I am a bed potato. The second I get home from whatever I’ve done that day, be it work, grocery shopping, or going to the gym, I am without pants and a bra, and comfortably stationed in my bed with the TV turned to the latest Real Housewives season. I love my bed.

But this gets me into trouble. Every hour that I spend watching trash TV and messing around on my phone could have been an hour I spent expanding my career options. Yes, there is a need to decompress and relax, but the “decompression” excuse is heavily stretched and taken advantage of.

If you find that you have a few spare hours most evenings and have the energy, you may have time to work on your career a little bit. Consider the following five suggestions when figuring out those spare hours:

1. Do your best to not sit down as soon as you get home.

My couch is an energy vacuum. First it sucks me onto it, and then it sucks out all of my motivation. The second I sit down and turn on the TV, it is impossible for me to want to do anything else. Getting up is a chore, unless it involves food. It doesn’t matter how good my intentions were when I sat down (I’ll just watch one episode of The Golden Girls), my goals for the rest of the evening disappeared the moment my butt hit the cushion.

I’ve found that if I ignore the couch and put off sitting down as long as I can, I can power through. Avoiding breaks is the best way to continue with my plans and stay productive, because I’m still riding the high from the rest of the day.

Still, listen to your body. If you do need to relax and decompress before tackling your next task, definitely do so. Let your body be its best self so you can be successful in your plans for the rest of the evening.

2. Seek freelance opportunities or work on your own projects.

Thanks to the internet, there are many opportunities for small jobs and portfolio building. Use these to your advantage, especially the jobs that don’t require work to be done during normal business hours.

Find companies that you would like to work for and see if they have any openings for small roles or assistance. Gaining experience in your field, however small, can help you get a leg up when you’re ready to go full time. Having a side hustle also shows initiative and good work ethic.

Related: 3 Ways I Started My Side Hustle With No Experience

3. Build your network.

Find groups on LinkedIn that are in your area and in your industry. The more connections you can make in your community, the higher your opportunity for key references and inside knowledge. According to Business Insider, establishing a solid network can provide you with the following:

  • Guidance
  • Job opportunities
  • Support
  • The chance to be discovered
  • Person and professional growth
  • Status
  • Resources

Having people in your corner who can also give you support and opportunity in your career can be a make it or break it factor as you continue in your field.  

Related: Check out our other networking articles for more tips about building your support team. 

4. Find a mentor.

As you develop deeper relationships through your networking or further other professional relationships with people you’ve worked with in the past, consider asking one of them to be your mentor. Forbes recommends not asking a stranger because “they needs to be people to whom you have already demonstrated your potential – who know how you think, act, communicate, and contribute.”

Pick a mentor who knows you and knows what you want. Maybe they’re someone who has been in the same place you are in and can guide you through your next steps. Maybe they’re someone who can hold you accountable to your personal goals. Either way, a mentor should help you figure out your career options and act as a lighthouse, helping you find your way through the storm and avoid the rocks.

And remember: a mentor/mentee relationship should be driven by the mentee. Come ready to each meeting with questions and completed tasks ready to report. They can’t do the work for you; you still have to be the main player in your own career.

Related: To learn more about finding a mentor, click to read our other articles here.

5. Fuel your passions.

One of the biggest pieces of advice my doctor gave me when I talked to him about my anxiety was to spend time fueling my passions. Spend your evenings doing what you love and what you find relaxing. Not everything has to be a money-making activity, or at least start that way.

Also, people don’t want to work with a person who is no deeper than the paper their resume is printed on. In my last three interviews, they asked me what I like to do in my spare time. People want to know who you are. You spend more time during the week with the people you work with than your family or significant other – people want to enjoy who they work and spend their time with.

And maybe that passion can turn into a money-making activity. Like to read? Write book reviews or thought pieces on what you read. Like to make art? Consider making stickers or prints of your favorite pieces and selling them. Like to write? Start a blog or publish one chapter of your latest work-in-progress every week. Do what makes you happy, and maybe business and a career will blossom from it.

I’m all for self care and decompressing in the evenings, but for the times that you still have the energy and ability, there are many things you can do to help enhance your resume and increase your opportunities. The first step is making a conscious effort to not sit down and get sucked into your phone.

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