11/24/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2013

Four Productive Measures Every Unemployed Professional Should Be Taking

According to the October jobs report, the United States added 171,000 jobs as the unemployment rate hit 7.9 percent last month. Though many people are lucky to have nabbed one of those 171,000 jobs, there are still many professionals looking for that coveted position. And it could actually be a blessing in disguise.

If you're unemployed, you need to use this time to improve not only your brand, but also what you do with that brand once you land an interview. It means getting off the couch and proactively tweaking how you present yourself -- so that when you do get your foot in the door, you'll stay in that position for a while.

Here are four steps to take:

Analyze what you really want to do

It's important for you to use this time to do a little career soul searching. After all, just having a job doesn't guarantee a happier mental mindset. It can be quite the opposite if you don't sit down and analyze what you really want to do.

For example, maybe you were in advertising but really enjoy the financial aspect of the business. Or, perhaps you worked in retail for many years, but want to do more behind the scenes work. Either way, recognize how your motivations, strengths, values, and accomplishments have shaped your professional mindset -- and apply these traits to an occupation which will fulfill your career and your emotional well-being.

Gain the right contacts

You may have heard a lot about networking recently (and for good reason). According to numerous surveys, networking is still one of the best ways to find a job, whether online or at a professional event. When it comes down to it, many jobs aren't advertised. It's up to you to find the right contacts, present yourself as a candidate to watch, and use your networking experience as a link to employment.

In addition, think of networking as a necessary step to take before an interview. For instance, if you go to an industry event and meet an executive from your dream company, you can use that opportunity to feel out the day-to-day operations of the firm. Networking gives unemployed professionals a chance to explore and learn about multiple options without having to commit to anything beforehand.

Work on your interviewing skills

Before you can actually step into an interview, you have to prepare yourself for every opportunity. This means tuning your personal brand and presenting yourself as an authentic, confident job seeker who is ready for any situation.

Research is a huge part of the interview process. Many employers want to know you have an actual interest in not only the position, but also the organization and the industry. Read up on recent events in your field so that you can easily have a conversation with your potential employer, in addition to emphasizing your strengths and professional background.

Further, don't shy away from interview courses and tutorials. These programs are designed to help you to deal with any kind of interview setting -- from groups to informational, from tough critiques to laid-back executives. These educational opportunities can also assist you in answering questions in ways which highlight your strengths and what you can bring to the position. The combination of these will put you on the right path to success in any kind of interview.

Seal the deal

Another productive measure all unemployed professionals need to take is to understand what it means to "seal the deal." It means following up, saying thank you, and maintaining your desire for the job past the interview process. Some job seekers send thank you cards, while others tweet their appreciation. No matter what approach you take, remember this crucial step. Staying in the forefront of the employer's mind can make or make your job search since there may others who want it just as bad as you do. Don't lose out on an opportunity just because you forgot to take an extra step.

Though unemployed professionals may feel as if their search is akin to a black hole, remember to work on yourself during this important time period. You'll find that in the end, you'll no longer be part of that 7.9 percent; you'll be in a job you enjoy because you took the time to make it happen.

What do you think? What are so other productive measures every unemployed professional should take?