January 24, 2010
Rev up downtime: Use organization, planning to make the most of your job search
New York Times News Service
If there’s one thing that most unemployed job seekers have in abundance, it’s time. And yet many of them misuse it.
This is understandable. In a post-layoff life, when you get up in the morning, it can seem as if a long time is ahead of you. But you may decide to go to the gym, have a leisurely lunch, take a nap, watch TV — and then you’re ready for dinner. Or you may engage in a whirlwind of sending e-mail and Googling, only to realize that little of it got you closer to a job.
“Having no structure is the biggest enemy to being organized and being focused,” says Julie Morgenstern, a productivity consultant and author of “Time Management From the Inside Out.”
Job seekers should create specific work hours and a time map along with mini-deadlines, she says. She recommends treating job hunting like a full-time job.
Looking for a job involves so many steps that it can be overwhelming, says Kimberly Bishop, chief executive of a career management and leadership services firm in New York. Because it is not something people tend to do on a regular basis, few people are truly skilled at it, she says, but “being prepared and having a plan and a process brings confidence.”
Make yourself productive
Here are some tips to get the most of your job-hunting day:
Dedicate a space for a job hunt. Having a consistent area helps keep files and paperwork together.
Create a “success folder.” Compile your skills and accomplishments in one spot so you’re ready during interviews.
Create job-search hours. Treat your job hunt like a full-time job by dedicating a set amount of time to it daily.
Keep track of your contacts. Create paper or computer files of where you have applied or interviewed.
To begin, Bishop says, set aside a physical space for job hunting and devote up to a week on laying the groundwork for your search. People often jump into job hunting even before they have their résumés updated or know what kind of jobs they should seek.
Prepare résumés, write sample cover letters, assemble references and put together work samples, she says. Compile an inventory of your skills, accomplishments and honors -- Bishop calls this a “success folder” -- ready to be shown or recounted during interviews.
“It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with just the management and organization of the paperwork,” Bishop says. Create paper or computer files to keep track of where you have applied and interviewed, she says.
After the preparation, it’s time to get started. Morgenstern suggests dividing the day into three compartments: research, meetings and follow-up.
Morgenstern offers this sample day of activities: From 9 to 11 a.m., do research on companies that you will be applying to or interviewing with. Research unconventional industries that might fit with your skills. Look up networking organizations.
Try to schedule a meeting every day, or five meetings a week, Morgenstern says. “These benchmarks keep you from becoming complacent or depressed” and keep you connected with the outside world, she says. Between 11 and 2, you might meet with a friend, former colleagues or a career counselor for lunch or coffee.
Later in the day, she says, send a thank-you e-mail to that person. End every day by planning the next one, plus the two days after that, she says. This three-day arc enables you to pace yourself.
"People are energized by getting things done," Morgenstern says. “Energy then begets more energy and more productivity.” And that begets confidence -- which will increase your chances of being hired.
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