Time to Run a “Professional” Job Search?

Between the passing of tax day, the looming Easter holiday, and the predictable onslaught of April showers, there’s no question about it —  spring has definitely arrived.

As part of the seasonal ritual, both my son (who started Kindergarten this year) and my wife (who works for a school) got to enjoy a week off for spring break.  Interestingly, however, when I chatted with my wife the other day about how she was enjoying her time off, she commented “I can’t believe how fast the days are flying by! I feel like I’m getting next to nothing accomplished…

This remark reminds me of something I hear from clients of mine on a near-constant basis.  Almost without fail, those folks who find themselves between jobs after years of stable employment experience a major paradigm shift in terms of their schedule, enthusiasm, and productivity level.  Time after time, I hear job hunters reporting “It’s crazy, I feel busier now than I ever did when I was working” and “Boy, this week has flown by and I’m not even sure what I have to show for it!

Simply put, once you find yourself removed from the rituals and routines that accompany full-time employment, it can become much harder than you’d think to maintain the discipline needed to mount a successful job hunt effort.  Little distractions can paralyze you.  That snooze button might become a little too tempting.  The honey-do list can start to stretch a mile long.  And all that freedom you’re suddenly enjoying in your calendar can quickly become your worst enemy in getting re-hired.

So if you can relate to these observations, and are starting to have that disturbing feeling that the weeks are flying by and you’re not making any real progress in your search, it might be time to adopt a more “professional” attitude towards finding your next position.

What might this look like?

•  Set a regular schedule for your job hunting activities and stick to it as closely as possible.  For best results, build this schedule around the hours you’re typically the most energetic and productive, taking a series of short breaks throughout the day, as needed, just as you would at a traditional job.

•  Consider conducting your job hunting activities from the library, a coffee shop, a friend’s office, or some other location outside of the house to avoid the distractions that can easily occur when you’re trying to conduct business from the comfort of your own home

•  Make a point to dress up in professional (or semi-professional) fashion each day so that you maintain a positive self-image, remain in a work-oriented mindset, and are ready to make a great first impression on anybody you bump into while you’re out and about

•  Project-manage your search; avoid wasting time by setting clear and measurable goals each day regarding how many applications you’re going to submit, networking contacts you’re going to make and/or companies you’re going to approach in search of opportunities

•  Avoid taking personal calls during the hours you’re “on the clock” looking for work; if friends and family aren’t respecting your boundaries, remind them that finding a new position needs to be one of your top priorities right now and that you’re going to need their help to stay focused and avoid distractions

•  Lastly, if possible, combine the obligatory beating-the-bushes activities of a job search with a series of distinct, thought-provoking special projects to help avoid burnout.  Is there an article or whitepaper you can focus on writing in your field?  A research project you can tackle?  A group or volunteer effort you can organize and lead?  A class you can teach — or take — relative to your professional discipline?  Even if you’re not working, you should be working on something that harnesses your strengths, creativity, and intellectual capital.

Are the above steps absolutely required to land a new position?  Not necessarily.  I’m sure there are plenty of people over the years who have gotten jobs just fine surfing the web all day in their pajamas.  But that’s leaving a lot to chance — and there’s definitely some time-tested wisdom in the idea of treating your job search as a “job” in and of itself, since it can be surprisingly hard to stay productive and keep your game face on when you’re not accountable to a regular work schedule.

So give it some thought.  Seems to be an issue I’m hearing a lot about lately and those clients of mine who have adopted a mix of the methods above seem to be experiencing more success in their efforts…

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