Have you been putting off tasks that could improve your job search? Now's the time to do them.

You've baked banana bread, exhausted the offerings on Netflix and finally learnt that TikTok dance. What's next? If self-isolation has you crawling the walls, you have an opportunity to put your free time to good use. Using this period to give your career a boost could be the best gift you ever give yourself, and there are loads of ways you can improve your job prospects whilst you're in lockdown. Let's start with just seven ideas.

Make a 5-year plan

What's your five-year plan? The thought may strike fear in the pit of your stomach. Whilst most of us stumble our way through this standard interview question, the truth of the matter is that few of us have given it much thought. Now that you have more free time on your hands, it's the prime opportunity to start determining your plan.

Start small by mapping out the main goals you would like to achieve. Next, fill in the blanks between where you are right now and the steps you need to take. Needless to say, there will be some unanswerable questions here. However, you should be able to create a few attainable milestones. For instance, what changes will you have made by next year? The year after that? Having this guide will help you stay on track as you move forward professionally.

Improve your productivity

When you first start self-isolating, you're certain to see a drop in productivity. Yes, there's something about being cooped up in your home that is entirely demotivating. You don't have to wake up at any particular time, you need to put a wash on, and you can even work from the comfort of your sofa, should you want to (although it's not recommended).

Despite all of the above, staying productive about your job search is one of the smartest ways to improve your prospects. Start by making a to-do list every morning, and include tasks that will help you reach your goals. For example, you could look at job boards or spend some time on your LinkedIn.

Stay up to date with industry news

Whatever sector you work in, staying up to date with industry news is essential. Whether you're looking for an internal promotion or a new role, getting into this simple habit could make all the difference.

Dedicate time each day to reading about your industry and learning something new. You may want to subscribe to magazines within your discipline or find an online publication. Going the extra mile by always staying up to date and having your finger on the pulse will set you ahead of the competition, especially if you can show it off in your interview.

Boost your skill set online

Twiddling your thumbs each evening because you can't go out? Why not put this spare time to use and learn a new skill? Fortunately, there are plenty of free online learning resources you can use. Browse the options and choose a course that will help you within your chosen field. Some places to start include OpenLearn, reed.co.uk and Oxford Home Study Centre.

With some of these courses, you get a certificate at the end of the classes. That means you will have proof of your efforts and something new to add to your CV. Showing a willingness to learn new things and further your education will always help when it comes to gaining a new role.

Set up your own website

Work for yourself? If you're trying to sell your skills to clients, one of the smartest ways to improve your job prospects is to set up a website. Having a 'shop window' gives you a place to direct potential leads. If you work for an employer, setting up a website can still help to establish your personal brand.

When creating your website, try to position yourself as an authority within your sector. Add details about your career, your specialities and a portfolio, if relevant. Then when people search you up, they'll be able to find lots of information on you. That will set you in good stead when searching for new roles.

Luckily, you don't have to be a web developer to create a simple site for yourself. Instead, you can use handy platforms like Squarespace and Wix, two of the most reputable resources available. With both of these options, there's a variety of themes from which you can choose, and you can also take more of a build-it-yourself approach if you'd like.

Improve your CV

Does your CV need a refresh? If you're hunting for a new job, spending some time on this document is vital. You can build on your current version, but if it's been a long time since you've given it some thought, you may need to start from scratch. Make sure that you include key information such as your contact details, areas of expertise and work history. You can follow our handy guide to making the perfect CV to make sure it ticks all the right boxes. Or, consider working with a professional CV writer to take your document to the next level.

Get active on LinkedIn

Are you using LinkedIn to help you move forward? If the answer is no, you're missing a trick. First things first, if you don't already have one, make sure you set up a LinkedIn account. When you're all ready to go, start getting active. Add professional contacts and get involved in conversations online. You can also join industry-centric groups, which may help you make connections and find out about new roles. Here are more tips for using LinkedIn to improve your job search.

Using LinkedIn may not land you your dream job overnight, but dedicating just 10 minutes each day to looking at the networking site could make a real difference in both your current job search and your overall career.

The takeaway

Self-isolation is a challenge for all of us. However, you can also view it as an opportunity. If you've been putting off career-related tasks and things that could propel you forward, now is the time to do them. Use this period to set yourself up for post-lockdown success.

When you're staying at home, make progress on your CV by getting feedback from a free CV critique.

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