How Much Time Should You Spend on a Job Search?

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Should you spend all day on a job search when you're out of work? How much time should you dedicate to looking for a new position when you're employed?

There's no right or wrong answer or set amount of time. The answer depends on what other responsibilities you have, and how much you have to do to position yourself to get hired.

The formula for how much time a job seeker should spend searching will vary based on your life, work circumstances, and goals.

Create a "Job Search" Schedule

There’s a fine line between not spending enough time and spending too much time and getting stressed. If you don't spend enough time, your job search won't get off the ground. If you spend too much time, you're likely to burn out.

However, there's a definite advantage to setting a job search schedule, so you can plan on dedicating time to the activities that will help you get hired.

How Much Time to Spend on a Job Search

It would be easy to say that finding employment should be a person's full-time job, but, realistically speaking, 40 hours per week of job search activity would be more than most individuals could handle.

You don't want to burn out and not accomplish anything productive.

A CareerBuilder survey reports that, on average, job seekers spend 11 hours a week searching for jobs. If you can put in more time than that, you'll be ahead of the competition.

A reasonable schedule would be 25 hours per week for those who are not working at a job or an internship. For those who are working, 15 hours per week would be a more realistic amount of time.

How Many Jobs to Apply For

As with the time you spend, the number of jobs you apply for will vary depending on the type of job you're seeking, the industry you're working in, and the demand for someone with your credentials.

More isn't necessarily better. It makes more sense to take extra time to write targeted resumes and cover letters for each position than to send a generic resume to a bunch of job openings. The more you can show the hiring manager that you're a match for the job, the better your chances of being chosen for an interview.

How to Allocate Your Hours

A breakdown of the 25 hours of job search time might look like this:

  • 5 hours per week: Composing and refining job search communications, including resumes, cover letters, and follow-up letters or emails.
  • 3 hours per week: Searching for and applying to posted jobs through online sources, including job sites and employer websites.
  • 3 hours per week: Identifying organizations in industries and locations of interest to target for inquiries regarding employment prospects. This time would include completing online profiles and inputting resumes into employer databases.
  • 3 hours per week: Participating in interviews. Attendance at job fairs would be included in this allotment. This time would vary greatly from week to week depending on the number of interviews secured.
  • 11 hours per week: Devoted to various career networking activities.

Networking Time Breakdown

Here's a sampling of networking activities to consider for that segment of your weekly job search schedule:

  • Informational interviews: Ask your college's career and/or alumni office for a list of alumni working for companies, industries, or in career fields or locations of interest. Reach out to as many alumni as possible and try to schedule informational interviews to learn more about their field and get advice about conducting your job search.
  • Job shadowing: If you hit it off with any alumni, ask if you can shadow them for a day or two on the job to gain a concrete understanding of their role.
  • Networking events: Attend in-person and virtual career networking events and professional conferences. It will give you exposure to more employers and help you make connections who can assist with your job search.
  • Use LinkedIn: Create or enhance a LinkedIn profile and join groups for your college and career fields of interest. Contact fellow group members to get advice and generate additional informational consultations.
  • Use your personal network: Enlist the support of your family and friends. Create a flyer with a current picture of yourself and some recent fun and interesting developments in your life. Include a request for them to share any contacts working in fields, locations, or for companies of interest as well as any advice for your search. Mention that you will reach out to their contacts for informational interviews. Email or send your flyer to everyone on the list, since you never know who they might know.
  • Ask your friends: Review your list of Facebook friends and reach out to anyone working for an interesting firm or industry. Ask if you could visit them at work for an informational interview, and they may introduce you to colleagues who can influence hiring.
  • Earn some extra money while you make new connections: If you need to work to generate some cash flow while you search for a career job, consider positions or gigs that will give you a chance to interact with others, either in-person or online. As you provide excellent service and develop a rapport with clients, let them know more about your ultimate interests in a casual way. You may be surprised by how many referrals you can obtain.

Leave Extra Time for Yourself

Even with this long list of potential job search activities, you will still have plenty of time for fun, exercise, hobbies, and socializing.

After all, 25 hours is the equivalent of a part-time job, so you'll have plenty of extra time. A balanced life will help you maintain the energy you need for a viable job search campaign.

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