5 action items for career management when there is nothing to do at work

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jul 24

There’s a lot of nonsense advice out there when tough times come visiting companies and the threat of layoff increases. In my opinion, the biggest piece of nonsense advice is this one: Look busy, even if there is nothing to do.

If there truly is nothing to do at your work, your position is in a lot more trouble than “looking busy” will solve. Instead of “looking busy,” I’d get busy on what is needed for my career. Here’s five steps to take:

  • Inventory your job skills. Job skills are the attributes you bring to an employer to get work done. Certifications? Projects you’ve worked on? Training you’ve done?
  • Inventory your accomplishments. Your accomplishments must be presented in how they have helped the business. Simply working on a project doesn’t cut it; you need to say what working on the project did for the business.
  • Update your resume. While this is standard advice, my point in updating the resume is it forces you to succinctly state your skills and accomplishments. Writing your resume forces you to distill your work into a short synopsis of your skills.
  • Find your story. With the skills you bring to the job plus your accomplishments, you can build stories that you can tell about your work.  Getting these stories identified helps you build a case about how you are different than other candidates for a job.
  • Get out of any siege mentality. Too often, companies in trouble bring along the effect of taking their employees along for the ride. This makes sense, of course, as if your company is in trouble it is natural to feel that way as well. That feeling, however, comes across in interviews with other employers. Get enough space so that you can objectively look at your work and your company.

If your manager is any good at all, “looking busy” isn’t fooling anyone. If there’s nothing for you to do for your employer, I’d be looking out for number one.

What do you do at work when there’s nothing to do?


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.