Career Report January, 2010 — Issue 119

Bob Larson, CPC

Bob Larson, CPC

Turning Downtime Into Job Offers

If there’s one thing that most unemployed job seekers have in abundance, it is time. And yet many of them misuse it. According to an article in The New York Times, that’s because in the post-layoff life it can be easy to put off completing activities and projects. Unlike when you’re working, no one will come after you if you don’t finish them.

But having a structured schedule can change all of that, turning downtime into productive time and helping to improve one’s chances of finding a job.

Without a structured schedule, the article pointed out, it can be very easy to go to the gym, have a leisurely lunch, take a nap, and watch some TV before dinner. Or you may engage in a whirlwind of e-mail messages, Googling, calling and appointment-making, only to realize that very little of it got you closer to finding a job.

“Having no structure is the biggest enemy to being organized and being focused,” said Julie Morgenstern, a productivity consultant in New York and author of “Time Management From the Inside Out.” According to Morgenstern, job seekers should create specific work hours and a time map along with mini deadlines, she said. Like many other experts, she recommends treating job hunting like a full-time job.

Kimberly Bishop, chief executive of a career management and leadership services firm in New York, added that looking for a job involves so many steps that trying to define and prioritize them can be overwhelming. “I don’t think that there’s ever a time that the job search process is easy,” Bishop said. Because it is not something people tend to do on a regular basis, few are truly skilled at it, she said, but “being prepared and having a plan and a process brings confidence.”

To begin, Bishop told the newspaper, set aside a physical space for job hunting and devote from several days to a week solely to laying the groundwork for your search, she said. Too often, Bishop said, people fling themselves into making appointments and arranging interviews before they even have their résumés updated or know what kinds of jobs they should realistically seek.

Prepare résumés, write sample cover letters, assemble your references, and put together samples of your work, she recommended. Compile an inventory of your skills, accomplishments and honors – Bishop calls this a “success folder” – ready to be shown or recounted during interviews.

“Once the job hunt gets started, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed with just the management and organization of paperwork,” Bishop said. So create files, either paper or computer ones, to keep track of where you have applied and where you have had interviews.

After this initial preparation it’s time to get started in earnest, the article pointed out. Morgenstern suggests dividing the day into three compartments: preparation and research, meetings, and follow-up. “Mixing it up” this way can stop you from obsessing about things and from being paralyzed by perfectionism.

Bishop echoed this sentiment, saying it is dangerous to spend too much time on any one thing. Some people spend all of their time in front of the computer sending unproductive e-mail messages and applying for jobs for which they aren’t qualified. Other people spend all day at networking meetings and informational interviews without doing the concrete work that leads to an actual application or an interview.

In the article, Morgenstern suggested this sample day of varied activities: From 9 to 11, do background research on companies that you will be applying to or interviewing with. Research unconventional industries that may fit with your skills. Take an online career assessment test. Generate a list of contacts for networking purposes. Look up networking organizations.

Between 11 and 2 or 3, you might meet with a friend or former colleagues or a career counselor for lunch or coffee. Try to schedule a meeting every day, or five meetings a week. “These benchmarks keep you from becoming complacent or depressed,” and keep you connected with the outside world, Morgenstern said.

Then go home and do follow-up work, she said. Send a thank-you e-mail message to the person you had lunch or coffee with and forward any articles or leads that you may have mentioned. Send thank-you notes that day. Do not put that off, she added.

End every day by planning the next one, plus the two days after, Morgenstern said. This “three-day arc” puts your job search in context and enables you to pace yourself. “People are energized by getting things done,” she said. “Energy then begets more energy and more productivity” and that begets confidence. Then, she said, when you’re calling people on the phone or meeting with them, you radiate confidence and increase your chances of being hired.”


News from BLK

2010 will be a better year for employment. The word from many of our clients is a return to hiring during the upcomming year. Most clients are excited about new budgets and are looking forward to growth planning.

We, at Berman Larson Kane, thank the 25,000 plus that have registered for our job-seeker webinars during 2009. Your comments and positive feedback have been a breath of fresh air keeping us all motivated towards finding pockets of employment growth. Thank You.

My new year wish is for positive job-creation numbers beginning in 2010 and for all those seeking work to find the right job. Nothing would make me happier than a dramatic decline in job-seeker attendance because many of you have become “successful webinar dropouts”. Stay well Happy New Year!…Bob Larson, CPC president, Berman Larson Kane