THE BLOG
04/30/2013 12:35 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2013

Unemployed? 4 Alternative Career Paths To Explore

According to the latest jobs report, there were 11.7 million unemployed Americans in March, with an unemployment rate at 7.6 percent. Scary, right?

There are legitimate reasons for the high employment rate, such as closed businesses, tight budgets, or a turnaround in operations. But one problem may be that some job seekers searches are too narrow. Could you benefit from a different type of career path?

When you're ready to open up your job search, check out these four alternative career paths, which can produce the same sort of meaningful work as traditional options.

Freelancing

Freelancers are typically attached to more than one project. According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, some of the most common professions for freelancers include designers, writers, editors, copywriters, translators, and Web developers. In addition, the report also indicated that freelancers could rise to as much as 30 to 50 percent of the entire U.S. workforce over the next few years.

Why go freelance? Unlike other career paths, 49 percent of freelancers have seen little to no impact from the economic downturn. In addition, the majority of freelancers are also optimistic about their business prospects over the next year. So, even if you're new to the freelance game, you'll likely find opportunities with the market on the rise.

Part-time gigs

Maybe you're in the market for something more flexible -- that's where part-time gigs come in! Part-time jobs allow you to work and receive an income, but in a more versatile setting. Many part-time gigs are hourly, but don't let that deter you. For instance, if you're thinking about switching industries, part-time gigs allow you to gain experience, without having to commit to a full-time position until it's available or until you're ready.

Why go part-time? The March Jobs Report indicated that hourly wages have risen over the past 12 months. This indicates growth in a sector you may not have thought of before. In addition, many part-time gigs do turn into full-time positions once you've proven yourself as an employee. So, while you're testing out an organization, you may be get the opportunity to stay there longer than you think.

Contracted projects

An organization may hire a contracted employee when they need someone for a certain time period. For example, some businesses take on contracted employees during their startup or launch phases. This gives you the chance to work in a company for a guaranteed time period and typically at a guaranteed rate. That is, the employee is contracted to work there and has agreed to set terms.

Why go contracted? Contracted employees are largely aware of their start and stop date, which can be attractive to those who want a distinct end. In addition, just like freelance work, many contracted employees are able to take on multiple projects at one time, bringing some variety into their workloads. You just have to remember to manage your time so one project or job doesn't affect or coincide with the other, which can influence your performance.

Seasonal work

Seasonal work is typically more prevalent during busy time periods, such as the winter holiday season. However, with summer closer than ever, many employers are gearing up to complete summer hiring soon. Seasonal work is also common with college or high school students, who have to go back to a larger commitment after their tenure.

Why go seasonal? Summer hiring is expected to increase this year, with many companies looking to bring on more workers. In conjunction with this, many workers are often hired on after the season if they prove themselves. So, even though you may not want to spend your summer with a seasonal gig, it could be a hidden opportunity in disguise.

If you're unemployed, open yourself up to some alternative career paths, such as freelancing, part-time gigs, contracted projects, and seasonal work. Not only are these options professionally beneficial, they can also be the key to ditching your unemployment status for good.

What do you think? What are some alternative career paths for the unemployed?

Lynn Dixon is the co-founder and COO of Hourly.com, an employment network that quickly matches people who are interested in flexible positions with the right opportunities. Connect with Lynn and Hourly on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.