Conducting an efficient job search
April 11, 2011 10:54 AM   Subscribe

How do I prioritize all the tasks that come with being unemployed, from getting help to finding a job?

I feel inefficient. How do I know which tasks to prioritize and how often to do them?

For example, how crucial is it that I attend job seeker groups and networking functions that may be far away and use a lot of gas money? How much time should I spend looking online vs. networking? Should I lose a whole day of job searching to get hooked up with food stamps and electric bill assistance, because I only have $35 in the bank right now? (I do have unemployment payments coming in). Should I take a warm-body telemarketing job to survive, and then have less time to look for a better job? I feel overwhelmed and confused and then I end up being even less effective.

Has anyone ever been in this position, and if so, how did you get out? I feel like I'm missing something, maybe not even asking the right questions.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You're not missing anything. It's a big deal and there aren't any right answers. It's very difficult to move from a world of structure (job) to an unstructured world (no job). Hence why the common recommendations are structured activities (support group, volunteer, etc.)

From my last period of unemployment, the tips I have to offer are:

1) Plan for a period of prolonged unemployment. Hope for the best, plan for the worst kind of thing. Thus, food stamps and electrical bill assistance are actually investments. The time it takes to sign up for them will have the immediate benefit of less stress.

2) Stress. Stress is a killer and will distort everything in sight. Structure will help you maintain perspective and not get trapped in your own head or spiral down any dark mental alleys. You have tremendous value as a person regardless of your employment status and those activities will allow you to express that value and be valued.

In a job search, there probably will be a lot of rejection. If there's not a lot of rejection, you may want to push a bit harder. It's a numbers game. Don't wait for the perfect thing. Knock on doors, get them slammed in your face.

As a counterbalance to all of that rejection negativity, structured group activities will be the positive counterbalance. Maybe you got rejected (again). But you have your volunteer/group meeting coming up tonight and you're really excited about it. Balance.

You should always have something going on where someone will notice if you don't show up.

3) Perspective. Don't feel guilty or alone. A lot of people are dealing with this right now. Keep perspective. This is a time in your life. It is not your life. Say it out loud if you need to.

There is a limit to what you can do. There is a limit to the roles you are qualified for. There is a limit to how many resumes you can send in a day and a limit to the opportunities available in your area. You cannot make things happen faster than they are going to happen regardless. Don't burn yourself out rolling the boulder uphill.

Have a plan. Stick to the plan. Keep yourself healthy. Keep perspective. Be gentle on yourself and realise that you WILL get a new job. It WILL be a bit rough in the meantime. There's a lot you can do to make it LESS rough.

4) Never lose your sense of humour. If you're having a dark day, watch a comedy movie. Enjoy yourself when you can. Find free things to do. People want to hire happy people, not desperate people. Find happiness on your limited resources and the faster you find happiness, the faster you will find your next job.
posted by nickrussell at 11:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some tips:

Remind all your friends and relatives that you are looking for a job every time you speak with them. Make sure they know what you're good at doing and ask them if they've heard of anything or know of anyone that might be able to assist.

LinkedIn is awesome for finding jobs. It's like Facebook but entirely focused on your career. You'd be surprised how many people you might know who are one link referral away from a hiring manager.

Jobs on craigslist are great because they come from an e-mail address that someone actually uses to post jobs on craigslist. That means that when you send an e-mail to that person they will likely read the message. It's a great way of ensuring your cover letter gets read.

Get out there. I personally think networking events don't lead to jobs, but they were very helpful in getting me to dress like I was going to work and in a "working" mindset. Talking to industry peers keeps you fresh and relevant.
posted by analogue at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My unemployment workshop suggested spending no more than 20 hours a week on a job search in order to stay sane.

Nick is right about the lack of structure. I had to build my own routine and it has helped.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2011

Game theory suggestion: don't go where other unemployed people are. Do what the unemployment office requires, and if some group or workshop jumps out at you as seeming like a good idea, do it. But don't fill your time with things like this; finding a job in a period of high unemployment is figuring out how to be the best candidate or the only candidate for a job. Not being one of the hundred people with a flier for three positions.

Good luck!
posted by gjc at 6:09 PM on April 11, 2011

been there, done this, and made some mistakes along the way. Here's what I learned. Being unemployed is a job and a time to restructure your life. Yes, if you can get foodstamps and electric bill assistance, by all means get them as soon as you can. Be aware that applying for foodstamps can feel invasive, to someone who has never had to apply for public aid before. There may be house visits where they see if you have a car, have a roommate or SO that splits bills with you. So be prepared for this. Right now, you need to make sure your living costs fit within you unemployment assistance. That means if your unemployment comes to say 1,100 a month, then your rent, your groceries, your bus fare/gas, all need to fall under that. Extra time at home, means extra time to cook good food that is inexpensive and lasts for days. Set up a structure to your days. Rise at 8:30, have breakfast, go to the gym (physical exertion is so important in dealing with stress and uncertainty--I can't emphasize this enough). Send job applications, from 11am to 2pm, take lunch. Then work on things for you, whether thats decluttering your house and selling off items on Ebay, learning a new skill that will take you further at work, or tackling a novel or painting that you never had time for. In the evenings, be sure to hang out with friends. There are no-cost options like playing boardgames and making popcorn, free art and music concerts, playing frisbee with dogs in the park. Sure, mention you're looking for a job, but keep these events social and fun. They are NOT a networking event but a way to feel social, sane and connected. Get to bed at a normal time. Do not stay up till 5am wondering what will happen to your life. That's a recipe for disaster. Keep in mind, that there are millions of other Americans going through this and this is a season of your life that will also pass.
posted by caveatz at 10:03 AM on April 12, 2011

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