Managing Your Time During a Job
workspace, set deadlines and make lists
The infamous "pink slip" arrived on
your desk two weeks ago. On Friday, your last day, you packed up
your mug and eight years' worth of mementos. Now it's Monday and you
have nowhere to go, nothing to do. You know there's a new position
somewhere; the question is how to find it.
Starting and maintaining job search
momentum takes initiative and persistence. Whether you're searching
full-time or trying to juggle a campaign between work and the kids'
softball games, you'll have to get organized. Contemplating a job
search can produce waves of anxiety, even dread. Once you plan it
and get started, though, the process becomes more manageable-it can
even be enlightening and fun.
For starters, your job search
requires dedicated physical space. A home office will do nicely,
especially if you can shut the door and declare it off-limits to
pets, family and friends. A "Do Not Disturb" sign will usually buy
some quiet time.
If there's no peace at home and you
can afford it, a monthly lease to an executive suite will more than
pay for itself. There you'll have an office to visit with a purpose
every day, a phone answered by professionals, access to typing,
copying, and fax services, mail pick-up and delivery and suite
colleagues with whom to converse and network.
If you're lucky and you parted
amicably, your former employer may offer you space and secretarial
support. The company may allow you to use your old office for
several months after termination or provide an outplacement firm,
which may include these facilities as part of its package.
Wherever you locate your base of
operations, make sure it contains the following resources:
- attractive stationery, envelopes
- pens and pencils
- rolodex or business card file
- filing system consisting of note
cards, folders, loose-leaf notebook with index tabs, or computer
and database management software
- desk with drawers or table-top
- telephone with answering machine
or answering service
- portable calendar for the office
and on the road
- briefcase or small portfolio to
carry resumes and notes for interviews
- computer with a Ietter quality
printer, if you plan to prepare your own resumes and cover
Once you've stocked your command
.post, begin thinking of your job search as a full-time position.
Get up every morning, get dressed and report to work. If you're not
a morning person, put yourself on a flex-time schedule starting at
10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.-being your own boss has its
As with any major project, it's
helpful to give your job search a deadline. Your deadline may change
but at least you'll be aiming for a goal. Next, divide your project
into smaller, more manageable steps. Decide how much time to allot
to each step based on the following guidelines:
Initiating phone calls and following
up on them averages five to 10 hours a week.
Developing a new resume can easily
require an entire day; tailored variations take two or three
hours, including typing.
Each tailored cover letter or
thank-you note requires about one hour.
Reading newspaper want ads takes
three to four hours a week.
Five networking appointments and
interviews a week (a good goal) requires about 10 hours,
including travel time.
Library research on companies,
industries, etc., takes about four hours per week.
Consider how much time you'll need to
spend on your resume, interviews, research and networking to achieve
your goal. Start from your realistic deadline date and move
backwards, plotting the tasks on a month-by-month basis. Then jot
down a daily and weekly schedule in your portable calendar.
You'll probably need to change your
agenda occasionally to accommodate the people you'll be meeting.
This requires balancing flexibility with determination. For
instance, if you delete some phone time in favor of a resume
deadline; adjust your schedule to increase calling time afterwards.
Making daily and ongoing lists can be
helpful, too. A prioritized list is easy to follow, reminds you what
needs to be done and offers the exquisite pleasure of crossing off
tasks as they're finished. Today's unfinished items automatically
appear on tomorrow's list. To illustrate how a job search plan might
look before it's translated to a calendar, see the accompanying
The schedule shown is ambitious,
especially by the old standard that says a job search takes one
month for each $10,000 in salary. If you're in the $50,000 to
$150,000 range, don't be discouraged if you haven't found the right
spot within three to four months. Employed job seekers also may
require more time.
Part-Time Job Search Tips
If you're conducting a job search "in
your spare time," keep the following in mind:
- Set a time frame for yourself or
you may never make the move. Decide how many hours per week you
can spend looking, block them into your calendar and follow your
- You'll probably have to cut back
on the time and energy you devote to your current job. Although
you may feel guilty, this is a small price to pay for finding
- Unless your schedule is
flexible, you'll have to be creative to find time to meet
people. One can have only so many doctor's appointments. On
evenings and weekends, attend professional organization
meetings, conventions or workshops, and network within your club
or civic group and among neighbors and friends.
- Determine how people should
contact you. If you don't want calls at work, get an answering
ma chine or service and check it frequently. Don't expect
prospective contacts or employers to call you in the evening.
- Decide how to produce resumes,
cover letters and thank-you notes. It may be risky to use
equipment at work.
Finally, for both part- and full-time
job seekers: Be sure to leave some room in your life for fun. Forty
hours a week is plenty for a full-time search, 15 for a part-time
one. Devoting more attention and energy than this produces a
diminishing marginal utility, frays nerves and turns you into a
one-dimensional, driven bore. If you find yourself becoming a 'searchaholic,'
schedule some fun on your calendar. Balancing your life will put
things in perspective and allow you to spend time with people who
appreciate and support you.