GritOne of the most transformational moments of my life was when I was let go from a sales position. I was facing self-doubt, money woes, anger, fear, depression… all the normal emotions when you lose your job.

When this happened, I realized I needed to quickly make some changes in my life. My two choices were to stay the course and let emotions have their way with me, or shift my focus to where it needed to be — on finding a job.

The paradigm shift for me happened when I realized that my new job was to find a job. Many job seekers fail to make that connection. If you’re unemployed, your job is to now “find a job.” Friends, family and mentors will all provide their encouragement and support, but it’s this perspective shift that will give you the drive to move toward a new direction. It’s the burning desire to excel that will make you keep moving forward.

And with this epiphany comes the recognition that you have almost complete control over your job search. The ball is in your court. Instead of thinking you can sit in your pajamas all day and the jobs will just float to your inbox, you can set out to plan your days in a way that leads to success. It also allows you to continue living your life while looking for a job and not burn out.

A Job Search Is Full-Time

Even if you have a substantial financial cushion available, you probably still need to find a job as soon as possible. And unless you want to find yourself in this situation again in another 6-12 months, you’ll want to spend a proper amount of time vetting companies and positions to make sure they’re the right fit for you.

This means that your job of finding a job is still a full-time job. (Click here to tweet this thought.) You should treat it with the same respect as when you come to the office, you should still dress appropriately and you should put value on your time.

An easy way to do this is to consider your work as an hourly position. There are three main reasons for this:

First of all, the amount of effort you put into the job search will have a direct correlation with your results. Hourly employees get paid more when they work longer (remember overtime?). Job hunters find more opportunities and better opportunities the longer they work. The more effort you exert, the more rewards you’ll gain.

Second, you are still required to take breaks. I know you might be thinking that taking a break seems strange as people who don’t have a job “have all the time in the world.” But the thing is, like any job, you can get burned out by working too hard for too long.

When you throw in a little fear and self-doubt, you’re asking for disaster. Set aside time to eat lunch (away from your main job search work station) and take breaks. Exercise is a great thing to do during your breaks. It will get you pumped up and re-energize you for the rest of the day.

Third, you still have goals to meet. These are the activities you need to perform on a consistent basis to be successful. In a job search, you might want to consider these five daily goals:

  • Submit five resumes to new companies.
  • Find five new job opportunities.
  • Follow up with five hiring managers.
  • Set up two interviews.
  • Reach out to two people in your network.

Goals like these will help you stay focused and keep you driving forward. They’ll give you direction and help you feel accomplished. Every time you hit a goal, reward yourself. It’s important to your mental well-being that you do this and reinforce those positive behaviors.

Setting these small, easy goals will give you the motivation to take on the behemoths like going on interviews, negotiating your salary or meeting with a hiring manager. And remember, you have to actually do these steps regularly and consistently for them to really matter.

 

A Job Search Needs a Schedule

Just as you must change your mind so you think of your job search as an hourly job, you also have to commit to a set schedule to make sure you’re being productive. Sitting on the couch watching TV is a great time-suck. Do not fall into that trap.

You need to have a schedule. If you have a spouse, partner, roommate or parent who has a job, then use their schedule as a basis for yours. Get up when they get up and go to sleep when they go to sleep. Without someone or something to anchor you, your biological clock will start taking over, and you’ll be up later and later every night. You’ll end up like Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall — in your pajamas all day, eating Cheerios out of a huge salad bowl and reenacting a scene from the Lord of the Rings. (“You shall not pass!!!…”)

As much as you think this would never happen to you, if you have a schedule in place, it’s much less likely to.

Scheduling your time doesn’t only include wake and sleep times and taking breaks. You have to schedule the goals and activities you’ve set for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll find you sent out a ton of resumes but never had time to look for new opportunities. Or you’re so excited to go on interviews that you take whatever timeslot they give you instead of scheduling a specific day or two for your interviews. This leads to interviews during rush hour that are across the city from each other and waste your valuable time.

Remember, your time is valuable. Employers will still respect you (if not more so) if you ask for flexibility in the interview time and date.

Prospecting is another area you should schedule time for. This involves researching companies, positions and hiring managers that you’re interested in. Ideally, this should be done every single day so you don’t run out of opportunities. If you can’t get through to your first choice of person, reach out to someone else. HR is a great place to start.

Scheduling your time is exactly like budgeting your money. If you don’t do it, you’ll wonder where your time went instead of telling it where to go.

 

Last Thoughts

Whether you’re unemployed by your choice or someone else’s, having a routine will help put your best foot forward. You’ll have greater control over the outcome, higher confidence and more opportunities because you’re working smarter, not harder.

And believe me, because you’re reading this article and want a better future for yourself, you’re already way ahead of the game.

How can you focus your job hunt for maximum results?

Image: Flickr