Gina Mei
August 12, 2014 2:26 pm

Times are hard for dreamers—and for millennials trying to find a job. It seems like most people I know have gone through un- or under- employment, myself included, and to say it’s difficult and frustrating is an understatement. I’m all for feeling feelings, but sometimes the never-ending job hunt feels a little too soul-crushing.

What I’ve come to learn is that balance is important. You can’t spend all your time sending out cover letters, and anxiously refreshing your email. Sometimes you need to step away from the job search, if only for a few hours, and just lose yourself in a new, completely unrelated activity. You’ll thank yourself later. Here are just a few ideas for making your unemployment feel a little more fun and purposeful.

1. Get out of the house

As tempting as it is to never wear real pants or see sunlight again, taking the time to get out of bed and go outside makes a huge difference in unemployment morale. Go for a walk. Sit in a park. Pet some dogs. It’s pretty easy to get away with not seeing another human ever again, but I find taking my laptop to a coffee shop actually boosts productivity. If most of your time is spent writing cover letters and sending out your resumé, try doing it outside of your bedroom for a change of pace.

2. Take advantage of happy hour

In previous jobs, I either got stuck with horrible shifts or was working behind a desk until late, which meant I missed out on good deals and fun times at all my favorite local bars. (One of those bars had a $3 beer/shot combo—which should have been illegal.) When you’re low on cash, happy hour is an awesome excuse to grab a cocktail with your buddies and take the emotional load off. If you don’t drink, a lot of bars have food specials, too. Who doesn’t love buffalo wings or fancy fries on the cheap?

3. Go hard at your local library

Remember all those books you promised yourself you’d read once you found the time? Now is that time. Libraries are heavenly places that make it incredibly easy to get your hands on a great book (or magazine or comic or movie). It’s all free, all the time. As a bonus, the library is a great quiet space (with Internet) if you need to focus and finish up some job apps.

4. Take a class

Community colleges are awesome if you want to expand your knowledge and skill set, and I was shocked to find out that some classes are less than $50 per quarter (which really made me rethink/cry about how much I paid for school). There are also plenty of options online, like Coursera, Skillshare, and edX, that offer a wide variety of courses both peculiar and useful for free or very cheap. Whether it’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try or something to boost your resumé, taking a class is a great way to keep yourself busy and get your brain churning.

5. Catch up on Netflix

For the days you can’t stomach another “To whom it may concern,” why not marathon a few seasons of your favorite TV show or start a new series using your ex’s HBO GO account? The options are endless. You do you.

6. Actually try to make some of those recipes you pinned a year ago

As a Pinterest addict, I’m guilty of this: My food board makes me look like I’m an Iron Chef, when, in fact, I’m closer to a Chef Boyardee. Start with some of the easier, budget-friendly recipes and work your way up. In no time, you’ll be at least moderately self-sufficient at a handful of dishes and have something to bring to your next potluck.

7. Work on your side hustle

Can you knit? Do you have a penchant for watercolor? Are you super crafty? Open an Etsy shop! Is your closet overflowing with things you never wear? Sell some clothes to a consignment store (or, if you don’t like dealing with people face to face, try eBay or Poshmark). My friend’s sister sat at the subway station and offered “Pay What You Want” poems when she was unemployed. When you have a lot of time on your hands, you might as well explore alternative ways of making a little money.

8. Exercise

Nowadays, there are so many cheap/free options to keep fit that there’s no excuse not to work out. But do as I recommend, not as I do. I hate running, but if I can make it through Couch-to-5k, then you can, too. Or, take a long bike ride and clear your head. YouTube is a haven for workout videos (Blogilates is killer, if you can make it through!), and lots of places offer donation-based classes. No matter what you choose, get those endorphins flowing!

9. Reach out to people

Networking makes me pretty uncomfortable, but most people are more open to talking to you than you’d expect. Keep your LinkedIn updated and reach out to friends-of-friends doing things that you want to be doing. Lots of folks are happy to talk about how they got to where they are, just make sure to bring something to the table. Who knows? Maybe you’ll accidentally create an opportunity for yourself.

10. Volunteer

If you’re really feeling purposeless, volunteer. No matter what issues are closest to your heart, there’s always a way to give your time and help out. Working for a cause you’re passionate about is extremely rewarding. It’s also a great way to explore some new career avenues.

11. Treat yo self

It’s easy to forget how awesome you are when facing job rejection, so give yourself a pick-me-up when necessary to get back on track. Whether this means buying the slightly fancier instant ramen or having a luxurious home spa day, do what you got to do to make yourself feel special!

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