It’s easy to get burned out and discouraged while hunting for a new job. That said, you can have a productive and fruitful job search by following some guidelines.
Plan Your Search and Customize It
Job seekers often spend a lot of time shooting out résumés and hoping someone calls them—an approach that career coach and recruiter Molly Mapes refers to as the “firing post strategy.”
Applying to jobs willy-nilly may not take a lot of time at first, but it’s also not very effective. “A lot of people feel like they’re doing a lot because they’ve applied for 400 jobs in one day, so they feel like they’re taking action, but they’re not going to get the results they want,” Mapes said.
Even worse, she added, not getting any calls back may send a candidate into a spiral of hopelessness. They start feeling as if they’ll never find anything.
Instead of applying to every job you can find, spend time beforehand figuring out what kind of job you want, as well as the type of work environment best suited to your tastes. You can do that by spending a few days doing an inventory of jobs you’ve had in the past (and your current job, if you’re employed).
Specifically, think about:
- The projects you liked working on.
- The type of environment you liked.
- The departments or clients you enjoyed interacting with.
With that list in mind, think about what you’d keep about each of the jobs you had, as well as what you’d change. That will hopefully give you the basis necessary to start researching companies and positions you might be interested in; cross-reference potential employers against your list of preferences. This customized approach can yield results.
If you’re currently unemployed, there’s a temptation to consider job-hunting a full-time job. Spending 40 hours a week on the search, though, puts you at risk of burning out. “Whatever you’re feeling is normal. Take care of yourself as you’re going through the process,” Mapes said. That includes pacing yourself during the job application process.
Mapes recommends spending just one to two focused hours a day on your search. This could be every day if you’re currently unemployed, or just one or two days a week if you’re juggling your job search with your day job.
If you are getting good leads and responses, you don’t need to adjust the amount of time you spend on the search. But if you’re not getting the desired results, you may want to either spend more time job searching, or make sure you’re being efficient in the time you are spending (and that your search is customized). Building momentum is important in any job search; that said, if you are dreading the hunt after you’ve already begun, it’s okay to take a day off.
Supplement your applications to positions you’ve found on job boards with in-person networking. You may even end up running into people who work for the companies you’re applying for, and get some inside details.
Check Your Results and Adapt Your Strategies
After spending around a month sending out résumés to the types of companies you want to work for, take a step back and see if you’re getting results. If you’re not, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s really happening.
For example, if you’re receiving unsolicited requests from recruiters or information about positions that aren’t relevant or for positions you’re not really interested in, re-examine your application materials. Some unsolicited, irrelevant requests are unavoidable in the job search process, but it’s a good idea to see if there is something in your résumé erroneously suggesting that this “wrong work” is what you want to do.
If you haven’t heard back from the types of companies or jobs you’re interested in, make sure your résumé is as customized as possible to the types of roles you want. Take a close look at keywords you’re using, how you’re positioning yourself, and whether you’ve highlighted relevant experience. “Don’t just keep repeating doing the same wrong thing,” Mapes said.