Want Better Job Search Success? Spend The Time On It

Want Better Job Search Success? Spend The Time On It

I recently had a conversation with someone who is unemployed and has been for a few months. When asked how much time she spends on her job search, she sheepishly said that she knew it was not as much as she probably should be doing. When pressed on this, she said she estimated that she was spending maybe 20 hours a week on her job search. I asked about her success in getting interviews. She admitted that she had not been on an interview in six weeks and frankly was a bit worried about her lack of success.

While there is not a direct correlation between the amount of time one puts into a job search and success, my anecdotal experience is that the more you put in, the more progress you will make. Recently, I challenged one of my children about his job search for a part-time job. He admitted that he was spending maybe one hour a day on his job hunt. When I told him he really needed to up his game and spend significantly more time on this (with a report back each day on his efforts to Mom), it was like the flood gates opened. In a short period of time, he had interviews lined up for each day and successfully found a part-time job.

So how much time should you spend on your job search? The simple answer is as much as you can if you want to have success. Obviously, though, it will depend on your life circumstances. So let me help break down what I see as a reasonable way to approach the time you should spend on your job search.

Full-Time Employed and Looking for Similar Type Job

Depending on the job, you may be working anywhere from 40-60 hours per week. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for a job search. You are in a relatively good situation to find work, though, as long as the industries you are targeting are growing. I would try for at least one to two hours per day, with more on the weekend. To make traction in your job search, I would estimate at least 10 hours per week with closer to 15 hours better. Pace yourself, though. If you are an early riser, getting up a bit earlier to work on your job search before you go to work may be helpful, because you will have less brain power to strategize and focus later in the evening. Obviously, the opposite would be true if you are a night owl. Catching up on your job search on the weekends to find targeted companies may be helpful, though networking often is more effective when done during work hours when people may be more available to talk.

Full-Time Employed and Looking for a Career Change

When you are in this situation, often a key to successful job search is your ability to network. You have to sell a company that you have transferable skills that can make you successful in a new environment. Just applying to online job postings usually will not be successful for you. You need referrals and to make contact and develop relationships with people who can then vouch for you. This takes time and effort. You should target at least 20 hours per week, including time to go to networking events, especially in the industries that you are targeting. If that seems like a stretch, you will have to make sure that you prioritize your networking to those people and events that will provide the biggest bang for the buck.

Unemployed and Looking for Full-Time Work

The bad news is that you are unemployed. The good news is that you have more time for a job search than most people. Treat your job search as a full-time job. You should be spending 30-40 hours a week on your job search. When I say that, many people have said to me that there is not enough job search “work” to fill a 40 hour week. That may be true if you are only applying to online job advertisements. If that is the only thing that you are doing, then you are approaching your job search wrong, but that is for another blog post.

When I say 40 hours, that does not mean that you have to work eight hours straight, five days a week. Break it up into chunks of time. Since you have more time freedom than many job seekers, use the time that best fits the activity and your energy level. What you do need to do is come up with some general schedule for your job search activities and stick to it. What gets unemployed job seekers in trouble is that they do not plan their weekly activities and approach their job search haphazardly in terms of time. I had one job seeker tell me that she had three things planned for her job search every day. When she achieved the three goals (as an example number of calls made, revision of resume and company research) she stopped for the day and rewarded herself by doing something fun. She said this helped keep her motivation high.

Working Part-Time and Looking for Full-Time Work

How much time you have for a job search will depend on how much you are working part-time. If you are working 15-25 hours per week, then you should be able to put in 20-25 hours into your job search. As with those that are working full-time and looking for work, try to plan your job search around your energy level during the week. If you are in a job with a lot of physical labor, you may want to try to concentrate your job searching before you start your day or around your days off. Fortunately, since you are not working full-time hours, you should have more flexibility to actually make contact with prospects during the normal work week and work hours, so take advantage of this.

College Seniors

You are excited that you have finally made it through but now you have to think about a job. Depending on your educational institution, you might have a lot of resources available through your school’s career office. Take full advantage of this. So many college students do not which is a shame. Between signing up for on-campus interviews, using the career office resources for interviewing preparation and for developing job search skills, as well as your own networking and applying for jobs, I believe it is reasonable for college students to spend in the ballpark of 20 hours per week on a job search. Start seriously thinking about your career path in the fall of your senior year with probably 10 hours per week devoted to perfecting your resume, learning about companies and attending job fairs. Ramp that up to 20 hours per week in your second semester senior year with more on-campus interviews, networking with alumni and targeting companies of interest. Here is where time and effort really pay off. Those students who are serious about having a job when they graduate and work hard during their senior year to find work most often will have a job in hand when they walk on the stage to get their diploma.

Don’t Use Company Time to Job Search

The point of this blog post is to talk about how to use your free time when you are in different stages of life. I know some readers might think that they can be more effective with their job search and manage their time better if they do some of it while on the clock at their full-time or part-time job. My word of advice is don’t. You may hate your job or find it boring, but when you are on the clock, you owe your time to your employer. Do not get on your computer to look at online job postings. That is just wrong and could get you in trouble. If you have a lunch break and can use that time which is your own for job search activities, then that is different. I would say just be careful that no one can see what you are doing. What you do not want is somebody looking over your shoulder and wondering why you are scrolling through Indeed job postings on your smartphone. If you can do job searching, say on your lunch hour, be discreet.

While these are estimates of time to put in for a successful job search, your situation may be different, and you may have many different time constraints, including childcare. Just work within what you can do. I find that with many things in life, we make time for those things that we find important. The more than you can put into a job search, invariably the quicker it will go.


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