So, if you're out of a job, one of the first things that is a good idea to do is give yourself a project or volunteer job that will give you valuable experience to put on your resume. This is particularly important if you want to change careers but don't have the experience to do what you're dreaming of. Immediately start to do something volunteer in that area, and gather experience to work your way backwards into a job. The way you get there isn't the issue -- it's that you eventually do get there. This is a blog post in itself for another day.
Giving yourself a volunteer job when unemployed is good for two reasons, one of which is not as necessary in this current era, but might be again. In times past, gaps on your resume were a problem. Being laid off wasn't as common, and it was expected that one would have to explain why they were out of a job. Nobody's really asking job candidates why today, as the U.S. unemployment rate is headed for 10%. With millions of Americans out of a job, there's no longer any stigma about it or any great pressure to explain why you are unemployed. But it hasn't always been that way, and this will probably change again. Right now, in most cases nobody will even ask you "what happened" at your previous job, they just assume you were laid off with the rest of the bazillions of Americans who were unfortunate enough to be let go. Now, this is very good news for those who might have had a hard time explaining departures or gaps if you were fired or left under less than stellar circumstances. This is the best of times for those of you in that category to be getting a job. However, it might not always stay that way. And that's why you need to keep the following in mind...
Giving yourself a volunteer job in the interim is a great idea. A resume is about experience, not salary. In other words, you can add things to your resume even if you are never paid to do them. In one of the most notable positions of my career so far, I was never paid a dime, yet it is a focal point of my resume and something that has opened up countless doors for me. Upon looking at my resume nobody has ever asked me what remuneration I received to do that job. And, I don't volunteer the information.
If you are out of work, assign yourself a position whether it be working in your church food bank, with the youth group, or serving in a missions organization overseas. First of all, you can make a gap in your resume go away that way by citing your involvement with whatever you are doing at the time, in your interview. Remember, it's not about what you're paid, it's about your experience and where you are spending your time. You might think, "how in the heck is that going to pay my bills?" The answer is, it won't at first however, what else do you have to do? You're out of work. The key is staying busy while you are out of work and putting yourself in position to be back to work sooner with a better job.
A perfect example of this is my sister Shari. She was laid of from her job in banking. She began to look at this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Rather than wait and sit at home until a job opened up she immediately began volunteering with Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child, a ministry she had always held in high esteem. Being single and having the latitude to do so she even made a radical move from Chesapeake, VA to Charlotte, NC to do so!! Yes, she moved there initially to volunteer. In a few months, she would have opportunity to not just volunteer but work for them on salaried staff. Her heart has always been missions anyway and her layoff just moved her into the field quicker. If SP wouldn't have offered her a job, she would have been in better position to be hired by another missions organization by gaining experience with SP. She worked herself into a job backwards.
My husband and I have experienced this as well. We came out of one difficult pastoral position that was basically a forced resignation. Instead of just waiting we immediately started attending a church in transition, went to the senior pastor and asked if we could serve, for free, on their staff in the interim. They were so excited, they almost did Holy Ghost backflips. They were so happy to have us volunteer, and we immediately added this position to our resume. No one ever asked us if it was paid or volunteer. Having this position on our resume brought continuity, closing the gap that would have been there by our resignation without another position. When we applied for our next position we did not even have to talk about our forced resignation situation because we weren't coming directly from there, we were coming from the job we "gave ourselves." In the interview, we could talk about the work we were currently doing. But if you aren't doing any current work you have nothing to talk about which presents a problem at least in a normal economy.
If you do this, when you are interviewing and are asked why you left, you can be truthful in saying, "I left my previous job and began to do ______________..." Just because you aren't paid for something doesn't mean it's not going to be an extremely valuable step in your career. If they do ask what you were paid for doing it, what's the worst that can happen? You now look like a saint who volunteers even under difficult life circumstances! :) Sounds like a no brainer to me.
**Another great piece of career advice would be, don't color your hair pink and expect to get a decent job. However, being that I already have two great jobs and am not afraid of losing them at this point in my life, I did it.