How to Structure Your Day to Find Your Next Job. A Day in the Life of a Successful Job Search.
In 1967, The Beatles released their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Featured on that legendary album, was a song titled “A Day in the Life” written jointly by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The song includes a special verse: Woke up, fell out of bed; Dragged a comb across my head; Found my way downstairs and drank a cup; And looking up I noticed I was late. I highly doubt The Fab Four was explicitly writing about the job search process, but the lyrics are instructive for today’s job seeker, regardless of the original intent.
While this may not be you, many job seekers I speak with start their day without a specific plan or a detailed schedule of activities. I ask them to show me their calendar or planner. If the time is not blocked out, I know they are set adrift in the job search ocean. Deprived of the comfort and structure of a full-time job, they are missing a sense of routine and discipline. Without quantitative metrics and key performance indicators to measure their progress, the unemployed job seeker tends to follow the path of least resistance. A typical daily routine might look something like this
Check email for any responses to job applications. None received. Frustration level rises.
Spend the next 2-3 hours searching job boards for potential postings and applying for jobs through online application services. Lose patience at the cut and paste process.
Move over to LinkedIn and browse the news feed, adding a “like” to various posts and articles. Lose interest and move on to non-job search related activities.
Rinse and repeat with the next sunrise.
If these bullet points even remotely mirror your daily job search routine, we need to talk. It’s time to put a little structure in your coffee cup and get your search back on to a more systematic track. The job search process is like a sales cycle. I am putting my old Sales Director hat on for the rest of this article. Try this sales (I mean job search!) approach on for size. Assuming you are an unemployed job seeker, I am targeting at least 6 hours per day on task for a minimum investment of 30 hours per week. I am also planning for a realistic job search in the 6+ month range, so you are going to need a 12-month planner!
If you are starting the job search process and have not yet developed and refined your branding materials, you should allocate 100% of your day to creating these job search assets. By branding materials, I mean your elevator pitch, resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Like the game of Monopoly, if these assets are not locked down and polished up, do not pass Go. No applying for jobs, no networking, and no interviewing until you get your brand in working order so you can clearly articulate your value proposition to your network and potential employers. You have four assets to develop. You want metrics to keep you on track tied to percentage completion for each of the assets. Block out time on your calendar, 6 hours per day, for each asset. Start with the elevator pitch as it will be an element of the remaining three assets. Move next to the resume. The third will be the cover letter and finally leverage the elevator pitch and the resume as you build out your LinkedIn profile. Done correctly, this first phase of the job search process will take you approximately one month to complete.
With your branding in hand, you can move on to the networking and interviewing phases of your job search. Earlier in this process, the balance of time will be tilted towards networking activities. As your networking activities begin to bear fruit, you will naturally start to allocate more time to actual job interviews and the preparation and follow up required for each interview. At the start of the network phase, you need to research and build a potential job search network database of between 300-450 potential contacts. At a pace of 30+ prospects researched and identified per week, you should be able to create your database of potential network contacts in two weeks or less. Then you move on to the networking outreach. Your target is between 8-10 networking meetings (phone and face to face) per week. At a close rate in the 30% range, you will need to reach out directly to 25-40 potential contacts per week. At that rate, you will need approximately three months to work through your database and complete all your networking meetings. Look to block out 5+ hours per day allocated accordingly across network research, network outreach, actual networking meetings, and network follow-up. I am not entirely opposed to online job boards but do want you to balance the allocated time to the expected return on investment. So, while in this networking phase, you can still allocate 30 minutes per day to online job applications.
Months 5 and Beyond:
With four months of robust networking under your belt and now a reliable job search network of 100 or more professionals in your corner, the law of averages starts to play in your favor. You are going to begin receiving interview requests from two sources. Passively, your network will organically uncover potential openings for you and refer you for the job opportunity. But more importantly, proactively, you will identify opportunities tangentially related to your network and specifically request a referral for the opportunity. The law of job search math dictates that with a well-developed network of between 100-150 contacts, you will get between 7 to 10 interviews. With that many interviews, if you have correctly refined your interview skills and properly prepare for each interview, you will receive at least one job offer. The pace of interview requests will dictate your day to day schedule. But on average, continue to invest at least 6 hours per day in the job search. 3 to 4 hours per day on the interview process (research, branding material customization, practice, actual interview, and follow-up). 1-2 hours per day on continued network maintenance and expansion.
The most successful sales reps view time as a precious asset. They plan out their days by the hour allocating the available hours to activities most likely to yield results. Successful job seekers are no different. Notice that in the model above, I use a 6 hour per day baseline. Two reasons. One is sanity. Like McDonald's, you deserve a break today. All work and no play (or exercise) make for no fun and poor health. Two is a thing called reading. Be sure to spend at least one hour per day reading. Job search books. Job search advice sites like The Muse, The Balance, and The Ladders. Maybe even a blog post! If you follow the process, schedule out your days, and invest the time, you may soon find yourself singing that other Beatles classic “Good Day Sunshine.”
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.