link_482307185If you’ve been unemployed for many months, it’s difficult to overcome the perception that your skills aren’t up-to-date. Here are 7 ways to keep current and showcase your value to potential employers.

  1. Take classes. Going to school is a great way to keep your skills up-to-date and fill in skills gaps. There are endless learning opportunities for every field, and many are free or low-cost. Take an accounting class or business writing class. Learn to build a website. Try MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) or online colleges and universities. Complete a course and add it to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  1. Add a certification or degree. Don’t let lack of a college or professional degree, or desired certification, hold you back. A friend of mine got her BA through an online university, and it boosted her confidence, as well as helped propel her career into high gear. I got an MBA in Leadership to be a better coach. Become certified in Google Analytics. Get your PMP® or become a Certified Scrum Master. Become LEED accredited.
  1. Read about current trends in your field. The Internet makes it so easy to find out what’s going on in project management, social media, health care, engineering, law…every field imaginable. You’ll learn what skills and credentials are emerging as desirable and can then pursue those.
  1. Volunteer your services to a small business owner. Yes, do pro bono work for someone you know who runs a small business. Together, identify projects where they might need help. Then propose yourself as a free consultant. Write a newsletter. Do legal research. Straighten out their systems or inventory. Paid or not, you’re now working. Your paycheck is the experience itself. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations.

You can open your own business as a consultant. Create a website, social media presence, and marketing strategy. Find paying clients through your professional network, or offer low-cost or even free consulting. People can pay you with testimonials for your website and LinkedIn profile.

  1. Volunteer with a non-profit. You may get hum-drum tasks at first, like sorting canned goods, doing data entry or stuffing envelopes. But if you’re consistently there and reliable, you can suggest more complex assignments that fill real needs. One long-term unemployed client was an experienced executive who eventually volunteered to support a small non-profit’s CEO 4 days a week. She got a stellar recommendation and was able to pursue additional opportunities.
  1. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Incorporate the consulting and volunteer work you’ve done to fill in the gap since your last job. You’ll show that your skills are current and that you still have drive and a solid work ethic. Plus, you’ll have recent experience in a work setting.
  1. Publicize your activity. Use LinkedIn to let your network see how you are current. Post updates with links to stories you read either on LinkedIn or other media – add a comment to highlight a key point, ask others’ opinions, or give an opinion. Make sure your LinkedIn profile updates are public, to trigger your network to view your profile and to stay “top of mind.” When someone learns of an appropriate job, they could think of you.

Now combine these strategies to speed up your job search. One client was unemployed for a year and couldn’t get any interviews. He began to extensively read and post about his field, did 2 pro bono gigs, got his PMP® and updated his resume and LinkedIn profile. He got interviews and then pointed to how he’d kept himself current. He’s no longer unemployed.



Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.