Don’t burn out – pace your job search!

tortoise-hareJob searching is a marathon not a sprint. There I said it!

A sprint is exactly that, you expend a great deal of energy in a short space of time, and then spend at least twice as long recovering from it.

I remember doing this in my job search. I’d start on Monday re-energized from a long weekend (yup mine started late Thursday!) and eager to get back into the saddle. Some critical self-talk on Sunday afternoon usually happened too.

I’d get up early Monday and hit all the job boards, follow up with emails, and plan all the calls I didn’t do last week, schedule to attend networking events, etc…

By Wednesday I was beat. Thursday was a struggle and then I was done for the weekend. Recognize the pattern?

This continued for several weeks before I realized what was happening.  And then I realized I needed to change my ways – Literally!.

One of the things I noticed I had been doing was trying to cram all the weeks worth of work into the first three days, so I could get a jump on the following week, by starting it earlier on Thursday.  The idea was great, but the execution (and my energy) was sadly lacking.

So my first plan of attack was to pace myself. I would structure my day so I spend some time, no more than 2 hours on job boards, about 3 hours on calls and networking, 1-2 hours on research and up to 1-2 hours of applying for jobs I’d found during the day.

The first 2 weeks went pretty well, but I nearly became unstuck in week 3.

Even though I had the right mix of things to do, they weren’t in the right sequence or done at the best time of the day. So for the 4th week I planned my day differently, I start each day with the calls and research, network during the afternoon, scheduled some down time for the early evening, and left the job boards and applying to jobs till the night time.

The secret for me turned out to be the structure and routine, but taking into account the best time too.

Happy hunting

Simon at VirtualJobCoach.com

Are you virtually and physically organized?

VirtualJobCoach keeps your virtual job search world in order, but what about your physical space?

When I created VirtualJobCoach it was to help me keep everything to do with my job search all organized. Making sure I had all the jobs I had applied to, or wanted to review, in one place together with the version of the resume I sent. (I tailored each of my resumes to the job in question and that meant I had loads of resumes some just slightly different from another.  Knowing which version I had used for which job become really difficult – hence VirtualJobCoach came into existence).

There was one aspect of my ‘organization’ I couldn’t fix with a computer program and that was my physical space – my desk etc.  I don’t know about you but I fluctuate between being very organized, and very cluttered, usually the clutter accumulates over time until I can’t stand it any more. Then I have to spend 30 minutes organizing it so it doesn’t resemble a train-wreck anymore.

Then came the epiphany that approach was just crazy, so I came up with some rules that I try and keep to most of the time.

Create space for yourself. I found I can focus better when I have fewer distractions. When I’m working on something on my PC, I close everything else down so I don’t get distracted by emails, twitter etc (my twitter id is @wsimoncm). Same is true for my desk, I’ve noticed if I have paperwork all around me, I tend to see something, realize I meant to.. and before I know it I’ve distracted myself, again!

Everything in it’s place. Something I noticed about the way I work, is to have certain things be in a certain place. the things I reach for most frequently are always within reach and always in the same place, for example, my coffee cup is always to my right, and my phone is always to my left. My scribble pad for my random thoughts sits to my right (I’m right handed so it makes sense to be there), and any papers I need that day are pulled out and put on my left.

Have a dumping ground for your  keys, phone, etc… those things you need but not until the end of the day. There are still times when I walk in with something, get a little distracted and then spend ten minutes looking in around for it, before I realize I left it in the kitchen next to the coffee maker.

Flock together, that’s what ‘birds of a feather’ do, and so the suggestion here is to keep same stuff together, stamps next to the envelopes, printer paper near the printer, you get the picture.

Get comfy, you’re going to be spending quite a few hours here so make your space as comfortable as you can. There’s nothing more distracting as a bad or squeaky chair, and having a space you dislike going to each day will just make you want to delay starting and finishing sooner. (sounds familiar – like the cubicle you just left ??)

Change your environment not behaviors, this one I recently learned from a job seeker who gets really distracted by all the stuff around her when she’s job searching, you know the radio, T.V. cat etc.  So much so that she’s cleared out the space under the stairs, put in a small table, chair and light and runs in an extension cable and closes the door. A little extreme you may think but for her she gets three times as much work done in two hours that way than she does all day in the other room.

What have you done to your space to make things a little easier on yourself? would love to hear from you.

Simon at VirtualJobCoach.com

Tearing Down The Walls: An Introduction to the Process-Based Job-Search

What is the process-based job-search in a nutshell?

The process-based job-search is simply a job-search with a plan and structure.

Why does anyone need a process-based job-search?

Most people don’t know how to run a highly-effective job-search – they have no plan – and without a plan they will waste a lot of time. Continue reading

How to Overcome Job-Search Failure (and Depression)

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Being in a job search sucks is no fun – and people can get really depressed.

The issue is that most people view the job-search in two phases:

1) you are looking and

2) you have found a job

Well, if (2) is success then the common thinking is that (1) is failure.

