Whenever I hear about a recent college grad or a seasoned professional who has “searched and searched for a job” to no avail, I immediately wonder: “Does this person know that finding a job is a full-time sales job?”
More often than not, job seekers put forth a sporadic, part-time effort, rely primarily on internet job boards rather than a readily available font of networking connections and exude the confidence and energy of a elderly Basset Hound.
The reality is that confident, energetic people who are tenacious about getting up every morning to tackle the job search from many strategic angles are the ones who get jobs. In any economy. In any job market. At any age. Under any circumstances.
For many years I have coached women (and some men, too) who feel their job search is on life support. When I ask if they have launched a full-time effort, I often get quizzical stares. How could I fill an entire day, they ask?
In answer to that question, this is what a typical day could look like for a smart and savvy job seeker in a full-time (approximately 40-hour per week job search). When you’re working and looking to change jobs, it’s harder to find 40 free hours, and that will be the subject of another post.
6am: The Early Bird Catches the Job
You’re out of bed at the same time as those gainfully employed. Mornings can be difficult because you wake up remembering that you’re unemployed. Battle the stress before it has a chance to defeat you—and do some form of exercise that gives your body and mind a positive boost. When your exercise is over, get dressed in real clothes, not sweats. Put a little make-up on, fix your hair and feel like a real person who is ready for job search action.
7:30 Breakfast of Job Search Champions
Start the day on the right foot with a healthy breakfast that continues to nurture your body and mind. Read national and local news to gather new job search ideas related to specific companies, broader industries or overall business trends.
8:00 to 9:30 At Your Desk and Ready to Strategize
Most serious, career-minded professionals start their business day before 9am. Serious, career-minded job seekers also do not punch the clock at 9 and 5. An early start gives you the chance to:
- Respond to emails.
- Spend the daily allotment of no more than 45 minutes in the internet “black hole”–checking big job boards or company sites for opportunities that fit your profile. Sign up for alerts that are specific to your job search targets to cut down on the time you spend on the job boards.
- Make a game plan for the day. List jobs posted online that are at least an 80% fit for your profile, interviews and networking connections that need follow-up via phone or email, new networking connections to contact, companies and industries you want to research, etc.
9:30 to 12:00 Dive Deep into Your Job Search Day
Put your head down and plow through your “to do” list. Things you might do during this time:
- Respond to online job postings. Craft a customized response for each job—including a point-by-point match-up of your skills/experience with responsibilities/requirements of each job.
- Make your Linkedin profile as complete as possible. Write a succinct headline (in 140 characters or less) to advertise your skills and experience. Tell an interesting story about your career path in your summary. Detail specific achievements for each of your positions. Ask for recommendations from former colleagues—and endorse them for various skills so that they’ll be inclined to return the favor. Post frequent updates: share or comment on interesting articles, mention industry events you’ll be attending, etc.
- Research and join Linkedin groups in your areas of interest. Participate in group discussions or start your own conversation threads to gain exposure in your industry and showcase your knowledge and expertise.
12:00 to 1:00 Take a Breather and Clear Your Head
Now is a good time to take the dog for a walk or find another way to get some fresh air. Think about what looks promising from your morning’s work—and what seems like a dead end. If there are people you’re having a hard time reaching, the lunch hour is often a time when they will answer their own phone—so shave a few minutes off your break for these calls.
1:00 to 1:30 Mid-Course Corrections
Based on your lunch hour brainstorming, revise your “to do” list for the afternoon.
1:30 to 5:00 Make or Break Your Job Search Day
You want to end your job search day on a high note—feeling like you’ve made progress and brought yourself closer to an actual job. Find your second wind and dig in to part two of the day’s intensive job search. Things you might do during this time:
- Explore new companies you’ve learned about through the media, industry events or networking connections. Look at web sites to get a feel for each company’s overall mission and culture—and then look beyond what can be a whitewashed PR sell and see what people are saying about them through an internet search. Find out who you know at these companies through Linkedin—or ask for introductions from second-degree connections.
- Make lists of new networking connections. Go far beyond the obvious: think about everyone you know in every category of your life. High school and college alumni, religious and club affiliations, children’s schools, community organizations where you volunteer, doctors, lawyers and others who provide professional services, etc. The list gets longer and longer when you think of who your husband, sister, best friend, etc. knows in the same categories.
- Send out emails asking for very specific help from networking connections. Not: “Do you know of any opportunities in marketing?” Instead, for example: “I’m interested in account management positions at CPG marketing firms—particularly X, Y and Z companies that focus on health and beauty. What do you know about the culture and opportunities at these firms—and do you know anyone I could contact for a insider’s perspective?” Better to email than catch people on the spot over the phone. Emails give them a chance to respond thoughtfully and productively.
5:00 to 6:00 Take Stock of Your Day
After 5:00pm is another good time to catch people who have been hard to reach by phone. At the end of the day you also want to give yourself time for a self-pat on the back. Tally up how many new networking emails you sent out, people you connected with on Linkedin, networking appointments you made, interviews you landed—and all other ways that you can show yourself that you are making progress. Make quick notes for your “to do” list so that you’ll have good direction for your next job search day.
Obviously this is just a schedule example—one that needs to be tweaked for your personal circumstances: getting children out the door for school, meeting the school bus, helping with homework, driving your elderly mother to a doctor’s appointment, attending a school event, etc. My example is a ten-hour job search day that can easily be condensed down to a minimum of eight.
The objective, though, is to devote big chunks of time to your job search. A little bit here and there doesn’t give you the focus and perspective to develop a clear strategy. Save laundry, calling your mother, catching up with friends, running errands, etc. for evenings and weekends.
Note, too, that a typical day doesn’t include going to networking events—that’s a once in a while activity (when you’re really sure the event is worthwhile and you are likely to meet people who have connections in your industry).
Remember: you’re not unemployed…you have a full-time sales job that requires a positive outlook, determination, tenacity, resourcefulness, strategy and the ability to push past roadblocks and rejection. With a full-time focus, you have the full-strength power to find a job. —KAS
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