Time Management Tips for Job Seekers

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Job searches are many things—frustrating, rewarding, tedious, or even exhilarating—but they're not often speedy. It's difficult to pin down precisely how long a job search will take, but it could easily occupy several weeks or months.

As with any long-term project, it's helpful to practice good time management, so that your search is productive. Using your time wisely will also help you avoid burnout or challenges balancing your other responsibilities with the application process.

Here are recommendations for how to set priorities and be smart about your time spent job searching. 

Time Management Tips for All Job Seekers

Whether you're currently employed and looking for something new, or an unemployed job seeker, these tips will help you stay organized and prevent burnout as you look for a job.

  • Apply to relevant jobs only: When it comes to applying for jobs, quantity is not always the best policy. In fact, if you apply to jobs that you're clearly unqualified for, or that you wouldn't actually want if you received an offer, you can consider the time spent on the application wasted. Use advanced search options to create a slimmed-down list of relevant jobs, learn how to decode job postings, and follow these tips to be sure the job is a good match before putting in your application.  
  • Set goals: With so many factors outside of your influence, job searching can easily become discouraging. Set goals that you can control: you may not be able to guarantee that you'll get a job by a certain date, but you can guarantee that you'll apply to four jobs each week or attend one networking event a month.
  • Determine how much time you can spend: This will depend a lot on your employment, family needs, and other factors in your life. Whatever your situation, establish how much time you aim to spend on job searching each day, week, or month. It could be as little as twenty minutes a day, or as much as several hours; just make sure to set an achievable goal.

For Employed Job Seekers

As the cliché goes, it's easier to get a job when you have a job—but this conventional wisdom overlooks the challenge of finding time to search, apply, and interview while still being a good employee. Try these tips to make good use of your time. 

  • Apply outside of work hours: Using company time to apply for a new job is not only unprofessional, but can also damage your reputation with your current employer. Instead, develop a schedule for your job hunt: networking events often take place after work, so that's easy, but consider getting up 30 minutes early each day to tweak your resume, scan for new jobs, and send emails and networking requests. Don't forget to use your lunch hour, too.
  • Use personal days: Finding the time for job application activities—from networking to interviewing—isn't easy, especially if your hours are occupied with a full-time job. If you have any personal or vacation days available, use them to spend focused time on job searching activities.
  • Schedule wisely: Balance your work responsibilities with your job search, so you don't let down your manager or co-workers. Avoid scheduling an interview on the same day as an important presentation. For some jobs, you'll need to do a take-home assignment; make sure to adjust your due date so there's no conflict with your current employer's needs.

For Unemployed Job Seekers

While unemployed job seekers have to explain their unemployment during interviews, they often have a significant time advantage over employed job seekers. And yet, having tons of time can often lead to procrastination. Try these ideas to stay on track.

  • Keep a Standard Schedule: One perk of being unemployed is that you can skip setting your alarm clock. Still, try to stay on a regular schedule that mimics a workday. If you're staying up to the wee hours of the night, a 10 o'clock in the morning interview can seem shockingly early. If you do better in the evening and want to take advantage of your night owl tendencies, just make sure that you're still spending the amount of time you'd allocated to job search.
  • Treat Searching Like a Job: In most jobs, days have a pattern, and work can get repetitive. Still, there are usually opportunities to switch between tasks to prevent boredom and burnout. Do this too with job searching: a week spent solely on writing cover letters is bound to be tedious (and could very well result in some unfortunate typos). Instead, schedule time each day to write cover letters, and time also to go to networking events, update your resume, and work on other job-searching tasks.