We look at ourselves as failures because we have no perspective.  We have no perspective because we have no measurable road-map to track our progress.

An analogy:

You need to get to Las Vegas from Boston.

Are you a failure if you are between Vegas and Boston?

Most people would say ‘no’ with the assumption that you have made progress toward Vegas.   If you know where you currently are, and have a map, then you can see that you have made progress in closing the distance between yourself and Vegas.

Now consider the example above but you didn’t have a map.  Well, you know that Vegas is ‘West’.  So you head ‘west’ for a few days and determine that you are neither in Boston nor Vegas.

Are you a failure?  This is a more difficult question to answer because you can’t really say that you have made progress, you think and hope that you have, but without a map, getting to Vegas will require a lot of luck.    So you continue to head west, but the longer you head west, the more the temptation to view yourself as a failure because you can’t measure any progress.

Without a map (or plan) most people can’t measure progress in the job-search because they have no reference point and no process to trust.  There is a goal and a bunch of stuff  ‘you should do’ to find a job but no real plan or process.

Will developing a plan and a process help you track progress?  Yes

Will tracking progress help you perform a better job-search?  Yes

But 99.999% of the people I have spoken with (job-seekers) do not have a plan or process.  They are content to ‘do stuff’ day in/day out in the hopes of finding a job.   Considering how important a job is to many folks, isnt’ it strange that they don’t plan better?

Do you have a plan?  I’d love to hear about it.

Slow/Stalled Job-Search? The Answer is Simple (but most people don’t realize it)

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The economy sucks.

There are a lot of people unemployed.

It is the summer.

While all of the above are true the CAN NOT justify a slow/stalled search.  I have spoken with hundreds of job-seekers and there is one common thread with people who say that their search has stalled.   The thing that these (and most job-searchers) have in common is:

there is no plan

Quite simply put,  most people do not know how to effectively run a job-search.

Of course, many of you reading will say “that’s stupid, I have a plan”, but do you really have a plan?  How do you measure progress with your plan?  How do you set goals with your plan.

Most people don’t – their definition of the “job-search process” is a set of  loosely linked activities, more specifically, the process is usually described as:

“I write a resume and cover letter, post the resume on all the major and niche job-boards, then I search the job listings.”

The problem is, without a process you can follow, you are basing your search more on luck than anything else.    Still don’t believe me?

Here is another analogy.  You have two friends that want to lose 40 pounds (say to lower their high blood pressure that is a result of a long job search).

You have to bet which one will lose the weight in two months.

You ask both of them to describe their plan/process.

Friend 1 says “I need to exercise more and eat less bad food, so I will join a gym and workout until I lose that 40 pounds”.

Friend 2 says “I need to exercise more and eat less bad food, so I have created a week-by week plan for the two months with weekly goals and I will also track my calories and find a gym that will help me develop a plan to help lose the weight”.

Now which one would you bet on?

What if the bet were now $10,000?

Why $10,000?  Well if you make $60K a year then two months salary is worth roughly $10,000.   So if you are out of work for two months, the opportunity cost (what you would have been paid if you were working) is $10,000.

Now who would you bet on?

If you were honest, you would bet on Friend 2.  Why?  Because he has a plan and a process to lose the weight that is measurable, while Friend 1 has a very-high-level approach.

Unfortunately, 99% of the folks I speak with are much more like Friend 1 than Friend 2 in their job-search.

In this environment simply ‘working harder’ is not enough, you must work smarter, and working smarter means a detailed job-search plan/process.

Still think that detailing out the process is ‘overkill’?

Are you serious about your search or are you really faking-it and kidding-yourself?

Finding a job is tough enough but adding the current economy into the picture and the large number of unemployed looking, you have to be serious about your search.  And if you are serious you need a detailed plan and process.

Of course you could simply waste time writing and re-writing your resume or spend hours/days/weeks searching the job-boards.  That’s what most people are doing.

What are you doing?

Job search tip: Don’t hoard jobs, take action or delete.

Have you noticed how easy it is to accumulate job leads? You scour the job boards and aggregators, save some to review later, apply to a bunch, some you may hear from other you’re still waiting. It doesn’t take  long before the whole list becomes too long to fathom.

So here’s a weekly exercise you can do.

Take a look at your saved jobs, (using VirtualJobCoach to store track and organize them obviously!) and decide what the next action your going to take will be:

Can you contact the hiring manager, HR department or someone at the company or recruiter, to get an update or just introduce yourself.

Have you gone through your list of contacts to see if someone you know works there, or may know someone who works there.

Take a look at your linkedin or facebook or other social network site for connection?

What about sending your resume and cover letter again?

Whatever you decide to do make a reminder note for yourself (yes in VirtualJobCoach) and move onto the next item.

Sure you’ll find some fantastic jobs you’ve saved, but hey if you haven’t heard anything for a while, and you can’t think of a next action,  then keeping it in the queue only clutters up your space. So go ahead, delete it.  Or at least move it to the “closed out” folder, with a reminder to delete it in a month.

Good hunting

Simon