These days, more and more people are actively looking for their next career opportunity. It is cliché to say that looking for a job IS a full-time job; but, nevertheless, it is true. One of the biggest mistakes I see job-seekers make is poorly managing their time during the search process. These tips may help you manage your job search better:
1. Schedule and block your time. I don’t know what your day looks like, but it shouldn’t be a random collection of tasks, day in and day out. If you wake up every morning and say to yourself “I wonder what I should do today to find a job”, then you need a plan. Use a planner and schedule your days just like you would a work calendar to schedule meetings. For example, block out 8-10 AM every day to make out-bound phone calls to new contacts in your search. A job search consists of multiple tasks, phone calls, follow-ups, writing notes, customizing resumes/cover letters, exploratory meetings, interviews, networking events etc.; make sure you have these tasks scheduled and planned in one or two hour blocks; then stay focused on the task. Do not allow yourself get distracted during your allotted focus time. At the end of each day, take 30 minutes and write out your call list and action plan for the next day. That way, when you get up, you are ready to roll.
2. Focus on high energy tasks during high energy times. Each individual has a natural energy cycle in which there are times of the day they have more energy than others. It is important you know what yours is and take advantage of it. Most people use a vast amount of energy talking to other people, whether in-person or by phone. Little energy is used staring at a computer screen updating your resume or surfing the Net. So if you more energy in the morning person, do all your personal interaction in those hours and leave the “after-lunch” crash time for mundane tasks such as cover letter writing or follow-up e-mails. Know you energy cycle and take advantage of it by working it into your daily schedule. When you have a choice, interview in your high energy times.
3. Stay off the Internet. Also known the “resume black-hole” the Internet is useful for getting leads, not necessarily getting a job. Approximately 5% of job seekers land their next position by applying through Internet postings; those are not great odds. As a general rule, I advise using the Internet about 2-3 hours A WEEK. Use job aggregators such as http://www.indeed.com/ to set up simple searches that cast a wide net and send the results to your in-box once a week. Review the postings and search your network for viable connections. While applying at a company on-line directly is a necessary part of the hiring process, it should not be used in lieu of a phone call or in-person connection; and should be done after you have made a personal connection or in-road into the organization. As an added note, typically fewer than 25% of needed positions are posted anywhere.
4. Work Your Network. Nobody is going to do this for you. Recruiters, job boards, friends, co-workers, spouses, mentors; all these are good resources for you, but none of them will take the place of you executing a networking plan for success. Tap old co-workers, friends, and neighbors or begin building a new network. Join a few professional networks in your area of expertise or geographic area. Use social networking sites, such as http://www.linkedin.com/ to find and connect with old contacts. When it comes to your network, the truth is, about 75% of people find their next position through their network I recommend spending 75% of your time in the area that nets 75% of the results. That means if you are not spending 30 hours a week talking to people, instead of surfing the Net, your chances of finding a position drop significantly.
5. Be Prepared. Wake up at the normal work time, take a shower, dress professionally and leave the house for an hour or so to start your day. Take a laptop, grab the newspaper, something to get your frame of mind adjusted to work; otherwise, you may lay around all morning in your “jammies”, waiting for the next call that never comes. This is an excellent way to treat your job search as a “job” and be prepared for whatever comes your way that day.
By scheduling your day, blocking your time, using your energy cycle to your advantage, staying off the mind-numbing Internet and using your network; you will increase your chances of landing that next position. Manage your job search, don’t let it manage you.