You can’t manage a prolonged job search properly without self-management. With so many activities involved nowadays, you must make the most of your time to accomplish them.
Self-Management during the Job Search
Good self-management skills help you press through your search for a job courageously, despite the disappointments and rejections you receive.
David Allen, Author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, describes self-management in his It’s Not About Time article:
“The savvy know self-management is really an issue of what we do with ourselves during the time we have. Self-management needs to encompass managing our thoughts and emotions, and dealing effectively with our work, family and community relationships. It’s about gaining dynamic balance of control and perspective to achieve more successful outcomes and feel more relaxed along the way.”
Self-Management Tips for Your Job Search
With this in mind, if you’re interested in making the best use of your time in your job hunt, then consider the 15 tips below.
I must note, though: what works for one might not work for another. So, I encourage you to evaluate them and see if they’ll work for you.
1. Engage in Attitude Reflection.
This process brings bouts of discouragement. There’s no doubt about it.
But, your response matters.
What attitude do you bring to your job search daily?
Do you allow discouragement and frustration to bring you down?
Do you walk through your job search with a negative or positive outlook?
It’s a choice. Your choice. Every Day.
However, to get through an extended job search with your sanity intact, you need a positive attitude and outlook.
How can you stay positive in a drawn out job search? I’ve listed several ways in a previous article on positivity. A few ways include:
- Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude.
- Moving Forward After Job Rejections.
- Keeping Hope Alive.
Now, I’ll admit: changing your attitude from negative to positive isn’t a simple challenge. It takes time and effort – daily, but you can do it.
It’s a positive use of your time, too.
2. Use Encouraging Truth to Motivate You Onward.
Here, you focus on your thoughts because they affect your attitude, discussed above.
Chances are you’ve had (or you still have) some variation of the following thoughts:
“I’ll never get another job. I’ve become unemployable.”
“How will I get a shot to prove myself when there’s lots of competition in the hiring process?”
“Though my skills are current, I have a big resume gap. There’s no way I can get the attention of a hiring manager.”
You become disappointed when you’re embarked on a lengthy job search filled with rejection.
I know. Believe me.
But, please don’t waste your time by allowing these thoughts to go on and on, without speaking truth to them. Know the truth and use it to capture lies.
“Things are working out. I’ll land my next position at the right time.”
“There’s competition in this job market. But, the door of the right opportunity will open when I approach and knock on it.”
“I have a resume gap. But, I also have valuable knowledge, skills, and experience to bring to an organization.”
It takes some time to believe and accept these things, but they’re truths. And, you must speak them to those destructive thoughts fighting to feed your brain.
William Backus, PhD and author of Learning to Tell Myself the Truth, calls this Truth Therapy. He says:
“The fact is, YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU THINK! The solution to the frustration of gray moods, negative self-concepts, and dismaying habits is to be found in recognizing this simple truth: You feel the way you think; you think the way you believe.”
I challenge you to challenge your beliefs. Identify, capture, and replace falsehood with truth.
3. Strategize Your Approach With Targeting.
When it comes to searching for a job, you should implement an effective job search technique. This is important because applying to any and every job isn’t making the best use of your time.
Plus, it does nothing to land you a job offer faster.
What you should do is: bring intentionality into your job hunt. You can do this by using the targeted job search strategy.
- Identify the Business or Occupation of Interest to You.
- Research the Leading Companies By Culture, Leadership, Products, and Market Positions.
- Determine Whether You Can Grow Within Company.
- Figure Out Logistical Issues, such as the Commute, Working Hours, and Extra Taxes.
- Rate Your Potential Happiness At the Targeted Company.
After you’ve done these five things, you prepare your cover letter and resume, tailored to the company and positional requirements.
This is an effective approach to looking for a job and is an efficient use of your time daily.
4. Identify Your Objectives for the Day through Planning.
In the job search, the ultimate goal is: to land a job offer as soon as possible. But, you can break down this goal into manageable everyday tasks.
The job search involves several steps, such as: knowing what you want in your career, identifying suitable positions, identifying target companies, researching companies for information, preparing cover letters and resumes, submitting application materials, interviewing when called, following up on submissions and interviews, reaching out to others for career advice, and exploring alternative routes and careers.
Don’t do everything at once. Instead, you can complete daily targets to move you forward in your job search process.
Today, for example, your objectives might be: preparing your resume and cover letter for an open position and identifying and researching 3 companies of interest.
You prevent overwhelm when you break your goal into smaller everyday tasks.
5. Keep A Daily Job Search Reminder List and Track Accomplishments.
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do what is important,” says Leadership Expert Lolly Daskal.
And, one way to always do what’s important is by creating a daily (physical or mental) list to remind you about your daily objectives. Here’s a sample job search reminder list:
- Identify 3 Companies of Interest.
- Research Company Located in a News Article to Learn More.
- Write a Resume and Cover Letter for ____ Organization.
- Follow Up on a Previous Submission.
Now, you don’t only want to identify tasks for the day. You also want to prioritize tasks by importance.
Daskal suggests an “ABCDE system for prioritization” with A as the ‘must do’ task for the day. So, if your highest priority task for today is to identify 3 new companies of interest, for example, then you’ll label it A.
