January 22, 2009

Make It Your Job to Find a Job

The best advice I ever got from a career counselor was to approach my job search like it was my full-time job. I was about to graduate from college and venture off to a new city to make my fame and fortune (okay, truth be told I made neither fame nor fortune), so I scheduled an appointment at my campus Career Planning Center.

The counselor said to me: “It’s okay that you don’t have a job yet. But you need to make it your job to find a job.”

What exactly did she mean?  Here are some ideas:

Get up at the same time everyday  
It is so easy to slack off when you are looking for a job. You figure, what does it matter if you set an alarm or not? You have the rest of your life to get up at the crack of dawn, so you might as well enjoy the perks to being unemployed — aka sleeping in. Right? WRONG! Approach your job search like a real 8-5 job. Set an alarm and get up out of bed sometime well before the noon hour. Make this your routine every single day of the (work) week.

Get dressed like you were going to a job
If you have an interview scheduled that day, make sure that your clothes were pressed the night before. Even if your agenda includes a lot of at-home busy work like writing resumes and mailing cover letters, you still need to get yourself showered and dressed in work(ish) clothes. No, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear a suit and tie; but you do need to upgrade from your feety pajamas.

Take a break for lunch
Discipline is important, but so is nourishment. Part of staying on the top of your game is eating healthy, nutritious meals. And no, a bag of Doritos and a Snickers bar do not count. By the way, regular exercise is a great idea, too. Not only will you look better if you are working out, you will feel better, too. Endorphins are a great way to keep the job-hunting blues at bay.

Keep a calendar and an agenda
Just because you don’t have regular staff meetings to attend, doesn’t mean you don’t need a calendar. And a to-do list. Schedule in online time, during which you regularly check your career networking sites like LinkedIn — and read edifying articles like this one! Review your schedule for the next day before you close up “shop” each night. That way you will know what to expect the second your alarm buzzer starts doing its thing.

Keep social distractions to a minimum
Chatting on the phone with friends, sending text messages, instant messenger-ing. These are all valid and perfectly worthwhile activities — for after looking-for-work hours. While you’re on the clock, however, you need to keep your focus on activities that will advance your job search. If you live with roommates, find a quiet place to work, where you won’t be disturbed. If you have a spouse and children, the same rule applies.

How do you stay focused during a job search? Leave us your suggestions in the comments section.

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