≡ Menu

Scheduling and Prioritizing Your Search

To print a quick reference guide of this article’s main points, click here.

If you are not employed, you may be tempted to work every spare moment which eventually leads to burnout. Most people are familiar with the law of diminishing returns but fail to notice when such a disparity between time spent and results ruins their career search. The key is to work smarter, not harder! Plan to spend at least 8 hours per day on your search, and at least 5 days per week. Depression is common during periods of unemployment, so reserve at least 1 day per week, and at least 1 hour per day for family, friends, and fun activities which will renew your energy.

If you are employed, your search should not interfere with your work. A good reference from your current position will be important for your current search and future career searches. To reduce the risk of burnout from limited career search time, you will need help with errands and other time-wasters. You should still plan to spend 1 day per week (or the majority of one day) as a “vacation day” from your work and career search. Don’t forget to spend quality time with your family.

Consider these points when creating a schedule:

  • Appointments should be the first item to enter on your schedule.
  • Networking is important, but follow-up is critical for success. By scheduling your follow-up after an event, you may more easily recall information to use in order to personalize your follow-up message.
  • Checking email and voicemail should be done every day, but some activities can be done every other day:
    • Networking events
    • Callbacks on Research Interview requests
    • Reading articles and books on topics relevant to your target position/industry
    • Online job applications
    • Are your goals achievable in the time you have allotted? Setting unreasonable goals can decrease your motivation.

With effective use of time and a well-prioritized list, you will be better able to stay on track despite common interruptions. Keep these factors in mind when prioritizing your search:

  • Exercise: (Make sure this is OK with your doctor first.) One half hour of daily exercise can improve your mood. Consider what is more productive—venting to a friend or relative about the stress of finding a new position, or engaging in physical activity to unwind? If your answer is venting-you won’t have that friend for long, and even if the relative is stuck with you, it won’t help the relationship.
  • Your web presence: You should spend time with social networking, blogs, and other activities that will create a strong web presence. Many interviewers check an applicant’s web presence before hiring to make sure you’re a good “fit” or to eliminate you if they feel your web presence reflects an unsavory lifestyle or personality according to their standards.
  • Networking and Following up: Try to attend at least one networking event each week if you are not employed. If you are employed, try to attend at least one per month. Not only does networking expand your network—when you are skilled at introducing yourself, you will be well practiced for such dreaded interview questions as “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Reading: You should be reading web articles, blogs, magazines, books, and any other up-to-date sources of information concerning your chosen industry/position. Be ready to respond to this common interview question “What is the last book you read?”
  • Volunteer Work: Although it’s a great way to meet people, volunteering is a common pitfall if not done correctly. Check out this article on setting time boundaries for volunteer work.
  • Practice for Interviewing: Even after you have completed work on all elements of your search, you should plan to spend at least 30 minutes per week on your responses to interview questions or conversation topics for networking. This can be done during your commute.
  • Chores: If you are not employed and your Spouse/Significant Other is employed, they may appreciate some assistance with household chores. Schedule some chores outside of your career search time. You may find this easier to do by completing tasks such as sorting laundry on your “off time” and starting a load of laundry when you’re checking email, or picking up groceries on your way home from a networking event. If you are employed during the time you are engaged in a career search, it is best if your Spouse/Significant Other shows support by assisting with chores so that you can better use your time.

To reduce stress and stop wasting time:

Gather the important information such as résumés and cover letters as well as prior employment info and references. File it for easy retrieval so you don’t have to waste time looking for it.

Budgeting: By setting and adhering to a budget, you should feel less stress about money. When you’re worried, you’re more likely to seem desperate when networking.

Avoid entering Multi-Level Marketing (MLMs)/Network Marketing: It causes a shift in priorities. This increases difficulty with creating your new network of friends. Introducing a product or a “fantastic business opportunity” is the kiss of death to a conversation. Wouldn’t you rather be known for your professional accomplishments which could lead to meeting a decision maker for a great career—or do you prefer to be known for selling products as part of a “pyramid scheme?”

Managing Interruptions

Maintain boundaries to prevent interruptions and minimize the inevitable disruptions for maximum productivity.

  • You don’t have to check your email more than once per hour.
  • When the doorbell rings, it’s usually just a salesperson. Let them move on to the next house. Consider putting up a “No Soliciting” sign.
  • Do you use IM? You can hide your status until you’re ready for such interruptions.
  • Do you get alerts for certain programs? You can turn off email alerts and others such as Tweetdeck notifications. You can log out of or close other programs that create alerts. You can also turn off your computer’s volume.
  • Phone calls: Calls which display on Caller ID as “Private” are often telemarketers. Let voicemail take care of it.
  • Phone calls from Friends: Keep your friends and keep your schedule. Make sure you let your friends know your schedule to minimize interruptions. When your friend calls to chat during your scheduled career search time, tell them: “I’m glad to hear from you, but I can take only a 5 minute break right now.” Write down when the call came. When 5 minutes are up, check your schedule to see when you can call your friend back. It’s important to emphasize this willingness to maintain contact at a later time when ending the call: “I really have to go now. I have time at 8:00 to call you back tonight.”

You just need to take a break! We’ve all been there. At some point, your eyes are burning from staring at the computer screen or you’ve lost your motivation. A break time of 5 minutes to ½ hour is recommended. The break should not be too long, or it may be hard to return; it could also become a bad habit. Decide on how long you can take time off, write down the stop time, and write down when you plan to return.

  • Be Proactive! Instead of fighting the effects of fatigue, you should avoid it.
    • Stretch or engage in some physical activity to avoid neck and back strain.
    • Turn your eyes away from the computer periodically to give your eyes a rest.
    • Boost your mood: If you take a walk, WEAR A WATCH and return at the proper time.
    • If that isn’t an option, you could lighten your mood with a program you have recorded, or make use of online videos. With on-demand viewing, you dictate what you want to see, when you want to see it, and you can pause it to return later.
    • Keep track of when you need these breaks. Start adding it into the schedule.

To print a quick reference guide of this article’s main points, click here.

For more help with scheduling and prioritizing your search, contact CrossRoads at 317-842-8881 if you are in the Central Indiana area. Before beginning an exercise program or changing your diet, consult your physician.