even if you aren’t a teacher. The important thing with these free courses is they are often only offered once or twice a year, so make sure to either check back on the website frequently, write it in your agenda, or sign up for emails from them to make sure you don’t miss that free enrollment period.

*****

Constantly updating your resume and sets of marketable skills is no one’s responsibility except your own. Whether you are employed, underemployed, or unemployed, there are ways to make sure you’re always learning and showing initiative. Online courses can give some structure to your day even if you’re not working, and online networking is seriously never a bad idea, even if you have a full-time job. You show potential future employers important marketable skills by constantly working on yourself, all while learning about things you are passionate about. A true win-win situation!

Monica is an Environmental Science graduate from Queen’s University. Professionally, she is focused on creating fun and engaging educational experiences for audiences of all ages, and marketing using social media and by creating videos.

Image via Unsplash

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