100 Skills You Should Learn (for Free) While You’re Unemployed

Posted November 1, 2009

Being unemployed is depressing, frustrating and incredibly worrisome. But in addition to sending out resumes, there are some other practical ways you can spend your time as you search for a career in business, education career, the best criminal justice careers, engineer jobs, health and nursing professions, or science jobs. From learning how to cook budget meals to improving your networking skills to turning yourself into a highly desirable, indispensable employee, here are 100 skills you should learn for free while you’re unemployed.

People Skills and Networking

Become a better networker, small talker and listener to improve your job prospects.

  1. Listen: Become a better listener by tuning out background noise and making eye contact.
  2. Build a portfolio: Have an organized hard copy and file on your computer that succinctly and accurately represents your best work.
  3. Share the conversation: Don’t dominate the conversation: learn to take a step back when you’ve said your part, and know when to jump in if the conversation becomes all about them.
  4. Understand your emotional intelligence: Become more socially aware and learn to evaluate your own emotions and reactions.
  5. Bring personality to a company: Being able to provide something that people can relate to behind the big corporate name is priceless.
  6. Make your resume Internet ready: Make sure your updated resume will display nicely when you e-mail it and post it on job sites.
  7. Set an example: Learn how to inspire others by doing what you love, being expressive, and helping others along the way.
  8. Expand your network: Tap into contacts two or three degrees removed from your regular network.
  9. Network or interview on the phone: Stop working on your in-person networking skills for a minute and remind yourself how to win someone over via the telephone.
  10. Give a strong handshake: Impress people with your confidence by giving a better handshake.
  11. Remember people’s names: From face association to repetition, there are various ways to remember a person’s name.
  12. Know when and how to use icebreakers: Become the one other people depend on to make connections and feel comfortable.
  13. Make a point to grow existing relationships: Don’t just get to know people on the surface: get to know business and personal contacts on a deeper level.

Life hacks

From making your own coffee to saving gas, here you’ll learn valuable skills that save you money, too.

  1. Make your own coffee: Cut back on expensive coffee runs by learning how to make your own cup.
  2. Comparison shop: Comparison shopping will save you money and turn you into a more responsible consumer and better product researcher.
  3. Learn how to be more energy efficient: Save money on energy bills at home and at your new office when you get hired again.
  4. Save gas: Minimize the number of times you have to spend money on gas by making each fill up last longer.
  5. Eat cheaply: Watch this video to learn how to make yummy meals out of dollar-store food.
  6. Discover your life purpose: Discover how to tap into your life purpose and passion to give you more direction in your job search and life goals.
  7. Face reality: Accepting and dealing with reality will help your career and your personal life.
  8. Cook: While you have the time, learn to cook healthy, budget-friendly meals for yourself, and use leftovers.
  9. Being positive: Stop complaining and turn yourself into a positive thinker.
  10. Meditate: Meditation will help get you through the tough times.

Productivity and Task Mastering

Stay productive and learn to stay on task, avoid procrastinating and set goals even when you’re unemployed.

  1. Get up on time: Learn how to get up right when your alarm goes off to get a fresh, productive start to the day.
  2. Funneling: The art of funneling means that you know how to manage incoming projects and to-do lists, and prioritize them accordingly.
  3. Speed reading: You’ll be able to stay on top of industry reports, news stories, job postings and more when you learn to speed read.
  4. Break things down: Turn difficult tasks into easier ones by breaking them down and taking it day by day.
  5. How to set goals: Setting goals will help you be more successful, in the short-and long-term.
  6. Overcome fear of failure: Fear of failure wastes time and prevents you from doing what you really want.
  7. Beat procrastination: This step-by-step guide will help you beat procrastination.
  8. Prepare a to-do list: A well-organized to-do list will keep you on track and save time.
  9. Learn the Pomodoro Technique: Those who are anxious about meeting deadlines should master this technique.
  10. Eliminate distractions: Learn how to tune out distractions and interruptions.

Computer and Internet Skills

These skills will turn you into a better Googler, blogger and typer.

  1. Online research: Besides helping you find a job, solid Internet research skills will make you a desirable job candidate.
  2. Learn how to use different operating systems: Train yourself to learn how to use Macs, Windows and Linux systems.
  3. Hack Google: Learn all of the Google shortcuts and business tools.
  4. Build a high-traffic website: Promote yourself and show potential employers how you can improve their websites.
  5. Use Facebook productively: Turn Facebook into a business tool for networking, branding and more.
  6. Basic web design: Employers will snatch you up if you know even basic web design.
  7. Blog: Becoming an expert blogger takes time, so use your unemployment to learn the technical and business side of blogging.
  8. Telecommute: Learn how to work with others online.
  9. Learn to type: Typing quickly and correctly saves you time and makes your work look more professional.
  10. Create a podcast: This fun and simple skill could increase your job prospects too.

Organization

Organize your personal and professional life by learning these skills.

  1. Be punctual: Being punctual forces you to map out your day according to appointments and to-dos.
  2. Use spreadsheets: Spreadsheets are great organizing tools and are used at almost every office.
  3. Sort email: Set up folders, archives, filters and searches to organize all of your emails.
  4. Prioritize: Prioritize your tasks so that it’s easier to work down your to-do list.
  5. Use a calendar: Make use of an online calendar to set up alerts and more tools to help you stay organized.
  6. Improve your memory: Practice different techniques to improve your memory.
  7. Organize your closet: A better organized closet will help you stay on top of chores and get ready faster in the mornings.

