Have Trouble Being Productive in Job Search?

Do you have trouble being productive in job search and feeling like you are getting anywhere? Working full-time and finding time to fit in search activities is one thing. But when you have lost your job, it can seem like your routine and sense of productivity are going nowhere fast.

Adopt a new structure. One of the reasons why is that when you lose a job, you lose the associated structure and routines in your day. The failure to adopt a new structure impedes the process of getting a new job and lengthens your search. Gone are the workplace structure and the associated routines, and the loss can lead to havoc and uncertainty about how you spend your time.  Getting you on track with the most productive job search activities, whether employed or unemployed, is the goal of this article.

So how do you get productive when you are used to having productivity defined by an employer?  Unemployment requires being your own boss and being responsible to create your own new structures and routines to achieve job search productivity. And, sure, it can be hard to establish and adhere to a productive daily and weekly job search schedule, so my earlier blog, Anything But Job Search – Minding Distractions, may help.

Two essential tips to get going on creating your own new job search structure:

  1. Realize that you have to commit focused time, average 5 – 6 hours per day, and create the structure to make it happen, every weekday.
  2. You have to go about it the right way—engage in pro-active job seeking behaviors.

Time set aside. Realistically, if you can put in at least 5 hours of proactive job search activity (see below) on a weekday you will make progress and not burn out or go stir crazy! This leaves time for exercise, friends, reading, taking classes to improve job skills, volunteering and whatever else you like to do in your spare time—all activities that help build out your schedule!

The traditional, reactive approach. A reactive job search means that you’re passively looking, taking the traditional approach of applying only to positions you see advertised.  When you apply for a job posted on a huge site like Indeed, so are countless other people, and your resume is unlikely to even be acknowledged.

Proactive approach. Being a proactive job seeker means that you’re scouting out opportunities before they ever land on a job board or company website.  A proactive approach means accessing the hidden job market– engaging in self-assessment, networking online and in person, strengthening a LinkedIn profile, informational interviewing, cold-calling, and targeting employers of interest(whether or not they are advertising openings).

Overview of Daily Schedule—5 hours per day spent on job search activities, 5 days per week:

  • Online Job Search – Identifying Employers. Target: One hour per day spent researching employers in order to identify five organizations worth approaching. Try each city’s Business Journal Book of Lists, Best Companies to Work For, as well as the major job posting sites (to get employer names, not jobs per se).
  • Researching Employers: One hour per day. Start with each company’s own website (note any jobs posted), Google search to see what others say, even check out Glass Door to see what anonymous employees say, then progress to LinkedIn to obtain potential contacts. Your research should reveal whether viable positions exist matching your interests and qualifications, regardless of whether there are current openings.
  • Preparing and Sending Materials: One hour per day. Based on your research, craft custom letters or emails to identified contacts at target employers. These communications are variously called value proposition letters or pain letters that discuss your capacity to address matters that are key to the employer.
  • Tracking the materials you sent, and following up on materials: One hour per day. After you begin sending out custom inquiries and meeting people through networking, you will find there is an added step of keeping track of and organizing your search progress. I suggest a spreadsheet that also builds in follow-up dates.
  • In-person and online networking: One hour per day. Online and in-person networking helps make known that you are looking for new work and are highly capable. It’s a numbers game – the more people who know you’re job-hunting, the better. Highest priority is informational interviews at target employers, followed by attending networking events, and then requesting LinkedIn connections.

After a few weeks of focused research on the first two steps above, you may have identified and researched most potential employers, and can shift towards setting up two to three face-to-face, informational meetings each week.

Two highly-recommended articles that go further into these job search steps in actionable detail are Ask Liz Ryan’s Job Search Schedule and Career Thinkers “Routine to Stay Focused While Job Searching.” And, as I often recommend in these blogs, you might consider contacting a career professional like myself to help set up your structure, teach you evidence-based practices, and help you to stay accountable for progress in your search.


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