Activities for the unemployed


randomly compiled by Joe Murphy

Utilize public libraries

If you are one of the 9.6 percent of Americans who are unemployed (according to US Department of Labor statistics) then you likely have extra time on your hands and need to be thrifty. With that in mind, there are many things you can do to keep yourself occupied that are easy on your bank accountant. We are fortunate enough to live in a society with an extensive — and free — public library system. The library allows you internet access so you can fill out applications for hundreds of jobs online and peruse job search sites like or — if you dare — Craigslist. Oh yeah, they let you check out books there, too.


In the Triad area there are dozens of non-profit programs (soup kitchens, animal shelters, nursing homes, religious groups, etc.) that always need able bodies to donate time and energy for the betterment of the community. Though you don’t get a check at the end of the day, volunteerism is fulfilling in non-monetary ways — and if you have gaps between jobs, many employers look favorably upon a reference from a charity organization after you’ve been between jobs for a while.

Apply for jobs in-person

This primarily applies to jobs in food service or retail. If you show up at the right time (ideally when a manager is there), are appropriately dressed, fill out the application in the business and play your cards right, you might even get hired on the spot.

Learn to play an instrument

According to Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” That is true, but I always thought that song needed a parenthetical addendum: (“But probably not as well as me”). If you didn’t take lessons or participate in band as a kid, modern technology allows you to make music without a “real” instrument either. Samplers, turntables, synthesizers and computer programs can be found on the cheap, used or refurbished at a pawn shops or on eBay. But at this point, the only American genre of music that hasn’t been sampled to death to make electronic music or hip hop is probably bluegrass. Someone should get on that.

Become politically active

No matter how you feel about the outcome of last week’s election, whether you supported “change” circa 2008 or 2010, there is another election in a mere 12 months. If you aren’t employed, but still want to make an impact on our country, volunteer time to the party or activist group of your choice.

Ride a bike or fly a kite

My sixth grade math teacher missed his calling as a Marine drill instructor. I’ve never had a teacher (or coach, or boss) who yelled as loudly and with such little provocation. His voice literally would make the trailer, that served as our classroom, shake. But no matter how many people didn’t do their homework or got caught passing notes that day and felt his vocal wrath, he always closed class in a calm soothing tone, with the phrase “Peace, love, dove. Go ride a bike or fly a kite.” By that I’m pretty sure he was encouraging us to turn off the TV and the Nintendo 64 and play outside. While the leaves are still falling, before winter sinks its teeth into us, take advantage of the crisp, cool fall afternoons and ride a bike or fly a kite. Other enjoyable outdoor activities include skateboarding and, once the sun goes down, bonfires. It should be skiing season soon, too.

Join a recreational sports league

There are plenty of these to choose from. With fall in full effect and winter bearing down your best bet is indoor sports, for the time being. Indoor soccer, basketball and roller derby are all solid choices. Once spring arrives, a DIY kickball league would be a blast.

Start a business

Everybody wants to be his or her own boss. Carve out a realistic business plan, save a little bit from your unemployment checks (if you qualify) and get a small business loan (or friend with deep pockets) to finance the endeavor. There are far too many McDonald’s, Starbucks and Borders not enough locally owned and operated independent businesses like the Green Bean, Beef Burger and Empire Books.

Start a blog

Do you have a wealth of obscure knowledge about something like “Star Trek,” music, movies, pop culture or moonshine? Share those kernels of useless trivia with the world on your blog. If your blog gets enough hits you can start selling ad space. Then you’re a professional writer — err, I mean blogger. The best part about being a professional blogger, to me, would be that you can wear your pajamas to work.

Write a book

Everybody’s got a story to tell, right. Who knows, maybe yours is the next great American novel (spoiler alert: it probably isn’t). Even though you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a big publisher to even skim your masterpiece if you don’t have a hook-up in the industry or an over-priced MFA degree, you can publish it yourself as long as you save up a little scratch. That way at least your friends and family can read it (or at least pretend they did). You probably won’t be the next Nicholas Sparks and get rich writing redundantly formulaic books that become even worse movies or write a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius like Dave Eggers and become accepted in literati circles but you could always be the next, oh, I don’t know, Brian Clarey.