You've probably heard it said: A job search is a job in itself. But are you treating it like one?
When you're working in a traditional environment, your day might look something like this: You wake up with an alarm at a regular hour. After some coffee, you shower, don a professional-looking outfit and head out, timing your commute so you can start your day at 9 a.m. sharp. While at the office you have a regular routine, punctuated by collaboration with colleagues, phone calls, e-mails and the like — all in the name of meeting specific goals. At the end of the day, you turn off your computer, shut off your light, and head home to relax and spend time with friends and family. The next day, you do it all over again.
Not everyone's job looks like this, and not every workday looks like another, but experts say your job search should look an awful lot like the aforementioned scenario.
"First thing, and I'm not trying to be funny, is get dressed," said Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, an executive recruiting agency. "Granted, you're not going to an office, but the desk where your computer is, is now your office. You've got to feel professional, so get dressed. You can't do it in your PJs — it won't work."
Also important is dedicating space to your job search and optimizing that space for the task at hand.
Hurwitz recommends making the area in which you conduct your job search as much like your old workplace as possible. "Atmospherics are very important," he said. "If you feel like you're at home and not working, then you're at home and you're not working. Do whatever you would do in your office. If you had a radio on for background noise in your office, turn on a radio. Don't change your work habits. Your work habits have to stay the same, whether you're employed or whether your work now is finding a job."
For example, setting goals for the number of phone calls you will make and the number of resumes you will send out each day.
And, just as you would be accountable to a manager for what you accomplish in the workplace, you need to be accountable to yourself for what you accomplish during your job search.
Hurwitz recommends keeping a searchable log of all of your job-search activities: contacts with whom you spoke, which resumes you have sent out, what follow-up you have done, what cold calls you have made. Such a log will help in very pragmatic ways, such as avoiding duplication, but it will also help you spot trends and opportunities — kind of a customer relationship management (CRM) system where you are the customer.
Career experts also note the importance of establishing set hours for your job search, both to make the process more effective and to maintain a healthy mindset. By not explicitly "shutting it off," your life can easily become consumed by the quest for work.
While experts agree that applying workplace principles to the job search makes the process more productive, they say that 40 hours a week is too much to dedicate to scouring the Web, polishing your resume and making follow-up calls.
"What used to take 40 hours can now be accomplished in 20," Porter said. "Being unemployed is stressful enough, and it's overkill to spend 8 hours a day dwelling on it."
Porter recommends using some of the "other 20 hours" a week volunteering or focused on some other pursuit. In addition to the good you do for yourself by doing for others, volunteering can lead to networking and job leads, she said. Hurwitz advises job searchers to use part of their day keeping current by reading industry journals, taking classes and searching for relevant news articles and blogs.
In the end, say experts, whether your week is filled with work or with looking for work, it's important to do one thing: Take the weekend off.