Last week, I spoke with someone who has not worked since the pandemic began despite years of experience in a high-demand occupation. Among other things, I learned they have been sleeping late and just spending a few hours a week pursuing job leads.
This is not the first time I’ve encountered a talented job-seeker who is not finding success in their search. And I recognize that most of us, including myself, have enjoyed more leisure time when we are between jobs. Most of us enjoy sleeping late and spending more time with family and friends, or prefer shopping and running errands during the workday when stores and businesses are less crowded. The problem is that these habits can result in a less productive job search.
You are in your own business when doing a job search. It’s a side hustle if you have a job, and your full-time job if you are not working. You are your own boss, and you make money only if you are successful. Some specific tips for success include:
- Treat job search as your work,
- Arrange your office,
- Set hours and boundaries, and
- Motivate yourself.
You will find a job faster by staying focused and following these productivity tips.
Treat job search as your job.
My favorite approach to job search, starting with the first time I was downsized, has been to treat the task as just another work assignment. This was relatively easy the first time I worked in an office that was being closed because my co-workers and I were permitted to continue using our office space, computers, and internet connection. So, it was easy to treat the job search as just another project.
Some of us participated in an employment program for downsized professionals and executives that offered us workspace with computers and phones, so we could continue treating job search as part of the job after our office closed. In fact, I hung out at the program so much, they hired me!
Today, employers send most of us home when we have been downsized. As a result, job seekers are largely on their own to set a job search work structure for themselves.
Arrange your office.
Many workers became “remote work ninjas” (a phrase I saw last week on a LinkedIn profile), so we already have a home office and great work habits. Others will have to start from scratch and set up a workspace. It is fairly easy to work on your job search from anywhere using a smartphone and laptop, but remote work experts such as Elizabeth Grace Saunders recommend setting up a distraction-free “office”—a spare room, basement, etc., so when you are there, you are working.
Not everyone has a quiet place in their home where they can establish an office. It is also nice to get out of the house or apartment even if you do have the space. A coffee shop, library, or bookstore (where they still exist) can serve the purpose.
Coffee shops and bookstores, where available can also be great settings to meet industry and professional contacts in person. Public coffee shops and bookstores are not always available when you need to work, so it still makes sense to have work space at home.
Set hours and boundaries.
Ms. Saunders suggested in her article that remote workers set hours and boundaries. For example, don’t run personal errands or spend time speaking with friends while working. Establish specific work hours for yourself and do errands, or even household tasks outside of these hours. Brief interruptions, though, are okay because such distractions are common in an office setting, too.
A remote worker I spoke with last week said she gets dressed for work when she is working at home to help her get into the proper mindset. This is a great strategy for you, as a job seeker, too. This not only helps you be in the right frame of mind—it means you are prepared to go on Zoom for a remote interview, or head out for a meeting without delay.
The most difficult part for many job seekers can be motivating themselves. We are surrounded with a room full of people doing similar jobs and working toward a common goal in a traditional office or “cube farm.” Co-workers talk, share ideas, and boost each other’s spirits. Workers have to show up on time and stay all day to receive full pay in many traditional office jobs. Last, but not least, there is at least one boss that keeps the team on track.
We have none of these supporting structures when we work at home on a job search. Chances are, no one will remind us to start on time in the morning and keep at it all day. Even worse, perhaps, there is no one to reward us for small successes and keep us moving toward the ultimate goal—a new job.
The solution may be to reward yourself. Spend a few minutes on an activity you enjoy if you get to your desk and computer a few minutes early each morning. Reward yourself with a break or some other activity you enjoy when you complete an important task. Don’t forget to keep the biggest reward in mind. You’ll have the job you want at the salary you deserve at the conclusion of this project!