Job searching is a full-time job in itself. If you’re working full-time and actively searching, it’s like having two jobs. Add family, hobbies, pets, COVID quarantine (!), and life in general on top and it gets even more challenging.
If you’re unemployed or working part-time, your focus should be on job searching activities at least 8 hours a day. I know. It sucks. I’ve been there. No one likes to work on resumes or call recruiters all day long. But you know what I dislike more? Not having money for food and shelter. Call me boring and practical!
But how can someone really spend 8 hours a day job hunting? Let me ask you this, how did you spend 8 hours a day working before (or even now)? You woke up, you got ready, and pre-COVID, you probably jumped in your car, drove somewhere, and worked. That’s what you did. You treated it like a job because that’s what it was. You traded your time for someone else’s money.
That’s the tricky part of job searching. Since you don’t “get paid” for job searching, it’s hard to think about it like a job. Newsflash: job searching is a job. You just don’t get paid until you find the job. When you think about it that way, it should help adjust your mindset to focus on your activities.
How should you be spending your time during the job search? I’m a big believer in keeping the pipeline full. It’s hard to do that when you’re only searching once a week. There are certain activities you should be doing each and everyday. If you’re working full-time, then you’ll have to balance these activities based on your schedule. It’s still better to work on a consistent basis – even if once a week, than just “when you have time”. As humans, we’re more likely to do something that’s part of a routine than sporadically.
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When it comes to finding jobs, automated email alerts are your friend. They keep you focused on the roles you’re targeting. You can customize the job title, geography, and frequency of the alert along with other filters. In addition to job boards, sometimes company websites will also allow you to set up alerts. Here’s a few of my favorites places to set up email alerts:
Pro Tip: Set up automated alerts daily so the computer does the searching for you. Each morning, you wake up to a nice list of curated results. They keep you on task and out of the rabbit hole of the internet.
Other sources of finding jobs are through networking and recruiters. This is incentive to keep your LinkedIn profile and resumes current on the job boards. Job searching is a two-way street. The better and targeted your resume, the more recruiters will come after you if you’re a good fit for their job opening.
I always strongly recommend using a targeted resume. At first, it will take you a little longer to have multiple versions of your resume but this will greatly increase your chances of getting the interview. If you don’t have time to customize your resume and cover letter, then how do you have time to keep sending out resumes without getting any responses?
The whole purpose of job hunting is to get the job, right? I don’t care how much research you do for job postings and how many times you re-write your resume. You won’t get the job if you don’t go apply for jobs!
I recommend keeping the pipeline full and doing at least two applications or submissions a day. At the end of a week, you’ll have at least ten opportunities in the queue. If you have the bandwidth, you can do more than this but setting a daily minimum keeps you in a rhythm. If you tell yourself that you’ll apply tomorrow, chances are tomorrow never comes AND the job posting could be gone. You snooze, you lose!
Pro tip: Track all of your applications, save copies of all the job descriptions, and be clear which resume you submitted for which job. I share a Job App Tracker here about organizing your job search. It sounds tedious to keep and track everything but when you get called for the interview, you’ll be so grateful you have the job description to reference.
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You know that thing that you pick up 96 times a day (true story!)? Use your phone to stay on top of communication! You want to be prompt and professional with responses. If it’s hard for you to type on the phone, then set aside time each day to manage emails and communication on your computer.
When I transitioned to the banking industry, I had a recruiter call me on Wednesday afternoon to schedule a phone screen the next morning at 9:30am. Of course, I told her I’d clear my calendar and make it happen. Then I spent the whole night preparing for the 30 minute phone screen. By 2pm on the same day, I got the job offer! Had I hemmed and hawed at calling her back or called her the next day, I may just have missed the opportunity which launched me into my rapid career path. One call can make a difference!
These are not the most fun or comfortable calls to make but try not to procrastinate. I recommend responding within one business day at the latest and even sooner if you have the availability. If you’re working full-time, it’s reasonable to not be able to drop everything in the middle of the day. But if you really want the job, you’ll carve time out of your day to respond to messages.
Do what you say. Say what you’ll do. It’s your responsibility to stay on top of the communication. If your recruiter says they’ll call you tomorrow and they don’t, the onus is on you to follow up. After all, you’re the one that wants the job 🙂 People are busy. When you show that you can follow up in a polite and tactful manner, your professionalism will be noticed.
You know all that work you’ve put in so far?
Searching for jobs and finding that great opportunity
Writing a custom resume and cover letter
Filling out long tedious applications
And sending a zillion emails for this moment…
The ultimate goal is getting the job and the interview is the last thing big hurrah. Please please please put the time and effort into preparing. Don’t poop out right before you cross the finish line.
You’ll need to put time into researching the role and company. Prepare sample questions and practice answering them out loud. As uncomfortable as it feels, do mock interviews with friends. If you can’t handle a mock interview, how can you handle going into an interview cold without practice?
Interview prep is a crucial job search activity so be sure to dedicate the time needed to do it right.
Have you heard that LinkedIn Survey that says 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking? So why did I put this job search activity all the way at the bottom? Even if you find an opportunity in the hidden job market through networking, you’ll still have to go through all of the other motions like submitting a resume and interviewing to get the job.
You should be building relationships with your network all the time, not just during the job search. Having said that, networking during the job search is especially important. If you’re unemployed and actively searching, then you should be shouting it from the tree-tops. You should let everyone you cross paths with know that you are actively job hunting.
When I was transitioning from engineering, I had to be discreet because I was still employed full-time. In the background, I was re-branding myself, re-writing my resume, and networking like crazy! I was playing a lot of pick up tennis matches with people I didn’t know. You’d better believe I dropped the fact that I was job hunting into our conversations. I also made it clear to my personal network that I was actively looking to transition into banking. I couldn’t go on LinkedIn and write a big post but I could still announce it to everyone I knew in my real-life network.
Another great place to grow your network is to join industry groups. I’m active in my local Carolina Women in Tech and Pink Mentor Network groups. I’ve met some wonderful women through those events but I don’t leave the relationships at the door. I’m part of the CWIT Mentorship Circle and maintain steady communication with these ladies through text, phone, and in-person/virtual (COVID!) events.
Ultimately, networking is an important job search activity but it can’t be the sole focus of the job search. It’s always worth it to invest time in building relationships with others in your network. Just don’t lose sight of the other tasks at hand during your job search!
In summary, job hunting is a full-time job. Treat it like a job and focus on these core activities. It’s easy to get distracted with shiny toys and the chaos of home during a pandemic. Staying focused and on task will ensure that you get the most out of your “workday.”
If you’re job searching full-time, build in boundaries around your job-search to give you work/life balance. Take breaks. You don’t work 16 hours a day now, so don’t expect to job search non-stop. If you’re job searching part-time, make sure you stay consistent in your activities.
When job searching, every task you do, ask if it’s part of this list of six? If it’s not, then how is it contributing to your job search? And yes, there are exceptions. If you’re doing additional training to up-skill for a job, that’s relevant but shouldn’t dominate your time. Remember to treat job searching like a job and you’ll be surprised at how much you can get done!
Job Searching Activities
1. Search for jobs
2. Create targeted resumes and cover letters
3. Apply for jobs
4. Follow up with recruiters
5. Prep for interviews
6. Network and build relationships