"Looking for work is a full-time job."
If you're prepared to put in a forty-hour week for an employer, why wouldn't you be willing to work just as hard for yourself? The ideal time commitment required to conduct a successful job search is eight hours a day, 5 days a week.
Depending on your level of expertise and the salary you command in the current market, you can expect to be actively searching for at least a few weeks, though several months is more likely. As a general rule, you should anticipate one month of job hunting for every $15,000 you hope to earn in annual salary.
That's probably longer than you'd like, but committing to the long haul is vital to crafting a realistic job-search plan. If you're currently employed, you'll need to find the time outside your regular work hours to maintain an active job search.
For those who are unemployed, the wait for a job offer can be excruciating. Paychecks may stop, but bills always arrive on time. And being rejected by one employer after another can take its toll on your self-esteem.
Maintaining a positive state of mind is an essential part of conducting a successful and rewarding job search. It can mean the difference between being unemployed for six months or six weeks. Between settling for a position that doesn't fit at a salary below your value, and landing a job that matches your career goals and compensates you fairly, if not generously.
One of the most important steps in your countdown to launching a job-search campaign is to prepare yourself mentally. If you're apathetic or lethargic in your job-search activities, you can easily become overwhelmed by the weight of such an arduous task. You're also more likely to project a lazy, careless attitude that employers are sure to notice.
Better to feel the satisfaction that comes when you really apply yourself to an important goal. But how does one harness that can-do attitude and embrace one of life's most difficult assignments, particularly if your last job left a bad taste in your psyche?
One way to purge the past is to try writing down all your concerns. As depressing as it seems to think about all this, it's an important part of the process of change: You must first let go of the old before you can commence the new. Give yourself time to process the emotional impact of a job loss. You're bound to feel angry, cheated, frightened - all normal reactions. Allow yourself to acknowledge those feelings so you can move on to the next step: planning what you're going to do about it.
Once you move through some of the emotional turmoil of a job loss, you'll be able to see more of the opportunities for a fresh start. For some people, sudden unemployment is the catalyst for a career change. In most cases, it's a change long desired but never acted upon.
Establish a Routine
When you lose your job, typically, you also lose the structure that is part of being an employee. But you still have a job to do - for yourself, in your new position of "jobseeker." It's time to start thinking of the work that lies ahead as if it were itself a job. You probably had a regular routine in your last position. A job search should be no different. Develop a new routine that will help sustain your momentum and incorporate all the details of a well-managed job hunt.
If you're used to a certain schedule, try to maintain it in your search for employment. Get up at the same time every day. Dress neatly, even if you have no appointments and your job hunting activities for the day will be conducted from home. When you would normally leave for work, take your place in your home office or whatever temporary workspace you've set up. Be mindful of your posture and your attitude, and smile when you pick up that telephone to make contacts.
Schedule daily and weekly job-search activities to be completed. Don't just jot down an idealistic list of things to do. Carefully plan a realistic "work load" for yourself, with assigned deadlines. Just as you would in a paid job, you must meet the expectations of the company. In this case, "the company" is you. When it comes to your job search, you're the boss!
Some of these formalities may sound silly, but the importance of a strict routine and an optimistic outlook should not be underestimated. "Playing the part" of someone with a job to do helps to make you more effective in that endeavor.
In fact, attitude is by far the single most critical factor in successful job hunts. Studies have shown that half of all successful searches can be attributed to attitude and job-search skills.
Even something as simple as donning a nice, pressed shirt while you make calls from the kitchen table can affect your overall attitude and the level of enthusiasm you project on the phone. Employers will sense your professionalism and positive attitude, which will make you a more attractive candidate.
Finally, don't neglect your personal routine, especially things like careful diet and exercise. A job search can be stressful, and a healthful physical and emotional state could be critical to your success. Keep that gym membership, if you can. If your financial situation absolutely prohibits it, replace your gym time with regular walking or workouts at home. Eat right and regularly, and, of course, be sure to get plenty of rest. There's a lot of work involved in a job search, and it helps to be in top condition.
Looking for work is a full-time job, and you should expect no less of yourself as a jobseeker than you would as a fully employed professional.
Excerpted from a new job-search guide to be published later this year by California Job Journal. Receive an e-mail notification when the book becomes available by sending your request to email@example.com.
Top Job-Search Websites
You want jobs? Millions can be viewed at these huge sites:
- Monster.com - As its name implies, this site is huge. Search jobs, post your resume. It has it all. Of course, you're not alone - even though it touts one million job listings, it also claims four million subscribers to its career newsletters.
- Hotjobs.com - Watch out Monster, there's a new bad boy on the block. Yahoo has suspended its own job board and taken over hotjobs.com.
- Dice.com - the leading online technology job board with permanent, contract and consulting jobs.
- Careerbuilder.com - aka Headhunter.net, Careerpath.com, and Careermosaic.com. Recently redesigned site touts a more intuitive search engine.
- Ajb.org (America's Job Bank) - boasts over one million job listings. Allows jobseekers to search by zip code and to establish an automated search.
- Careerjournal.com - The Wall Street Journal's premier career site for executive and management positions. Good career advice.
- Flipdog.com - it's OK if your job search is going to the dogs - as long as it's Flipdog, a lively job-search site. Special feature: free subscriptions to industry magazines can put some added bite in your search.
Other useful sites:
- DirectEmployers.com - service created by employers. Links openings to firm's website.
- GrassIsGreener.com - a meta-search site.
- NationalAdsearch.com - want ads from major Sunday newspapers in over 60 metropolitan areas. A subscription-based site focusing on management, executive and technical job openings.
- Newslink.org/news.html - a wealth of ads from over 4000 newspapers, with user-friendly ways to search the data.
- Employment911.com - This search site enables you to scan 28 job sites at one time.
- QuintCareers.com - Quintessential careers site is an excellent resource of articles offering top-notch guidance. Also links to educational and other career resources.
- uhs.berkeley.edu/Students/CareerLibrary/links/occup.cfm - Articles and user-friendly access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
The Contract Option
Looking for more independence? Visit these sites:
- elance.com - "A well-designed and easy-to-use format allows a prospective employer to use an eBay-style auction format to find the right professional. Service providers can then bid for projects, while the employer can glean through a score of potential contract workers," reports Workforce magazine.
- FreeAgent.com - Employers access user-friendly matching software that pairs workers with companies and their particular needs.
- Guru.com - Particularly good site for creative and technical people. Search engine enables employers to pinpoint specific skills. The site also helps companies find full-time employees.