If you are currently looking for your next job, you may find that the process takes a great deal of time and energy. Here are some tips to whittle down wasted time and boost your job search productivity:
#1: Beef Up Your Time Management
For many of us, working at a job provides some structure which can help make sure we keep our focus and move through the various tasks of the day. If you are currently unemployed, you are probably lacking some degree of structure. This can create a situation where you switch from one task to another randomly, wasting time shifting your focus and creating redundancy along the way.
Consider using the blocking technique to make the most of your time off. Identify your job search tasks into general categories and decide how much time is reasonable to devote to those tasks each day. For example:
- Customizing your resume and cover letter for specific openings.
- Searching online for job opportunities that fit your qualifications.
- Engaging on social media to activate and grow your professional network.
- Professional development activities such as online classes or continuing education.
- Meeting with former colleagues to reestablish your professional connections.
Then, block an appropriate amount of time to work on each type of task each day. In this way, you will save time transitioning from one type of work to another and avoid the pitfalls of time wasters that often creep in during those transition moments. Plus, it has the advantage of keeping social media activity limited to one or two blocks each day, thus keeping you from being distracted by kitten videos as they pop up in your feed!
#2: Design a Tracking System and Learn from the Data
- Can you find the version of your resume that is the closest fit to the job you are applying for today in a snap?
- Which version of your resume seems to be getting the most attention?
- What is your application to interview ratio and what kind of jobs are performing best?
- When is the last time you heard about that one job that you were particularly excited about?
- Is it time to touch base with the company you interviewed with last week?
- Wait, didn’t you already apply to this job last week?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you are not making the most of the data you are accumulating during your job search. You are wasting time digging around for what should be at your fingertips as well as putting energy into paths that are leading nowhere.
Instead, create a tracking system to start getting a bead on what is working for you and what isn’t. Use spreadsheets to track data such as the job title, dates of application, status of communication, and which version of your resume that you used (with minor adjustments for fit).
#3: Be Selective About the Jobs You Apply For
It is important to prioritize the jobs that are the best fit for your skillset, qualifications, and match up to your requirements for work. Spending more time to find and customize your application materials for jobs that are a good fit is a better use of your energy than randomly applying for positions that just don’t match your needs.
If you are currently not working, it may be difficult to discipline yourself to be more selective. After all, you need to get some income as quickly as possible. And, certainly you do have to be less picky than someone who is in the job search while maintaining a current job. That being said, applying to jobs that you know you are not qualified to do or won’t do even if offered are still a waste of your time and energy.
#4: Engage Your Contacts
Like it or not, one of the best ways to boost your chances of making it from application to interview is to have a contact or a job referral in place to help your application materials get noticed. Time invested in letting your former colleagues, friends, and family know that you are hunting for your next great job is well spent.
In addition, put some time into building new contacts by engaging on social media, such as LinkedIn, with people doing work in your field. Comment on posts, follow movers and shakers, and strike up a connection with people who match your professional interests and share your work passions. Don’t be shy about getting it on the table that you are in the job search. Many jobs never even make it to the advertising stage so these kinds of relationships can result in opportunities you did not even know existed.
In addition, professional networking sites make it easier than ever to connect with recruiters who are working at top employers in your field and staffing agencies. Make sure you have your ducks in a row before you approach them (LinkedIn profile is up to date and complete, clean and recent resume ready to go, etc.). These folks are always keen to know about where talent lies waiting. And, they often have extensive contacts in the industry, so they are the first to hear about emerging employment opportunities.
#5: Develop a Master Resume
By now you have heard that career experts across the board emphasize that the best resumes must be customized for each and every job opportunity to bring the focus of this important document on the fit for each position you apply for. This means tweaking the language, adjusting the skills that you emphasize, and reorganizing information to make sure your most important qualifications get top billing.
Of course, you don’t want to start from scratch each time. In addition, cutting and pasting is much faster than retyping major sections of your resume. Thus, a master resume, which contains a complete list of every job responsibility under each work section, a comprehensive list of skills, and the inclusion of every possible section that might be relevant for any given job is a great time saver.
The same can be said for references – some people may be able to speak to specific skills or aptitudes better than others. Thus, one reference may be the strongest for a particular job but irrelevant for another. Keeping all of their up to date contact information in one place allows you to grab the best to include for a reference list for any single job application package you are putting together in a snap.
BONUS TIP: Job Search Alerts
Here is a little extra nugget of advice. Most online job search platforms and major search engines such as Google offer search alert services that allow you to target job titles, search terms, or specific skills in order to get alerts when new jobs pop into their system. While it probably won’t replace the time you spend searching on such platforms, it can make your efforts much more efficient.
As with all things related to search terms, finding the right grouping of keywords will be critical to turning up actionable results. Track your terms and find out which ones are working best to streamline this process one step further.
Consider opting in for a daily digest style of alert. This way, when you are ready to sit down to the opportunity hunting portion of your day, you can sort through them all at the same time. This type of “batching” tasks is a major time saver during the job search.