05/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Be Jobless Without Feeling Useless

Dear Christine,
I have been unemployed for two months and feel like I have been very proactive in my job search. I am on-line everyday looking for new opportunities, I am using professional networking sites, and submitting my resume wherever I can. What else can I do? I actually want to work and be a contributing member of society - I feel useless right now!
- Jobless and feeling useless, 25, Texas

Dear Jobless and feeling useless,

I am sure that many people can empathize with your situation; and that is part of the problem. Too many Americans are subscribing to thoughts about that leave them feeling depressed, unmotivated and unproductive. Too much pessimism is in the air right now and I encourage you not to inhale too much. A fresh breath of positive thinking alone is going to get you a job, but it will certainly help. Since thought follows action, one of the best ways to inspire positive thought is by doing things in your life that are productive.

To get out of the rabbit-hole of negative/fear-based thinking ask, "What can I do right now that is useful?" I suggest utilizing this spare time you have now to volunteer. Where can you serve? How can you share your unique talents, gifts and experiences to make a difference? I guarantee you that if you find a way to be of service, even just for a few hours a week, you will stop feeling useless.

Another suggestion comes from Cari Sommmer, co-founder of Urban Interns which connects small businesses and busy professionals with qualified, part-time assistants looking for flexible opportunities on a paid or unpaid basis: "Take a look at unpaid opportunities. We see a lot of companies, especially small businesses, offering unpaid temporary positions that have the potential to grow into full time employment. Getting your foot in the door is often the hardest step, so if you do find a position, even if it's unpaid, be sure to work hard, show your strengths, and really shine. Even if that position doesn't pan out into a full time gig, you'll develop a whole new network of people who may be willing to reach out to their contacts on your behalf."

In terms of your approach to the job search, incorporate more of the human element instead of using the internet as your primary job-search tool. In other words, step away from your computer! Make a list of everyone that you know as more than just an acquaintance. Each day spend at least one hour calling the individuals on your list to connect, network, and ask for feedback, advice, and possible introductions to additional contacts. Start each conversation by catching up and taking a sincere interest in their life - it's important to connect before diving into a conversation about your employment situation.

After you've connected, gently transition by saying something along the lines of, "I'd love to share with you about where I am on my career path - what I have done, where I am now, and what I am looking for as you are someone who I respect and trust. Do you have five minutes to talk?" I recommend writing a short script before you begin making the calls that describes your professional skills and experiences to date so that the person has more of a sense of your background. Next describe the type of work you are seeking and/or mention that you are open to any new opportunities. Be courageous and ask the person if they know anyone in any field that would be open to doing an informational interview with you. Make your intention for each call be to grow your list of connections and possibilities.

And keep getting yourself out there in the world! Physically walk into companies and places of business that interest you and introduce yourself. Ask for an application and I recommend completing it immediately on-site (bring copies of your resume with you) so you can hand it in and request to meet the hiring manager directly. Conducting your job search exclusively or primarily online is limiting. Don't underestimate the value of face-to-face interaction. You are more than a piece of paper with bullet points!

- Christine
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