How to Make Unemployment the Most Productive Time in Your Career

by Ryon Harms on February 22, 2010

caveman 1 How to Make Unemployment the Most Productive Time in Your Career

When most of us find ourselves in transition we’re like the man in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Here’s the allegory in a nutshell: Imagine a group of people living in a cave lit only by a small fire. Now imagine one of them getting dragged out of that cave and brought out into the sunlight. The person getting dragged out would no doubt curse the person pulling him out, and once on the surface would be blinded by his first painful exposure to the bright sun. Eventually his pupils would start to adjust to the sunlight and reveal to him an entire new world of truth and possibilities.

Point is that the fear and anxiety that comes from a recent layoff or firing can be overwhelming. However, once the dust settles and we start to rethink our predicament, we realize that in fact being in transition can be turned into a major strategic advantage over working peers. Don’t believe me?

When it comes down to it, time is money. And time is exactly what you get when you’re in transition. Unlike working for somebody else, what you do with that time is entirely up to you. You can waste it on the worn out  job search path most people take, or you can cash in your time to establish a foundation that will pay dividends for your entire career. If I were you, I’d bet most of my time on three surefire winners: knowledge, networking and sharing.

Knowledge - Your brain is like a bank. The more you educate yourself – the more you read, the more you learn from observation and experience – the more you deposit and the more you’ll have available to you at an opportune time. If you’re not reading books, industry rags, business blogs and an infinite number of informational resources on the Web, you’re wasting a golden opportunity to make huge deposits of knowledge in your brain trust.

Networking - Today and even more so in the years ahead, your worth will not only be judged by the people you know, but by the people that know you. Known as the Network Effect, the more you invest in your network, the more value you’re able to give new members which serves to drive demand for membership in your personal network. Working professionals that understand this principal would kill to have enough time to grow their networks and in turn their career capital.

Sharing - Now imagine combining those two key elements – sharing your constantly expanding knowledge and contacts with your constantly expanding network. The result is immensely valuable and the key to making your transition the most productive time in your career. In addition to your unique knowledge, sharing should come from your intangibles, the very things that an employer might otherwise pay you handsomely for.

Only question is, what happens when you return to that cave called employment? No doubt you’ll find those cave dwellers rather dull and unproductive. Here are Plato’s thoughts on how they might see you back: “Wouldn’t it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it’s not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn’t they kill him?”

Ouch.

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