by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
One of the stickiest wickets in the job search is how to manage your time. If you’re unemployed and need income fast, you want every bit of your job-search time to be productive and yield some sort of payoff. If you’re employed but desperate to get out of your current situation, it can be very difficult to carve out time for a job search. It has often been said that job searching should be a full-time job, but clearly that’s not possible if you’re employed.
This article offers tips for job-search time-management. The first portion of the article offers suggestions that apply to both the employed and unemployed. The next part is for the unemployed, and the final section applies to the employed job-seeker.
Job-search time management tips for both employed and unemployed job-seekers:
- Consider crafting a mission statement. What does a mission statement have to do with time management? The time-management book, First Things First by Steven Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, asserts that if you live by a statement of what’s really important to you, you can make better time-management decisions. The authors ask, “Why worry about saving minutes when you might be wasting years?” For more about creating a mission statement, see our article, Using a Personal Mission Statement to Chart Your Career Course.
- Determine when you want or need to start your next job and set some long-term and short term goals that will get you where you need to be.
- Let your goals lead you to make prioritized to-do lists. Daily to-do lists will keep you on track and remind you of which job-search tasks are most important and will be most productive. You’ll be much less vulnerable to distractions and interruptions if you stick to a list.
- Spend time on job-search activities in proportion to how productive they are. Most studies show that the percentage of people who obtain jobs through Internet searching is in the single digits. Sending out dozens of resumes to companies that may or may not have openings is also a technique that rarely produces results in proportion to the effort expended. Conversely, 50 percent or more job-seekers find jobs through networking. Thus, most job-seekers will want to proportion their job-seeking time accordingly. It’s easy to sit at a computer for hours, search for jobs on the Internet, and post resumes in response to openings. It’s much harder to get out of the house and meet people who may be able to help with your job search. It’s tempting to do the easy things because you feel as though you are at least doing something, but don’t give in to the temptation. Sure, spend some time on the Internet, but don’t get carried away. And do employ Internet job-search approaches that will enable you to get the most from your time. See our article, Maximize Your Internet Job Search.
- Don’t forget informational interviews as a relatively low-stress, but often high-yield form of networking. Read more in our Informational Interviewing tutorial.
- Set daily goals. Some arbitrary examples: You will contact five people in your network every day. You will send out 10 resumes every day. You will research three companies every day. You will follow up on four resumes you sent out previously and two interviews you went on recently. The numbers will vary depending on how urgent your job search is, how much time you have, and which tasks are most productive for you. Some experts suggest assigning a point value to these activities — the more productive the activity, the higher the point value. See for example, the point values suggested in our article, Mid-Year Career Checkup: Are You “On Your Game?”. Similarly, in his book, Don’t Send a Resume, Jeffrey Fox says that four activities lead to landing a job: 1) Getting a lead, referral or introduction to a potential hiring manager; 2) getting an appointment with the person making the hiring decision; 3) meeting with the hiring manager; 4) getting a commitment from the decision-maker that directly leads to hiring you. Fox says to assign 1 point for a lead, 2 for an appointment, 3 for an interview, and 4 for a commitment. Fox says to shoot for 5 points a day and try the point system for 10 days, bringing you closer to a new job with each day.
- If you feel lack the self-discipline to manage your time and set regular goals for yourself — or if you just feel you need some extra support — consider joining or forming a job club or networking group. Find out more in our article, For Networking and Support, Join or Start a Job Club. Or consider engaging a life or career coach. A coach will likely give you homework assignments and keep you accountable to your goals. Check out our Quintessential Careers Directory of Life and Career Coaches.
- Create an efficient workspace for job-hunting and get organized. Assemble the materials you’ll need for job-hunting and devise a system — perhaps a spreadsheet or index cards — for tracking your contacts and activities. See, for example, our Sample Job Lead Follow-Up Log. Because it takes time to refocus yourself after interruptions, strive for a workspace where intrusions will be minimal.
- Provide yourself with some downtime. While you do need to devote considerable time and effort to the job search, be sure to take care of yourself. Take some time to relax, enjoy favorite activities, exercise, and just chill out from the rigors of the job search.
Job-search time management tips for unemployed job-seekers:
- Come as close as you can to making your job search a full-time job. You’ll get results much faster if you really go at it full steam. A blog site called Employment Digest, notes that “under-performing job searches … are usually starved for time.” The author points out that when job searches don’t perform, the job-seeker sometimes tries to do more of the same things he or she has been doing instead of analyzing the overall strategy and determining what could be done better, as well as what strategies to add or subtract.
- Establish a morning routine that simulates a work day. Get up early, perhaps exercise, then shower, and get dressed. You certainly don’t need to be in full business attire, but dress nicely enough to make you feel professional and productive. You’ll be a lot more effective than you would be in a ratty bathrobe.
- Take time at the beginning of your job-hunting day to focus yourself on the tasks in front of you and put yourself in a positive and productive mindset.
- Getting the most difficult tasks out of the way first, some time-management experts say, is the best approach because it helps you avoid procrastination and provides a feeling of accomplishment.
- At the end of the day, plan your next job-hunting day.
Job-search time management tips for employed job-seekers:
- Clearly, you will need to make the most of non-working hours. Get up earlier than usual. Plan to make good use of your lunch hour.
- You might feel discouraged about the prospect of interviewing if it’s impossible to get away from your job during business hours. But most employers understand that interviewees are working, and they will not only admire you for your commitment, but will make an effort to accommodate you before work, after hours, or at lunch time.
- Be extremely cautious about conducting job-search activities on your employer’s dime, including using the company’s time and equipment. Be careful, too, about receiving phone calls from prospective employers on your office phone. That’s what cell phones are for. Many employers also monitor their employees’ e-mail and Internet use, so be careful there. Sure, people conduct job searches from work all the time, but if you chose this route, don’t go overboard and consider the consequences of getting caught in the act.
- Consider taking vacation and personal days to conduct your job search.
- Be aware that lots of good networking opportunities and meetings occur in the evening. Plan to take full advantage of those.
- Keep a portfolio and extra copies of your resume at work so you’ll always be ready if an opportunity presents itself.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.