How to look like you're working when you're unemployed

by Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy, on Mon Jun 8, 2009 8:26am PDT

Getty Images

Getty Images

There is a natural tendency to want to hire someone who is already working, but in this economy, how do you convince those who you want to hire you that you are already doing what they want you to do?

When I decided I wanted to be a writing coach, I did two simple things. I added a "slash"  to my business card (writer/speaker/writing coach) and to the signature line of my email address. Before I had even figured out the details of my coaching business -- what I'd charge, where I'd meet with clients -- people started asking me about my services. Within a couple of months, my coaching practice was off the ground.

The business card and email signature work well if you're consulting or freelancing, but if you are looking for a full-time job, you'll need to use different techniques. Here are some other ideas:

Offer your services for free. And choose your recipients carefully. When my friend Marcia Ciriello  started a photography business, she offered to do my headshots for free. By doing that, she got a chance to conduct a practice session and get feedback. She also got something else; she knew that I knew a lot of writers who might need headshots and that I'd recommend her often if she did a good job. And that is exactly how it worked out. I was so impressed with her work that I wrote a testimonial for her web site and sent out a mailing to all of my friends. She booked several clients as a result of my recommendations.

 Just as consulting for free is a good way to build a service business, offering to work part-time for free can be a way to break into a new field, get experience, or even get a job. Adult internships are becoming increasingly common; the key is to structure one that allows you to network and get experience with a reasonable commitment of time (perhaps one day or several hours week), so that you can use your other time for income-producing work.

Share your expertise. If you have an area of knowledge that you'd like to lead to your next gig, start sharing your expertise with others. Write articles or start a blog. Get active on Twitter. Respond to questions in the"Answers" section of Linkedin. Talk to the media (This website - -- is a great way to make yourself available to media requests). Set up a simple website, even if it's just an holding space for what's to come. And of course, make sure to add the URL to anything you create to your email signature.

Announce it to the world.  I announced my coaching practice with business cards and an email signature, but there are other ways to do the same thing.  Mention it wherever you go. Send out an email newsletter telling people what you're up to. If it makes sense, offer a "friends and family" discount for your services or a coupon.  Add a line to your LinkedIn profile.  Write about it in your status update on Facebook. 

Anyone else have any good ideas for how to "fake it until you make it"?