Gain Control of Your Job Search

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Imagine what it’s like to be in control of your job search, where you don’t feel like the days are wasting away and you’re not making progress.

Having the right systems in place can help you feel like you’re in control. When we feel like we’re in control, we actually do gain more control, and we are more confident about our situation. When we are more confident, we are more successful.

It’s possible to regain control. Here are seven tips to help you regain comfort in your job search activities.

1. Establish Your Success Criteria

What will make you feel successful as you’re looking for your next opportunity? Get specific.

Start with interviewing, and work backwards. Here are some sample ways to measure your success. Tailor these. Make them yours.

  • Number of interviews scheduled this week.
  • Number of phone screens with recruiters this week.
  • Number of introductions to your target company or potential hiring managers this week.
  • Number of people who actively shared your resume this week.
  • Number of engaging conversations you had this week.
  • Percentage of former colleagues who responded to your request to reconnect this week.
  • Percentage of companies responding to your online application this week.

If you have done none, or a few, of these activities this week, set reasonable goals for next week. 

2. Analyze How You Are Spending Your Time NOW

Record your activities for two to three days in 30-minute increments. 

Be rigorously honest to have the most useful record. Include any activities that you regret doing or that were not particularly useful, from playing online games to watching a football game on TV.

After the three days, review your log:

  • What activities positively impacted your success, and could be added to your criteria (#1 above)?
  • What do you need to do more?
  • What do you need to do less?

Focus on learning from how your time is spent so you can see how to make positive adjustments.

3. Evaluate your job search setting

Our setting is critical - improvements we make will directly impact our productiveness. We can control three forms of our setting – electronic clutter, desk, and other distractions.

Eliminate Electronic Clutter

As I’m typing this article, I have caught myself checking email. So, I closed my email, and maximized Microsoft Word, helping me to focus all of my attention on writing this article. While using tabs on browsers and keeping applications open on our computer can allow us to keep important tasks and websites easily available, consider how is this impacting your effectiveness.

How easy is it for you to find the information you need?  

  • Contact information for references
  • Old versions of your resume
  • A list of who you want to keep in touch 
  • Work samples

Eliminating electronic clutter helps us be more efficient and focused.

  • Organize Your Desk

How would you rate your anxiety level as you walk to your desk? If you dread sitting down at your desk, take time to organize it so your anxiety drops. You will be better able to focus on the task at hand as a result.

Minimize Other Distractions

We can get pulled off task for many reasons – phone calls, family members, dogs, TV, etc.  Consider changes you might need to make it easier for you to focus on your job search.

When I was prepping for an interview, I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate at home with two young kids and two dogs (dogs which bark at every noise they hear). So, I left the house for a couple of hours and went to the public library to work. My anxiety went down, and I was able to think clearly and thoroughly prepare.

4. Set Boundaries

To help you make the changes you want, what boundaries do you need to revisit?

  • What are your needs (for quiet, for space, etc.)?
  • What will you request?
  • Who will you make the request to?
  • What concerns will this person likely have?
  • How can you proactively plan your discussion to address their concerns?
  • When will you have this discussion?
  • What are the possible benefits of having this discussion?

While family and friends may think they are being supportive (and probably are supportive), the timing of that support can be poor which means they are often a distraction, making you less effective in your job search.

5. Get the Support You Need

It’s very easy to isolate ourselves when we feel overwhelmed in our job search. So, consider your answers to these questions:

  • Who can you lean on for support and encouragement?
  • Who can lift your spirits?
  • Who can give you tough love and serve as a sounding board for the actions you’re taking?
  • What will you specifically ask of these people?
  • When will you contact these people?

A solitary job search, without support, can be unproductive and very discouraging. Find a local job club or job search support group to join. 


6. Add Structure to Your Job Search

Consider what you can do to add structure to your job search. What processes, tools, or guides will help you keep track of important items (e.g. who to contact this week, follow up with, send thank you notes, how to measure your effectiveness)?

I’ve been a big fan of mail merge. If I need to send emails to a large number of people to give them an update or check in, it’s important to me to address them by their name rather than bcc’ing everyone. I find I get a better response rate. Here are two resources you may find useful.  

To make it more personal, I include a column in Excel where I will add a comment or question only relevant to the person.  This eliminates the risk of them thinking it’s a mail merge email.

What can you do for 15 to 30 minutes to prepare for the day?

7. Make Time for You

What can you do to reduce stress and recharge for the next day? A nap, a pingpong game, a Netflix break, whatever works for you? 

Without taking time for you, the stress of the job search can cause you to snap at loved ones, reduce your effectiveness, and make you less appealing to prospective employers.

Bottom Line

I’ve given you a lot to consider.  What’s the one thing you’re going to implement today to start taking control of your job search? Once you feel more control, you will feel -- and demonstrate -- more confidence, and that confidence will improve your probability of job search success.