How to Keep Up Your Skills During the Job Search

Job Searching - Professional Skills

Even in an improving economy, looking for work can be discouraging. All job seekers are likely to face rejection at some point, but it can be hard to to keep up your confidence. It’s natural to fear that you’re becoming less employable as time goes by, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Being between jobs is hard, but it gives you the chance to earn new skills, and the respect of potential employers. Here are a few things you can do to keep up your skills while you search.

Learn and Train

Taking classes can help you keep up your current job skills and learn some new tricks, add a new skill you haven’t had time to learn, or retrain completely.

In-person and online classes each have their advantages. Online classes can give you flexibility in when you learn, cut down on travel time, and are often available for free—all of which can be valuable if you’re out of work. In-person classes give you the chance to meet teachers and fellow students in person, which gives you networking opportunities.

Even if you’re not taking a course, it’s important to maintain a connection to your industry by reading industry publications or online articles.

Some states, such as New Jersey and Delaware, may also offer educational grants and programs specifically for unemployed residents. If you are looking to retrain, our schools page can give you some options.

Network in person and online

You might think networking is what executives and salesmen do. That’s not true. Everyone needs to do it, and you can do it better. Aside from being vital to your job search, networking can keep you connected to your industry, and keep you in touch with what people are talking about, which in turn will improve your skills.

If you’re part of an industry group, attend their events—and if you’re feeling bold, you might volunteer as a speaker at an event.

Social media is an especially useful way to stay connected to your industry. Blogging about industry developments can show employers that you’re engaged and have a personal brand. You can also let people know what you’re posting on Twitter and (especially) on LinkedIn, where it’s easy to remain visible to people in your industry, including recruiters.


Volunteering is rewarding in its own right, but it has a number of advantages for a job-seeker. First, it eliminates gaps in your resume: when an employer glances at your experience, he or she will see you’ve always been doing something. And employers respect volunteering. In a survey of hiring managers conducted by LinkedIn:

  • 41% of hiring managers say they would consider volunteering experience as equivalent to full-time work;
  • 20% say they have hired someone because of their volunteer experience.

A separate study found that unemployed volunteers were 27% more likely to be hired than non-volunteers.

Well-chosen volunteer work can help to build your skills—and chances are you can do the most good as a volunteer if you’re using your unique talents.

If you have a trade, for example, your skills can be used on volunteer building projects—there might be a Habitat for Humanity project near you. Small nonprofits need help from everything to social media and event planning to administration and finance. Sites like Volunteer Match, Idealist, and LinkedIn for Volunteers can help you connect with opportunities that use your skills.

If you’re still looking for work, don’t be discouraged—plenty of people find the right job after looking for a long time. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out our schools pages, both on campus and online.

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