Surviving the Job Hunt

So you’re looking for a job.  Maybe you’ve been laid off, downsized, fired, or just finished school. The hunt is now on to find gainful and hopefully meaningful employment. There’s no way around it. Being unemployed is no fun. Trust me, I’ve been there – more than once! 

My first job casualty came after the combined bubble burst of 2000 and 9/11. This bout of unemployment was the longest and the most devastating.  I had never been out of work, a day in my life. I was crushed and didn’t know what to do with myself.  In the beginning I would spend all day every day looking for a job.  I wrote and rewrote my resume, agonizing over every word. Don’t even get me started on versions of my cover letter. Somehow I thought that if I had everything just perfect, I would at least get an interview. I would spend hours combing the different job boards, looking at different company websites, emailing people I knew, and yes (at the time) still checking the Sunday paper. Not only did these efforts leave me exhausted and frustrated, I didn’t get any interviews. 

I quickly learned that in order to be successful I had to structure my day more efficiently, take better care of myself, and have some fun. So after you’ve written your resume and had it reviewed (preferably by a colleague or a recruiter in your industry) here are a couple things you can do to keep your sanity and hopefully find a job. 

Automate Your Job Search:

  • Make a list of target companies you would be interested in working for in your area.  If you’re open to relocation include national companies.
  • Visit each company’s career page.  After you’ve had a chance to review current openings, most sites will give you the option to set up a job alert. Job alerts will automatically notify you every time the company posts a new position that meets your predefined criteria. 
  • Set up job alerts on the job boards. This can include the major job boards like CareerBuilder and Monster, professional networking sites like LinkedIn, and niche sites for your field – Dice if you’re in IT, BioSpace if you’re a Scientist, etc.  Many professional associations also offer this service.

Create a Daily Schedule: 

  • Dedicate blocks of time on your calendar for specific activities. This can include time to check email, review job alerts, apply for jobs, etc.
  • Schedule specific times for breaks and lunches.
  • Include activities that get you out of the house and away from your computer. Head to the gym, walk the dog, etc. 

7:00 – Breakfast, get ready for work

8-10:00 – Check emails, review job alerts/new job postings, apply for jobs

11:30-12:30 – Break for Lunch

12:30-2:00 – Certification Self Study

2:00 – 3:30 – Gym

3:30 – 5:00 – Check email, return voice mails.

When you’re not working it’s very easy to procrastinate or spend all day every day online doing “research”.  I found having a schedule and a to do list motivated me to get moving in the morning and gave me some sense of purpose.  How the schedule is set up isn’t important. The key is to make sure you have consistent “office hours/desk time” and regular appointments that get you out of the house. For me, that meant leaving the house every day at 2 to go to the gym…..no matter what. Make a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

Once the groundwork for your job search is laid, you can then use this time to further develop your skills. Is there a project management, marketing, or business class you’ve always wanted to take?  Maybe it’s an industry certification or professional credential that you’d like to obtain. Now’s the time to do it! In addition to making you more marketable, it will make interviews a whole lot easier when you get asked, “What have you been doing with your time off?”  You might also find a valuable professional connection in the class to network with (click here for networking tips).   After all, you never know where your next job lead will come from.  Happy hunting!

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Traci Martinez

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