To assist you, consider the use of a calendar, a paper notebook, or a digital notebook, such as Evernote, for creating and tracking your completions and accomplishments.
6. Know Your “Peak Time” and Build a Structure Around It.
After planning your objective for the day and creating a helpful reminder list, you must take action. To ensure you do, setting a schedule helps.
With a schedule, you have the structure needed to complete these tasks, with no excuses.
It helps you stay on track daily. It also provides a sense of accomplishment when you successfully achieve your highest priority.
When it comes to setting a schedule, ponder the following:
- Determine which part of your day you’ll dedicate to looking for jobs and how long. You’ll determine this based on your life and situation. Example: Every morning from 8 am – 1 pm (or afternoon from 2 pm – 7 pm), I’ll engage in job search activities.
- Test your schedule and see what works best for you. Scheduling is a structure tool made for you, so nothing’s wrong with making adjustments where necessary.
- Allow Room for flexibility. Sometimes, things won’t go according to your schedule. Interruptions happen in life, so we must accept and prepare for them – even while job searching.
Before setting a schedule, however, it’s helpful to know your peak time (i.e., the time of the day when you’ll have the most energy to engage in job search activities with ease). One way to identify this time, says Daniel Gold in a Fast Company article, is to document the ways you spend your minutes and the resulting feelings.
7. Boost Your Focus For the Completion of One Thing at a Time.
Have often do you sit to type up your cover letter and think about something else you need to do?
My next question is:
How often do you stop typing your cover letter to go and do it?
This isn’t good. According to Tony Schwartz, Author of Be Excellent at Anything:
“. . . when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.”
It pays to stick with a task until completion. Focus on completing the other task after you’ve completed this task.
A helpful way to boost your focus is by identifying your objectives for the day, as discussed previously. This will assist you in getting things done, especially those of highest priority, without stopping to do something when it comes to mind.
Additionally, it’s helpful to put time-wasters in their proper place. If your day flies by without the accomplishment of your priorities, then you should check your activities.
How much time are you spending on social media? Internet surfing without purpose?
Texting? Talking on the telephone?
It wouldn’t hurt to eliminate these things while you’re focusing on your task, if they’re robbing you of your time.
8. Keep Yourself Calm and Persevere.
Looking for a job is a challenging process. You agree, right?
Everywhere you turn there’s a waiting period: waiting for job leads, waiting to prepare tailored resumes and cover letters before submission, waiting to hearing back for an interview, waiting to follow-up on submissions, waiting to hear back about interview success or failure, and waiting to follow-up on the interview when you don’t hear anything back.
The wait is a lengthy one. Anxiety wants to take over while you wait.
But, you must remain calm. This transitional period is one you can’t rush – no matter how you try.
All you can do is keep calm and persevere.
These two work together.
You don’t just want to keep calm in this career transition. You also want to persevere.
Check out two ways to stay calm, as provided by Alison Cardy, Founder of and CEO at Cardy Career Coaching in her blog post entitled, 3 Tips to Stay Calm in the Midst of a Job Search:
- Stay Focused on What You Control. Cardy says,
“You can control the effort that you put into an application. You can’t control whether or not you’ll get a callback for an interview. So keep your eyes on the things that you can impact.”
- Pick Your Head Up. Here, she says,
“It’s all too easy to get sucked into an all consuming job search that takes over your world. So pick your head up every once in awhile. Keep an eye on your physical and emotional well being by doing things that help you to feel healthy and connecting to friends, family, and community.”
9. Break Away from Your E-mail Inbox.
If you’re interested in managing yourself better, then you must break away from obsessively checking your e-mail for information.
You probably haven’t thought about it this way, but it’s a distraction. Checking your e-mail every few minutes, hoping to hear back from hiring employers or hoping to see the latest job posting, prevents you from doing things you need to do.
How can you break free of this habit? Alexandra Samuel, Author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email, suggests the creation of an ‘email budget.’
In a Harvard Business Review article, she describes an email budget as:
“. . . A specific amount of time you’ll spend on email, and a plan for how you’ll make the most of that time. Like a financial budget, an email budget helps you make the best use of a limited resource — in this case, your time.”
If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know I had to limit the amount of time I spent checking my e-mail. I looked for postings and employer related contacts frequently. I felt like I must respond to these e-mails immediately.
While these e-mails mattered, it became an overwhelming, time-consuming activity.
I realized, over time, the effect it had on me mentally and put it in check. So, I encourage you to set a boundary (or email budget) and limit the amount of time you dedicate to it.
10. Beware of Lurking Procrastination.
You face several fears in an extended job search: fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of long-term unemployability. These fears, in my case, activated all the more as my job search dragged on.
And, I faced the procrastination problem. I learned, however, to push through procrastination and complete the job search tasks required.
Pushing through and completing these tasks are important. Why? Because you’ll never accomplish anything with procrastination.
It takes work, but you can overcome unemployment procrastination. A few steps for overcoming include:
- Recognizing Your Fears.
- Scheduling a Planning and Organizing Period.
