The Art of Managing Downtime during Job Search

The Art of Managing Downtime during Job Search



FEBRUARY 19, 2012 BY 

A last minute call cancels a networking meeting.  You have another meeting close-by, but it does not make sense to drive home and back.  For whatever reason, you have an extra hour or two on your hand.  Now what?

When we are employed, there is generally a well-stocked backlog of activities that fill any extra time.   When unemployed, we can adopt a less urgent focus on time, as we seem to have all day.  Yet, time is a search’s most value asset to be invested wisely.

Those extra hours happen more often than you like and the number can add up pretty fast.  If you allow ten hours of prime ‘job search time’ to go unused, that’s ten hours you take out of time needed to keep your psyche strong (being with family, volunteering, consulting, etc.)

A colleague of mine, Tom Kulikowski, once remarked “He stayed ruthlessly organized” during his search.  The ruthless organization was as much for eliminating unnecessary work as it was for keeping his weekly search time under 40 hours a week.    It is easy to occupy 60+ hours a week, but after 40 hours, both your productivity and effectiveness drop off like a rock.  Trust me, I know from both being ineffective and seeing in fellow candidates.  Working smarter instead of longer applies regardless of your employment status.

To use that extra hour, my activities fell into the following areas.  While not presented in a ranked priority, I always gave precedent to preparation for meetings/interviews and follow-up. For which, the tools were my calendar for the last month and upcoming two weeks and my Targeted Company list.

One: Upcoming meetings – Have you determined what you want from the meeting and how you can offer your contact something to make you memorable?  Use the time to fill in a “Networking Meeting Checklist” for each of our upcoming meeting.

Two: Empty Spots in Your Calendar – I would check my progress on my Targeted Company list and figure out who I needed to meet to either within the company or to help me get in the company.  Then I would send out my invites, suggesting the times that were open in my calendar.  Having a roadmap makes it much easier to reach your destination, so I recommend you use a Targeted Company List.

Three: Follow-up to past networking meetings is what takes them from interesting to relevant.  Your follow-up on commitments and reminders of theirs is critical especially for demonstrating action on your part.

Four: Sharing or creating content that demonstrate your skills highlighted in your resume.  Early in my search, another colleague, Peter VanNest, showed me the examples of his work for use in networking and interviews.  He was right in that an actual example of your work was significantly more powerful in proving you can deliver that just telling someone about it.  I now have two dozen examples that I share.

Five: Professional research to keep you up to date or expand your understanding of an area.  One of the reasons I like Proformative (a resource for finance professional) so much is the depth of content and practical advice from fellow finance professionals.  There are many similar sites for other professions.

Six: Read the local business news to see what businesses are growing or changing.  I got into more companies simply because I followed up on a news article with an e-mail.

These items were more than enough to fill an hour and you can do every one while still enjoying a large coffee.

Good luck today!

Mark Richards

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