Research shows that it takes anywhere from three to nine months for a college graduate to land their first job. If you’ve already begun the search for your coveted first position, you already know that those months can stretch out to feel like an absolute eternity. Yes, your job search will be stressful and it will test your patience. It can be tempting to spend your spare time compulsively refreshing your email or whining to your friends about how you just know you’ll be unemployed forever.
But there are definitely more productive things you can do with the extra time you have on your hands. Not only will these activities take your mind off of your job hunt, but they can also help you actually score a position—or at least land an interview. Just call it “How to Get a Job 101: Extra Credit.”
Polish Your Personal Brand
If you’re actively job hunting, you’ve likely already crossed a few of these things off of your list—at least you should have. Taking the time to clean up your resume and improve your LinkedIn profile is always recommended. When you’re job hunting? Mandatory. Yes, this will be on the test.
Dust the cobwebs off your resume make sure it’s up to par and error-free (don’t depend on spell check). Take a couple of hours to totally revamp your LinkedIn profile—make sure to update your education section and professional summary. Or, add your most recent projects and accomplishments. You’ll immediately look like a more polished, qualified candidate, which makes you that much more confident as you job search!
Get Your Skills Game on Point
Remember when you were in school and all of the knowledge and skills you absorbed throughout the school year completely vanished over summer break? So you’d have to spend a few weeks getting caught up to speed at the start of the next year, right? Don’t let this happen to you while you’re job hunting.
Instead, stay on top of your own professional development by exploring opportunities to improve your skill set. For example, if you’ve always wanted to improve your coding skills, check out some free online courses. Attend a seminar or lecture that covers a topic you’ve been meaning to learn more about. Events like these present an opportunity to refine your skills and boost your resume, but they’re also an effective way to meet new people who could potentially help you in your job search.
You don’t need me to tell you that volunteering looks great on your resume—that much you already know. Plus, it’s an amazing opportunity to do great things in your own community.
But volunteering offers plenty of other great benefits for you as well. It allows you try out new things and hone new skills in a lower-pressure environment than a typical job. You can also expand your network by meeting new people who share your similar interests and passions. And again, it expands your network of professional connections and adds skills that can give you a leg up in your job search.
The old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” A large network of professional contacts can definitely come in handy when you’re actively hunting for a job.
BUT…you’re not going to meet these people while binge-watching Netflix and eating snacks on your couch. Make an effort to get out there and meet new people. Many community organizations host networking events for local professionals. Search Facebook or Meetup for local networking groups, reach out to some of your past mentors and contacts to set up a coffee date, or contact a company you really admire to set up an informational interview.
Take Care of Yourself
We all know that high levels of stress can have a big impact on our attitudes and physical health. You don’t want to get so wrapped up in the pressures of your job hunt that you let the rest of your healthy habits fall by the wayside.
Although it may not be not directly related to landing the job of your dreams, it’s important that you place an emphasis on your personal health. Focus on drinking enough water each day and maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet. Get outside, to a gym, be active, get a massage, get together with friends and family. Those job applications will still be there when you get back.
I know job hunting can be a stressful and disheartening experience at times. While it might be tempting to spend time complaining to your friends or cyber-stalking hiring managers and recruiters, there are much more productive uses of your time.
Consider doing a few of these during your job hunt, and prepare for all of the positive results. We created a list of the top 210 job search sites for 2016 to give you a hand!