The Strategic Job Hunt

In the article If You Need to Work Better, Maybe Try Working Less, Sue Shellenbarger argues that scheduling yourself some time off forces you to improve your work habits. If you know you have only until 5 o’clock to get something done, you’ll work more efficiently–either by spending less time on inconsequential tasks, or perhaps by finding clever and time-saving solutions.

This applies to the job hunt too. How many times have you heard the expression “unemployment is wasted on the unemployed”? Everyone else is stuck at the office, and you could be out hiking the AT. But that’s not your mindset–you’re worried about how long it may be before you see another paycheck. When you are out-of-work, you can spend entire days fretting, perusing job sites, and revising cover letters. To stay sane, you need some balance. Get out of the house, go for a walk, pursue some hobbies. There is plenty of time in a day for job hunting.

I would say spending more than 4-6 hours a day job hunting would drive a reasonable person insane. Stick to a sane schedule. Spend some extra time at the gym in the morning and go job hunting from 9 to 3, with a lunch somewhere in between.

Most of the tips in “Try Working Less” can be adapted for the job hunt. Setting the goal is easy: finding a dream job. (Maybe not so easy–do you have a clear idea what your ideal job would be?) Then you need to set some weekly priorities and plan how you are going to meet them.

Weekly priorities might be:

  • Identify 20 job openings (or, if there are no posted openings, places where you would like to work)
  • Send out 10 resumes
  • Follow up on 10 contacts from the previous week
  • Attend a networking event

Find a way to meet those goals in 20-30 hours a week, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to, if not completely relax, at least live a balanced life.

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