If you’re looking for a job, chances are, somebody has told you the following: “Job searching is a job in itself.” And it really can be!
A thoughtful job search, just like an actual job, requires organization, attention to time management, and even a bit of skill-building. This can make for an extremely stressful and time-consuming process that may not always feel like it’s worthwhile.
If you’re ready to put in the work, but you’re also hoping to simplify your approach, resolve to streamline the process with these three tips for a more productive and less stressful search.
Establish a realistic schedule
We’ve all been there: sitting at a computer attempting to look for a new job only to get caught up in and distracted by everything but your search. It’s not easy to focus when you don’t have a clear plan about the way you’ll manage your time.
You’ll need to develop a realistic schedule, but in order to do that, ask yourself these questions first:
- Where are my time limitations and which days am I most flexible?
- How many hours or days a week will I allot to job searching?
- How will I block out time according to specific task, such as company research, networking events or virtual networking, searching for positions, and submitting applications?
A way to create structure and encourage concentration is to treat job searching as if you’re clocking in for a day of work with a set schedule. It’s a clear way to set boundaries, stay on track, and feel less overwhelmed.
Your weekday job-searching schedule may look something like this:
- 6:30 a.m. - Eat breakfast and get ready for the day
- 7:30 a.m. - Spend an hour conducting company research for a specific job application
- 8:30 a.m. - Head to work
- 6:00 p.m - Dinner
- 6:30 p.m. - Return to the job post from the morning and begin personalizing your resume and cover letter
- 8:00 p.m. - If you haven’t completed the application, set goal for the tasks you need to complete before you can submit and set up a calendar reminder to revisit and complete
- 8:30 p.m - Unwind for the day
Your schedule doesn’t need to be complicated or too rigid, but once you have a better understanding of exactly what you want to accomplish—and when you can get to it—you’ll likely spend less time strategizing and more time on the actual task at hand.
Use only the technology you need
After you’ve done the hard part of identifying time constraints and creating a schedule, it’s time to think about the tools you’ll use to stay accountable and productive.
While there are many tools and apps out meant to simplify the work we do—from building grocery lists to keeping track of appointments—relying too heavily on these productivity aids while you job hunt can cause additional stress and confusion. For this reason, it’s important to use only the tools you rely on for productive job searching. But how can you tell what you really cannot do without?
To help you identify the tech and productivity tools that will be most useful and less of an obstacle to productivity, consider your greatest needs and how a tool can make a difference. Ask yourself:
- Q: What do I need the most help with? Tracking time? Setting reminders? File organization?
- A: Try RescueTime to set time goals for the day—and even block online distractions—and a tool like Evernote, which lets you store notes, files, and set reminders.
- Q: How much time am I spending on simply organizing or figuring out how to get the most out of this tool?
- A: If you know you have only a couple of hours for job applications, set aside a goal of no more than fifteen or thirty minutes toward project management. You could use RescueTime or another time-tracking tools like Toggl or Strides to stay on track. You could also structure your time around incremental breaks using the Pomodoro Technique.
- Q: Does it help me maximize my time by offering solutions to several tasks I want to track?
- A: If you want an all-in-one solution for tracking time, storing files, and setting reminders, consider tools that have multiple features or integrations. For example, G Suite bundles email, calendar reminders, and document storage, offers integrations with apps like Toggle and Harvest for time-tracking and Asana for project management.
Because of the sheer volume of tools out there, it’s easy to be distracted with the work of finding the “best.” Rather than opting for a shiny new tool that may only create more work, try sticking with a just a few that make your life easier.
Be flexible with your timeline
All of this planning and organization around your schedule—specifically, the time you have to devote to job-searching tasks and the tools you use—is meant to make things less stressful for you. There’s less guessing, which may also mean less worry, when you have a plan.
Of course the other side of the coin is the fact that there’s no real way to know when your job search will end, which can be the biggest source of stress when looking for a new career opportunity.
To balance out the job-searching structure you create, remember to be flexible about the overall timeline for making a successful transition to a new role. It can be helpful and encouraging to have a timeframe in mind, but try to avoid seeing that as a hard deadline. Regardless of the direction you take, it’s important to give yourself this wiggle room to stay motivated and continue living your life, rather than getting caught up in the waiting game.
So the next time you find yourself approaching a new job search, try these tactics to manage your time and take our tips to select the best tools to keep you on track. See what works for you and make adjustments, and hopefully you’ll be on your way to a more productive experience.
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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.