Turning Downtime Into Job Offers

Bob Larson, CPC

Career Report

May 2018— Issue 219

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.”


Finally we have experienced some warm spring weather and the job market continues to warm and at times even over heat.  We have been experiencing challenges in finding great talent in several niches.  Client plans for hiring continues to increase and the unemployment numbers remain in record low territory.

So this remains a good time for job seekers and hopefully wages will see an increase for all in the near future.

We do see job descriptions being restructured as the nature of productive work continues to adjust to innovative market conditions.

As always we thank everyone for their support as we celebrated our 38th anniversary bringing the “Best Staffing Options” to employers and job-seekers.



Employees need to start getting prepared for year-round performance reviews as increasing numbers of companies continue move to this new process from one-time year-end appraisals, according to an article in Kilpinger’s Personal Finance. The article points out that with on-going check-ins, workers can expect feedback more often and more chances to toot their own horn.

According to human resource experts, when performance management is done correctly and throughout the year, employees show high levels of engagement and increased productivity. In the following Q&A from the Kiplinger’s article, Rose Mueller-Hanson, a performance management expert at global company CEB, based in Arlington, Va., offers insights and perspective on the topic: 

  1. Many people wonder what’s happened to their annual job reviews. What’s going on?

Companies in all industries are moving to monthly, or even weekly, check-ins instead of formal once-a-year reviews. About 80% of organizations have either made or are in the process of making such changes, or will do so in the next couple of years. These streamlined conversations take less time and eliminate a lot of formal documentation. 

  1. What can employees do to get the most valuable feedback?

The new process puts more of an onus on employees, who are encouraged to take more initiative to talk to their managers about how things are going. Instead of asking open-ended questions such as “How am I doing?” ask, “What could I have done better on that presentation? The conversation should give you a sense of what success looks like, where you stand and how you can improve.

  1. How can workers get a raise?

A lot of the traditional advice holds true. Most employers still have a pay-for-performance philosophy, and managers may have more discretion over merit increases or rewards. But employees need to make sure they understand what is expected of them, how success is measured and how compensation decisions are made.

Get to know when raises are generally given at your company. Organizations that give raises on regular cycles may make those decisions months in advance, so start laying the groundwork early. Make sure that you’ve gotten clear feedback, and use these conversations to describe the value that you bring. Know what your skill set is worth in your market, and understand what’s going on at your company. It’s a lot easier to ask for a raise when the company is having a good year financially than when it is struggling. 

  1. How else can workers use these reviews to their benefit?

Use the conversations to gain a better sense of how you’re doing on an ongoing basis. With more real-time feedback and coaching, you can constantly be looking for opportunities to exceed expectations or to correct course. There’s also a focus on providing more career guidance. The purpose of managing an employee’s performance this way isn’t just to look back—it’s also to look at what’s next.

Here are some additional tips from Salary.com on how to make the most of your year-round reviews:

  1. Be “engaged” in the review process; get a clear explanation of goals and objectives.
  2. View goals as a project plan; track progress and update as appropriate.
  3. Document your accomplishments for your performance review.
  4. Share positive feedback that you’ve received from clients and colleagues.
  5. Show an interest in additional training.
  6. Demonstrate a positive attitude during the reviews and in your daily work at the office.
  7. Listen carefully and objectively and make positive use of performance review feedback.