Whether you’re looking for your first job or trying to find a new job, the process might be as consuming as a full-time job. In fact, if you’re currently unemployed, you could find yourself spending as much as 30 or more hours a week on job search-related activities. If you’re already working, you might only have 5 to 10 hours to spare. No matter how much time you have to devote to the process, you can streamline and simplify by using good time management skills.
As an added bonus, your newly acquired time management skills can translate over into better workplace skills once you do get your dream job.
In honor of William Penn, who said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” here are:
Five Time Management Skills You Need to Get More Out of Your Job Search
1. Identify your goals.
You’re searching for a job, which will help you reach your goals, but how clear are those goals in the first place? Identifying your goals will help you know exactly where you stand and give you specific objectives to reach.
Clearly setting goals will also help you focus on the specific results you want, which can help you find the kind of company you want to work with, how you’ll fit in with or enhance the company, and narrow down potential job offers.
Once your goals are clear, it’s time to prioritize. List the tasks that need to be completed first, and then add in those that aren’t so time-sensitive. A daily to-do list can help you stay focused and on-task and avoid unnecessary time wasters. Mark off each task as you complete it so that you have visible evidence of your progress and stay motivated by all your successes.
2. Keep a schedule, and be
Settling into ruts is easy, and it can be counterproductive to a job search. When you get into a comfortable groove, you might find yourself wasting time on habits rather than productive activities.
Creating a schedule based on your goals and to-do list will help you avoid those wasteful time-sucks. For example, you don’t need to send out dozens of applications: That’s wasteful and inefficient. Instead, focus your efforts where they’ll be most effective. Research indicates that job searches are most fruitful when you network, so make networking a priority followed closely by researching prospects, talking to recruiters and checking out career fairs. Be mindful when sending out resumes and applications to ensure they’re targeted only to your most desirable prospects.
Scheduling combined with careful strategizing will help you move forward in your search. Don’t make excuses: Stick with your schedule, and hold yourself accountable.
3. Ditch the distractions.
Distractions can be a huge time waster, especially if you tend to get distracted easily. You might not be able to get rid of all distractions either at home or work, but you can create a workspace that’s more conducive to productivity. Set deadlines to keep yourself on task, and keep an eye on how long it takes to complete various tasks so that you can spot potential time-wasters long before they swallow your day.
Keep clutter to a minimum, and organize your space so that everything you need is within easy reach. Use email, chats or video conferencing to stay in touch with potential employers, and track deadlines and more with sticky notes in easy-to-see locations. Set your phone to “do not disturb,” if necessary, and set a specific time to check emails so that you’re not getting bogged down in unimportant details.
If you’re really finding your attention lagging, download a program or plug-in that helps you avoid certain sites, like news sites or social networking, during your job search times.
4. Stay focused, and be precise.
Throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks might work in a small percentage of cases, but only rarely will you find the best job for you that way. Worse, it takes a lot of time to do all that legwork only to end up with poor or no prospects.
You’ve got your goals written down, so it might be a good time to revisit them and narrow your focus so that you can get more out of your search. Instead of applying for all 200 open jobs in your field, take the time to really identify the jobs that are the best match for you. What types of projects do you enjoy? What type of people do you like working with? What’s your preferred working environment? What jobs have you enjoyed in the past, and what jobs have you hated?
Keep your job search narrowly focused to help you find only the most appropriate potential employers and to avoid wasting your time and theirs. Using your schedule and your goals, you can pace yourself more effectively, focusing only on those searches that are most likely to yield the results you want.
5. Don’t forget the downtime.
It’s easy to approach your job search as a full-time job especially if you’re currently unemployed. However, spending all your time looking for a new job is a good way to end up burned out, and when you’re burned out, you’ll spend a lot more time spinning your wheels with your mind wandering. You need to schedule periodic downtime. Stepping away from your job search will make it easier to come back to it refreshed, renewed and ready to hit the pavement once again.
Searching for a job can be stressful, but incorporating these time-management tips into your routine can help you get more out of each day. You’ll have clear goals that will help you stay focused, a positive and work-friendly routine, and an energized attitude that can help you network and tackle new leads more effectively.