What to say if you’re unemployed and get asked “what have you been doing?”

If you are job-seeking, whether due to layoffs or because you are a recent graduate, you are sure to encounter questions from networking contacts and interviewers (if you’re lucky enough to get interviews) about what you have been up to. Especially if it’s been a while since you were either employed or in school, you will need an answer to “what do you do?” or “what have you been doing since your last job?”  Saying “I’ve been job-searching” isn’t terrible, but you can find ways to answer this question that focus more on the positives of your situation.  Removing yourself from the category of “desperate job seekers” is essential to the job hunt process.  Here are some positive ways to answer this sometimes-dreaded question of “what have you been doing?”

1. “I’ve been seeking an opportunity that’s a good fit with my background and passion, and connecting with people in my field.” To say you are seeking an opportunity sounds a lot better than “looking for a job” because it emphasizes the future and the positive new direction you hope to go in rather than focusing on your lack of a current job. It also makes it sound like you are picky, focused mainly on finding a career that’s a good fit with your skills and interests, rather than desperately hoping for employment.  Connecting with those in your field, via networking and attending industry events, keeps you fresh in your field, provides you with essential information about career opportunities, and shows your continued alignment with your chosen profession.

2. “I’ve been involved in community work.” Serving on a nonprofit board of directors, a local community or neighborhood board, or volunteering in your community is a great way to build new connections, fill your time, and possibly gain new skills, while benefiting those around you. By focusing on others rather than yourself, you show you are not just focused solely on your job search. Many people have found jobs in nonprofit organizations by getting involved, too, so you never know where this will lead.

3. “I’ve been building my skills.” Taking a continuing education course that hones new technical skills in your profession or even builds a relevant credential or certification is an ideal way to spend time if you are not working a 9-5 job every day. By reading job descriptions in your field, you will find out which skills are being asked for, and if you are missing one, take the time to build this skill. You can make yourself a better candidate this way, too.

Need help finding a new job? Ask me about career coaching.

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