- Taking Action.
You give power to procrastination every time you delay. So, I encourage you to fight procrastination rooted in fear.
Start with 10 minutes of diligent work. You’ll probably keep going after committing to the first 10 minutes.
11. Retreat from Your Job Hunt for Refreshment and Reflection.
You don’t want it to turn into procrastination, but, please believe: you need to retreat daily. Take breaks from your job search tasks for refreshing.
In her New York Times article, Phyllis Korkki explains why breaks are necessary by quoting John P. Trougakos:
“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.”
Don’t hesitate to take some time away from your job search – even if only a few minutes every day. There are many ways to enjoy this time:
- Thinking About the Best Way to Move Forward.
- Thinking About the Good Things in Your Life.
- Doing Something Around the House.
- Reading Something You Enjoy.
- Getting Out of the House with Family.
When you take some time away, then you prevent job search burnout. You also remember an important fact: there’s more to your life than looking for a job.
12. Shut Down the Job Search When It’s Time.
You should determine exactly when you’ll end your job search activities for the day – and stick to it. Think about the corporate world: Managers and employees know when they go to work and when they get off.
If they have these work boundaries in place, then why shouldn’t you?
It’s easy to feel you must work at finding a job all the time because of the urgency to get paid. But, when you don’t set a limit in your job search, it consumes you.
And, you can’t move forward, without frustration, burnout, and inefficiency.
Don’t work from a place of exhaustion and spread yourself too thin. The job search will take up your whole day, if you allow it.
Break this unhealthy habit. Instead, stick to the hours you dedicate to job searching – giving them your best efforts.
13. Challenge Yourself to a Skill Building Activity.
I always say you shouldn’t engage in a limitless job search. However, how you spend the rest of your time matters.
One of the best ways to make the most of your time when your job search ends daily is by boosting (or upgrading) your skills through an activity of interest. It not only shows time-management skills to prospective employers, but also initiative and productivity.
There are personal benefits as well: you’ll stay mentally sharp and feel accomplished. It takes away some of the stress and frustration associated with looking for a job.
Susan P. Joyce of Work Coach Cafe recommends several ways to build skills between jobs:
- Taking Free Classes Online.
- Attending Professional Conferences.
- Doing Online Research.
Building or improving your skills, while transitioning, helps you to fill your resume gap and advance your career.
14. Prioritize the Care of Yourself.
Taking care of yourself should be an important part of your day.
I’ve said it before and will say it again here:
You can’t take care of your job search without first taking care of yourself.
If you allow yourself to reach the point of exhaustion, then you won’t be effective in your job hunt.
I’ve shared how I learned this the hard way. I learned the importance of nourishing my whole being.
You’re limited as human. You must not sacrifice your health and well-being for long hours of job searching.
You won’t receive refreshment and renewal, without taking care of yourself.
Remember to feed your body its fuel.
Remember to quench your thirst.
Remember to seek solitude for prayer and Scriptural meditation.
Remember to get the sleep you need nightly.
Remember to manage your stress level.
Your productivity increases when you do these things. This, in turn, leads to better uses of your time.
15. Seal Your Day With Rest and Relaxation.
This is certainly part of taking care of yourself as mentioned above, but I want to place an emphasis on it here.
Searching for your next position is a priority. But, please don’t let the job search overstress you to the point you don’t enjoy rest and relaxation daily.
This is your opportunity to do things you find interesting: reading inspirational material, writing in your journal, watching a movie, spending time with family.
Whatever you enjoy.
Additionally, I want you to consider the importance of rest and sleep.
Sleep “promotes physical health and mental well-being. It also boosts performance and reduces safety risks,” according to the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.
It’s safe to conclude: quality sleep assists you in functioning properly during the day. It increases your productivity as well.
I encourage you to value rest and relaxation. They’re beneficial for a few reasons:
- Rest and Relaxation Bring Peace.
- Rest and Relaxation Bring Refreshment.
- Rest and Relaxation Bring Strength.
They’re not the easiest thing to do while going through hardship. But, they’re necessary ways to balance your life and job search in a healthy way.
When your day comes to an end, I encourage you to rest from everything associated with your job search. Make it a priority every night to go to bed and get 7-8 hours of sleep, if you can.
Will You Manage Yourself Better?
You have no control over time, but you control how you use it.
Job searching requires discipline.
In this article, I’ve provided 15 practical tips for managing yourself throughout this process. Review and evaluate them for effectiveness in your life.
If you believe they’ll help you manage yourself better, then implement them.
Upon implementation, you’ll maintain your sanity and productivity. You’ll also increase your positivity to the ratio needed to push through unemployment with serenity.
P. S. Do you have other tips for self-management while job searching? Please share them here.
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Disclaimer 1: I am not an HR or Career Professional by training. When I write on job search topics, I write from the perspective of a job seeker with experience in job searching.
Disclaimer 2: This article contains outgoing links to the works of others on the following websites: Success Magazine, William Backus (in his book referenced above), North Jersey News, Lolly Daskal, Fast Company, the Harvard Business Review, Cardy Career Coaching, Work Coach Café, the New York Times, Sleep Education, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.