People say that job search is a job unto itself. If that’s the case, who’s your boss? Well, it’s you.
To take it one step deeper, you’ll be getting a crash course in entrepreneurship in terms of how to manage yourself and your time, especially if you’re not working for the first time.
I vividly remember the months before I officially started my company, and also the first day when I officially did start working on building the company, and it was often a question of, “What should I be doing?” Job search is quite similar in that you’re on your own, making your own schedule, managing what to do, how, when, where, and why. Too often we don’t even ask others and we assume that we know the answer to how to job search, without gathering sufficient and necessary guidance to ease the process of job search. Luckily, I’m here to help with some key job search tips!
Recognize that this is a new and different experience for you
- If you’re not working, whether you were laid off or quit, this is a new feeling to embrace. This might be your first time without an official 9–5 schedule, and that’s okay! Be open to figuring out how to adapt and embrace this new chapter.
- You first want to protect some time to process, grieve, and accept leaving your prior role and company. At least 1 week should and can be allotted for this important step to ensure that when you revisit job search, you feel ready, open, and excited. While it’s uncomfortable to force ourselves to face negative feelings, it will show back up during your job search if you don’t allow yourself to heal. And leaving a company does require healing. The extent that it’s required depends on how toxic or gruesome the prior experience was. Ignore this at your own peril!
Understand what it means to be the CEO of your job search
- Job search is its own full time job, that means it will take work, effort, prioritization, diligence, self awareness, and all the other key criteria that make you a successful professional — but now you’re just working for yourself.
- This will take a new set of entrepreneurial skills that you may not have honed as much in the past, such as extremely careful time management, being resourceful to seek out the strategic guidance and support you need, being able to ask for help, being able to measure your own performance, being willing and comfortable to pivot when necessary, migrating between high level strategic thinking and lower level execution oriented tasks, and more.
- While being your own boss has pros and cons, I would view this as a new opportunity to grow. You will master self-awareness in a new way and learn a ton about yourself and the world throughout your job search. There will be ups and downs but you can either frame this as a doomful experience or rise to the challenge and opportunity of steering your own ship.
Know that time is your most precious resource
- This is probably the most critical early concept to grasp in order to succeed in running an intentional, efficient job search.
- It will allow you to take the next steps of planning out your time and executing on the right things in a mindful way. Without believing strongly in this idea, you will very easily waste time in a multitude of activities that you are telling yourself are productive, but may not really be.
Seek out strategic guidance to know how to spend your time wisely
- Recognize you may not know all the best methods for career exploration, personal branding, networking, interviewing, and job searching, and that’s okay. There is a ton of support out there to guide and help you.
- While we often think our friends and family are a great form of career guidance, and/or we think we should go at this alone, you can seek out a career coach, a job search coach, or someone who is an expert in job search best practices so you know what to be doing and how much to be doing each activity.
- Statistically, a majority of jobs are landed through networking, so you want to understand where to put your time besides just sitting on job search engines. People need to MEET you as a human and as a viable, valuable job candidate, and thus you cannot simply rely on your online applications moving to the top of someone’s pile.
- This blog is one of many where I outline some of the various activities you should focus on throughout your day and week of job searching.
Create structure where it doesn’t exist: Timeboxing
- When you’re not working, creating structure and a routine is critical to keeping your mindset feeling calm, centered, positive, focused, and productive.
- Remember that a to-do list and time management tools or resources are two completely different things.
- I suggest visually mapping out and planning your day, whether you use a digital calendar or a physical calendar, daily.
- Timeboxing is a concept where you can literally visualize blocks of time for each activity or goal you want to achieve that day.
- The reason this is critical is because it is SO easy to fall down a rabbit hole of online job applications during your job search. The last thing you want is to do one thing all day everyday.
- I suggest doing the harder, more uncomfortable things earlier in the day.
- It is okay and encouraged to be strategic in getting organized before you just jump into any job search activity.
- Be realistic with your timeboxing and include time for self care, breaks, exercise, eating, travel, etc. Job search takes patience, persistence, and resilience, so don’t forget to incorporate self care into your everyday routine.
- Be fluid, so as things change and take more or less time, you can adjust your timeboxes. This is not meant to make you feel trapped by your schedule, but rather to help you be mindful about what you should be doing, for how much time, and at which points of your day.
Be sure to measure, reflect, and iterate your approach
- You want to gain guidance as to what to be doing and how to be going about it, and create structure to stay on track with that plan. However, you will need to stay open to needing to pivot when necessary. Doing the same activities everyday or every week will not allow you to reap new, better, different results. Utilize best practices, but be open to trying new things to shake things up.
- Quantitatively measure your networking outreach, responses, calls, interviews each week so you can recognize where in your funnel you’re seeing areas for opportunity.
- Qualitatively reflect each week on how you’re doing and where you can improve next week (re: mindset, accountability, and practical job search strategies).
- Experiment with things that you may not have thought of as obviously, directly relevant to your job search, but that they could be in indirect ways. For instance, finding different avenues for where to job search, and where you can find, reach, and meet new people (slack groups, industry-based networking memberships or groups, other industry-based digital communities or marketplaces). Other ideas that don’t always seem as obvious include joining webinars (both to learn and network), doing some self-driven side projects, pro bono work, volunteering, and more.
- Learning and reflection are the critical underrated keys to success during your job search. Utilize informational calls to understand your target roles and industries and as you learn, you want to let those learnings and reflections inform your updated job search strategy (i.e. which roles and industries are the right targets for you).
Too often, we pursue so many roles and industries at once, and this creates overwhelm, confusion, and a strategy that is all over the place. Being narrow and focused does not mean limiting yourself, it means having a story that is clear, compelling, and a strategy that efficiently gets you closer to landing a suitable role.
Job search can be a lot, but if you know the expectation going in, you can be sure to gather the right support and resources to help with your job search to make the journey manageable, fun, and successful.
Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4.5+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School, Columbia University, WeWork, and Project Activate.