Writing

Write better emails, use better grammar and influence others with your writing.

  1. Write better emails: Write effective, impressive emails and subject headings.
  2. Learn correct grammar: Poor grammar will hurt your career prospects in a heartbeat.
  3. Persuasive writing: Learn how to write more persuasively and passionately.
  4. Write for the Internet: Writing online pieces is completely different than writing for traditional media.
  5. Write the perfect cover letter: Write a better opening and remember to include all the important details.

Confidence

These skills will boost your confidence and make others take notice of you.

  1. Work on body language: Learn how to stand confidently, make eye contact and relax.
  2. Trust yourself: If you’re constantly worried about what other people think of you and your decisions, you’ll come across as weak and inexperienced.
  3. Examine your soft skills: Discover what soft skills make you a good employee: leadership, dedication, or the ability to motivate others.
  4. Master the job interview: Be prepared, be confident and research the company and person you’re interviewing with.
  5. Handle rejection: Stay confident and inspired even when you aren’t getting call backs.

Promotion and Branding

The skills you learn to promote yourself now will pay off later.

  1. Design for branding: Learn how to think creatively and visually in order to promote your brand.
  2. Understand copyright: Learn about copyright laws and how to get your own patent.
  3. Promote yourself without bragging: You’ve got to learn how to relate to people and make them interested in you and your experience, without bragging.
  4. Know — and own — your best attributes: Show off your ability to close a sale or put on your resume that you’re the one to call if a decision needs to be made.
  5. Being accountable: Monitor what’s being said about you online and on social networks, keep track of your brand’s reputation, and own up to any mistakes or issues people have with you.
  6. Use Twitter effectively: Learn how to use Twitter to boost your brand and reputation, not diminish it.
  7. Develop your message: Learn how to create a focused, engaging message.
  8. Write a press release: Even if you don’t work in PR or marketing, being able to write a press release is a valuable, desirable skill personally and professionally.
  9. Follow up: Make sure you follow up on promises and after meeting new people.
  10. Identify an audience: Learn how to rework your message depending on who you’re speaking to.

Speaking and Communication

From better storytelling to learning a new language or becoming an effective public speaker, these communication skills will make you more influential and confident.

  1. Learn a foreign language: Speaking at least two languages greatly increases your desirability as a job candidate.
  2. Storytelling: For presentations and networking, it helps if you’re a good storyteller.
  3. Keep it simple: Don’t babble; instead, learn to speak clearly and simply.
  4. How to make transitions: Making smooth transitions in your talks and presentations will strengthen your speech overall.
  5. Deliver bad news: You should learn how to be diplomatic and break bad news considerately.
  6. Consider things from different points of view: Relate to your audience and act like a fair leader by considering various points of view.
  7. Give a compliment: If you’re uncomfortable giving compliments, you’d better learn how to get over it.
  8. Negotiate: Negotiate salary, job offers, payment, and more.
  9. Conflict management: Learn how to be more diplomatic and solve problems in the workplace.
  10. Speak to executives: Don’t be afraid to talk to the boss, just make sure you do it the right way.

Finance

Save money and learn smarter budgeting tips here.

  1. Open a Roth IRA: Use a little of the money you have saved to start a Roth IRA for the future.
  2. Pay taxes as a freelancer: If you’re freelancing between full-time jobs, you’ll need to learn how to do your own taxes.
  3. Turn eBay into a money-maker: While you’re out of work, learn how to use eBay to make extra cash.
  4. Haggle: Get better deals on food, entertainment, clothes and more when you learn to haggle.
  5. Lower your cell phone bill: Learn how to lower your cell phone bill when you’re tightening your budget.
  6. Get a tax extension: If you just can’t pay your taxes this year because you’re unemployed, learn how to get an extension.
  7. Consolidate debt: This skill may help you with a finance problem at work and alleviate some of the burden of high interest rates.
  8. Make a budget: This practical skill will save you money and help you trim expenses at work.
  9. Find a bargain: Learn when to go generic and hunt for bargains.
  10. Save: Practice restraint by setting up savings accounts and spending less.

Weird Skills

You never know when you’ll need to win a fist fight or have to know your tolerance for alcohol, so practice now.

  1. Win a fist fight: Man up and learn how to win a fist fight or street fight.
  2. Be more photogenic: Look more attractive and confident in photographs.
  3. Know your tolerance: Before getting wasted at networking events or office parties, know how much booze you can handle.
  4. Be a respectful house guest: Review basic etiquette and send a thank-you note the next day.
  5. Know when someone is lying: Be able to tell when someone else is lying to protect yourself.

Miscellaneous

From tying a tie to taking better notes, here are more skills you should learn while you’re unemployed.

  1. Stay on top of industry news: Make reading industry reports and niche news blogs a habit for when you’re unemployed and when you get a job.
  2. Get comfortable with international travel: Even if you can’t afford a plane ticket, read world news, learn a language and keep up with other cultures to broaden your horizons and show potential employers that you’re open to traveling for them.
  3. Tie a tie: Make sure you always look presentable by tying your tie correctly.
  4. Keep your brain active: Keep learning so that you’re in shape to tackle new challenges when you do find a job.
  5. Take better notes: Learn to take notes during interviews and meetings.

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