If you are currently unemployed, graduate school can appear both tempting and daunting. Tempting, in that it will offer a new path forward complete with a career center. Daunting in that it may be necessary to directly address the unemployment period within the application. While unemployment should never deter you from attending graduate school, we encourage our clients to consider carefully if graduate school is the right path for them. The money and time invested must lead to an optimal path forward to be worthwhile. Though graduate school can be tempting to alleviate the pains of unemployment, if you have never considered it prior to unemployment, it might not be the right move now.
If you’ve known awhile that eventually you would pursue a graduate program, a period of unemployment may provide a beneficial time to study for entrance exams and create compelling application materials. However, admissions committees will want to see that you are using your time wisely and productively, extending yourself beyond the work on your application materials. In order to present the employment gap as a critical time of development, consider the following:
Volunteering at an organization where you may be able to hone your leadership skills and refine an area of expertise
Tutoring students at a local university in relevant coursework
Taking courses at a local university or through online portals
Attending professional development conferences
We’ve listed a few resources and conferences that can provide great learning and networking. You can also look for conferences that have streaming capabilities to keep costs down.
Doing freelance work
For some insight into where to get started: https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-start-freelance-writing-1360255
Starting or writing more regularly for a blog
This link will take you to a site comparing various blog hosting platforms, and will give you the information you need to get started: http://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/how-to-choose-the-best-blogging-platform/
Investing completely in a hobby or other personally fulfilling undertaking
Writing a business plan or starting a business
On the application itself, you should not dwell on or make excuses for the employment gap. Rather, you will want to address it briefly, explain that it is not indicative of weakness in ability or character, has not hindered your pursuit of your goals, and you did indeed spend the time productively, gaining valuable insight. You ultimately want to show the admissions committee that you will work hard throughout the graduate program, be able to secure professional placement and that, instead of slowing you down, this obstacle has given you an opportunity to adjust course, work harder, and become better.