How to Structure Your Job Search

You wake up. The whole day lays before you and the job search is unknown territory. You're paralyzed with indecision. Should you call that networking contact you met last week? Apply for that job you saw last night? Throw in a load of laundry?

You're used to a work routine and daily regimen. Now you’re tempted to just go back to bed.

While some may think job seekers have all the time in the world to laze about, the truth is staying productive can be a formula for staying sane and positive in a stressful situation like job searching.

Let's face it, job searching means a lot of rejection before you find the right role. It's easy to fall apart when all you've been waiting for is a response and it's a bad one. If you don’t measure your small successes along the way, you'll be heading toward burnout and depression. And it’s hard to be productive then. Instead, structure your job search.

Designing Your Day: Job Search Schedules

Staying productive starts by creating a schedule and goals. It's easy to feel like a day has passed without any progress if you’ve never established a finish line. Remember, the big win – getting a job – will only happen once during your job search. It can't be your only metric for success.

The first step in any effective job search is to set aside time each week to design your schedule. Allot 50-minute sessions for each task. Use the last 10 minutes of every hour to stand up and get outside. Those 10 minutes will give you a break and contribute to your mental health.

The following list contains tasks you'll want to complete at some point in your job search, sometimes daily. Based on our research, these are the most effective ways to spend your time.

Resume Improvement – For every job application expect to rework your resume, highlighting your relevant skills that match the job description.

Search Job Boards – It's a common mistake to over-invest in this task. Spend less than 15% of your week here. The majority of jobs are found through connections, not job boards. Invest your time accordingly while job searching.

Correspondence – For every application, you'll need a cover letter, a copy of your resume, and any additional content requested in the job posting. If you get an interview, you’ll need to send a follow-up and thank you. If you apply to 500 jobs, be prepared to allow time for a minimum of 2,000 pieces of correspondence. Creating a basic template to customize will help you save time with your job search.

Labor Market Research – Is your desired job currently available in your location? Labor market research is a reliable source of who's hiring and where. For example, if you're a nuclear scientist in Fargo, North Dakota, you're probably not getting a local job. With this data, you’ll know to target your job search elsewhere.

Employer Research – Expand your potential job market by targeting employers even if they're not advertising. Look at their mission statement and values. Do they align with yours? Once you find a good match, sign up for their job alerts.

Contact Research – In addition to employer research, look at who you know. Most jobs come from secondary relationships, or friends of friends. Check to see if you know any contacts – or contacts of contacts – at your preferred companies. Your LinkedIn account is a great tool for this. Once identified, create a networking opportunity by asking your connection to introduce you.

Interview Prep – Invest time early in your job search for interview preparation. Get some coaching. There are plenty of interview questions you can practice online. By building your interview skills early, you'll thrive when the time comes.

Keeping to your schedule will help you stave off depression and better handle the inevitable disappointments that come with job searching. While some tasks will feel repetitive, you'll build proficiency with practice. And once proficient, you'll become quicker.

Lather, Rinse, Measure, and Repeat (or Revise)

Regardless of how you structure your day, you must have quantitative goals that help you measure success. Take time to figure out what's working and what's not. Keep track of your results and use that information to revise your efforts.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll create an effective job search routine. Remember, you don't need to do everything at once. But you do need to do a little bit each day to get one step closer to getting hired.

Read on for more ways to make your job search a success: Meditation - Getting Centered in the Job Search

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