Unpaid time off is one way employers are trying to make ends meet in the recession while avoiding, reducing or at least delaying layoffs.
But furloughs are a far cry from vacations. You’re too worried to spend money going anywhere, but just hanging around the house can give you too much time to think–and worry even more.
If you’ve been furloughed, here are some ideas for making the most of your time off:
Create your layoff plan. Don’t stick your head in the sand: Your company’s in serious trouble if it’s furloughing workers. Review your finances and look for ways to build up your emergency fund. If there’s an expense you’d cut if you were laid off, trim it now and bank the extra cash. Read my “Survival Guide for the Unemployed” for tips about handling the worst if it happens.
Get serious about online networking. Build your profile on at least one professional networking site such as LinkedIn or Plaxo. Reach out to former colleagues, friends, old classmates. Many people find jobs not through their nearest and dearest but from “weak” connections: acquaintances, friends of friends. The bigger your network, the better your chances of uncovering your next great position.
Network offline, too. Check out professional or social organizations that might help you expand your sphere. Consider volunteering, not just for the contacts but for the sense of gratitude you’ll get. Resume expert Tony Bashera recommends writing down the name and number of every single person you know as a kind of master networking sheet, then working your way through it to let folks know you’re looking for your next post.
Build up some goodwill. Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Never Eat Alone” is the best networking book I’ve read, and he emphasizes the importance of doing good deeds for others without direct expectation of rewards. Write a glowing recommendation for someone, tell someone else about a job prospect, encourage someone who’s feeling down. This stuff is easy to put off in the rush of a typical workday but is so essential to building a strong network–and feeling good about yourself.
Tackle a (reasonable) home repair or improvement project. Survey your abode and make a list of all the projects you haven’t had time to tackle because you’ve been working too hard to save your job. Then pick the tasks that will give you the best payoff in money saved, money earned or sheer satisfaction. You could declutter the house and sell the excess in a yard sale, for example, or catch up on all those little painting and repair jobs to save yourself the cost of a handyman. Read “5 things it’s cheaper to do yourself” for more ideas.
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