Down time can have its upsides, our weekly column from various Irish newspapers

Q: I have been employed on and off in various short-term contracts over the past few years. At the moment, I am on my longest period of unemployment, stretching back to September last. There isn’t much on the horizon right now. What can I do to make beneficial use of the time? (DF, email)

A: First of all, the fact you are even asking the question is a good start. During periods of unemployment, particularly during a widely-publicised recession, it is easy to slip into negativity. It is important to take as much control of your career as you can.

A few suggestions:

  • Do some training. Even if the exact course you wish to pursue isn’t available locally, do a different course. Training brings a number of benefits. It keeps your mind active and stretched. You get to meet people, which can help your morale. Through interaction with others you may hear about job opportunities. And, perhaps the most under-estimated one of all, it looks impressive on your CV. To be able to say that during a time of unemployment you didn’t just let the grass grow underneath your feet can be a powerful statement. Employers tend to notice that kind of initiative. FAS and various other agencies run some excellent courses.
  • If you can’t get to a course, look at online training – sites such as,,, and countless others, offer free courses on all sorts of topics. has a tagline of ‘learn almost anything for free.’ A few short courses could open up a whole new range of interests and possibilities for you.
  • Keep yourself physically active too. It costs nothing to walk or run a few miles a day and very little to play a few games of five-a-side a week if that’s your thing.
  • Contact people who might be able to help you. Make it known you are on the look-out for work. Ireland is a fraternal country – awash with all sorts of formal and informal networks – and you need to identify your own networks and start using them. They could be your aforementioned five-a-side buddies, or former work colleagues.
  • Get someone to have a look at your CV. For the New Year, here at Sli Nua Careers we are offering free CV critiques. Simply email your CV to with Free Critique in the subject line and we will cast an eye over it for you.
  • Join a jobs club. We’re blue in the face recommending this – and if there isn’t one in your area, start one. Talk to people who can help you make it happen. Apart from the many benefits of jobs clubs – most notably their success rate in actually helping people get jobs – the fact you took it upon yourself to start the jobs club will boost your CV.
  • Make a plan. Write down six things you will do a week – it could include some of the items listed above, plus perhaps an exploratory trip to your local library, or a call to your nearby FAS office. Or log onto and take some tests to see if they reveal anything about your possible career strengths.

For a copy of Sli Nua Careers’ CV checklist, email with CV Checklist in the subject line. Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. More: