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How to Use a Period of Unemployment to Hone Your Skills There are growth opportunities all around us.

By Jennifer Spencer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're part of the 6.7% of the American population that is still unemployed amidst the fallout from Covid-19, know that you aren't alone. According to the Congressional Research Service, in April 2020, unemployment rivaled the record high of 1948 at a rate of 14.8%. While that percentage has leveled out, many have still found themselves in a temporary limbo, in-between jobs or trying to find their next career move.

But there can be a tremendous opportunity available within this period of waiting. Years of work experience on a resume is becoming less and less important in comparison to pure skill. If you can show a company what you can do for them, they're more likely to give you a chanc. And luckily, thanks to the internet and numerous resources, it's never been easier to grow those skills.

Whether you're currently unemployed or you have your eye on the next career jump, the following tips can help you to hone your skills outside the boundaries of a typical working environment.

1. Shadow friends

Here's an idea you maybe didn't think of: Since most are still remote, why not sit in on a friend's workday? Make a list of friends who are doing jobs that you'd love to do, and who have skills you'd love to have yourself. Then, see who's open to teaching you via exposure. Rather than them sitting down with you and teaching you, you can get second-hand experience simply by being in their vicinity as they navigate meetings, creative work, client calls or otherwise. Take notes.

This is referred to as "observational learning," and is how many of us learn how to do just about anything. Of course, practice is one component, but as humans, we learn a great deal simply by imitating others. This is how we began to learn how to walk and talk when we were infants and in our developmental stages. Consider shadowing friends on their remote workday as a try-out if you'd like a specific industry, and soak in as much as you can. This will also help you pick up on the language used in these meetings, which can bring an air of confidence or experience in your next interview.

Related: Be a Sponge to Become an Effective Entrepreneur

2. Take free online classes

Since you aren't experiencing tremendous Zoom fatigue from remote working, consider filling your daily schedule with online classes. Make it fun, like you're creating your own college curriculum. We usually think of taking classes as a means to an end, such as to get a degree or a certificate of completion. Begin to think of it differently. Jobs are more likely to give you an interview or take a chance on you if they feel confident that you can bring certain skill sets or perspectives to the company. So while you're taking these classes or reading these resources, let the wheels of your mind churn with ideas on how you can adapt these skills in a way that demonstrable to companies. For example, if you're learning how to run an ad campaign or SEO optimize, learn it well enough that you could submit an ad campaign proposal or a well-researched SEO report specifically for the company you're applying to. This will show them that you can do what your resume says.

3. Take your talents and skills to social media

There are many who have used social media throughout the pandemic to show what they can do, which is perfect timing, since everyone is home and on their phones. One example is actor Boman Martinez-Reid, who created fictional comedy reality TV show skits on TikTok and grew a following of over more than a million. Now, he's signed with a prestigious agency, and his story is a shining example of how a period of standstill can be the watering ground for you to thrive in what you really want to do. The world is your stage, thanks to today's social media platforms.

Others are showing off what they can do in their businesses or with their skill sets, with quick behind-the-scenes videos on creating their products. Some creators are showing how they shot ad campaigns or commercials in their houses with just a few props. Now, social media pages and profiles are another form of a portfolio to get the attention of brands or companies. Your work and talent can speak for itself more than ever before.

Related: 4 In-Demand Skills You Can Learn Online

It can be easy to feel like the time waiting to hear back from jobs, applying to new ones, or waiting for the world to return to a hint of normalcy shouldn't be used to further your skills, but there are ways to learn and then immediately apply these learnings to forge forth in your dream career.

Jennifer Spencer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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