What Have You Been Doing With Your Time Off

By | Feb 17, 2009

This post is part of my continueing series on being laid off.

“What have you been doing with your time off?”

I was surprised, after I was laid off earlier in the year, to get this question during an interview.  And even more surprised when I it happened on almost every interview I went on.   It caught me by surprise the first time, but I made sure the next time that I had an answer for them.  What they want to know is that you can use your time productively when you aren’t under direct supervision.  I have formulated several answers to this question, all of which seem to go over well.

Job Hunting

My first response is always, “You mean besides looking for a job?”  And then I talk about some of my job hunting strategies.  I outline my goal and how I’ve been working toward that goal: revamping my resume to allow my skills to stand out, networking, reviewing ads, targetting resume and cover letter to ads, reviewing company websites to prepare for interviews and/or target cover letters.  Most agree that  job hunting, if done right, can be a full time job in itself.  This answer helps highlight my ability to set goals and work to achieve them, as well as my organizational skills.

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Learning New Skills

Your time off is a great time to brush up on your skills, and it shows that you care about your professional development.  What is a skill you think you’re weak on?  Work on that skill and you not only help fluff up your resume, but you also have a great answer for how you used your time off productively.  “I’ve been working on improving my report writing skills in Access.  I have a great deal of experience designing and setting up access databases, but wanted to improve my ability to pull data to meet specific needs.”  See?  I added a positive in there (my Access experience) along with the fact that I’m building on that experience.


Many companies these days encourage their employees to give back to the community.  Volunteering your time at a local non-profit while you’re off not only shows that you like to keep busy, but that you care about the community around you.  This is an attractive trait to many companies.

Make Sure Your Answer is Productive

Regardless of how you answer the question of how you’ve used your time off, make sure your answer is productive.  Find an answer that illustrates the traits you can bring to that particular job.  What does the interviewer say they’re looking for?  Whatever it is, tailor your answer to their needs.  Having several answers ready to go depending on circumstances can make your interview much stronger.

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10 Comments so far
  1. Mark Salinas (1 comments) February 23, 2009 8:37 am

    Such a tough time for many…

    “Your time off is a great time to brush up on your skills, and it shows that you care about your professional development.” I absolutely agree!

  2. GossipSecretaries (1 comments) April 17, 2009 6:13 pm

    Great post! I especially liked your suggestion about learning new skills and brushing up on your old ones.

    The recommendation to volunteer is also so true. I myself have done this while I was between jobs last summer. It was a rewarding experience and it kept me busy and focused. At the same time, I was also able to make some great new contacts.

  3. diesel (1 comments) May 3, 2009 8:22 pm

    I just tell them that I’ve been very busy with my wrongful termination suit.

  4. Thierry Relation (1 comments) July 7, 2009 11:40 am

    But shouldn’t time off being just time off…I mean, no job hunting, no improving skills… just enjoying life with the people you love!

  5. Jodith (189 comments) July 19, 2009 11:26 am

    If you’re just taking time off for personal purposes, then yes. However, if you’ve been laid off and are looking for employment, then no. Especially in these economic times when competition for jobs is so high, you need to go overboard in setting yourself apart from the other candidates, making yourself stand out from the crowd. This is one way you can do so.

  6. Bryn Thomas (1 comments) December 17, 2009 3:01 am

    I’ve got enough free time, but its really hard getting a job these days, even if you do manage to get into an interview they short list to the very edge and its rather difficult for average people like me to stand out! what do I do then?

  7. Jodith (189 comments) December 20, 2009 7:50 pm

    I’ve found the best thing to do is have a really sharp resume that stands out. Using a functional resume is often a good idea, with subject headings that give the reader an quick idea of your experience. Once you get the interview, then you can wow them with your personality and skills. But you have to get the interview first.

  8. Manager Jobs (1 comments) December 22, 2009 9:27 pm

    Great blog. I am sort of a slacker eventhough I have a ton of time off. Maybe I ought to start walking the walk instead of talking the talk.

  9. sports supplements (1 comments) December 28, 2009 3:15 am

    Very interesting indeed, we all have some free time, and the best way to be productive is to ensure that we use that free time to do something that would obviously be productive!! true we all deserve time to relax, but relaxing all the time wont get you anywhere..think about it..

  10. Kenrick Chatman (2 comments) January 14, 2010 12:22 am

    To really stand out in a tough job market, you could create an online presence for your expertise by publishing articles. Publish articles written for your targeted audience (hiring managers of your targeted companies) and publish them on your website/blog or via sites like HubPages and Squidoo. Then use social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, and others to market your articles. You could also bring a portfolio with you to your interviews.
    .-= Kenrick Chatman´s last blog ..How to Differentiate Yourself and Rise to the Top of Your Profession =-.

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