You’ve taken the pivotal first step: deciding to embark on a new job search.
Whether driven by downsizing, layoffs, unmet aspirations, or just the allure of a fresh start, the journey has begun and an iron-clad commitment must be made. And that decision to take action, affirm current reality, and allocate resources to this endeavor should be quickly celebrated and your mindset shifted toward putting in the work.
This job search is your new passion project and it should be approached with the utmost energy, drive, and commitment required to win.
Consider Philip Stanhope, a British statesman of the 18th century. He’s often remembered for the insightful letters he penned to his son. These letters, filled with advice on everything from etiquette to life’s broader lessons, give us a glimpse into his mindset and the values of his time. One of his standout pieces of advice is: “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”
It’s a timeless piece of advice, especially relevant for those diving into the challenges of a job search.
Understanding the Emotional Impact
In my coaching sessions, I have observed a common thread in that a job search will absolutely create some level of angst for both the job seeker and their family. The normal day-to-day process has been disrupted and if left unchecked or unaligned the resultant displacement in routine can work counter to a productive job search.
It is important to recognize this impact and institute normalcy in your day-to-day activities very similar to the routines that you followed in a normal workday.
Claim Your Workspace
Establishing an area from which you will work your search is a crucial step in aligning your mind and those around you that there is work to be done. Whether this is performed in a home office, a leased workspace, or at the kitchen table, claiming a consistent territory from which you will conduct these activities is a crucial step in fostering normalcy for you and those around you.
No doubt that this is serious work and while you are not getting paid for the hours expended, one must approach this endeavor in many aspects like a zero base salesperson chasing a big commission check.
So select your favorite coffee mug, arrange your office supplies, display your family pictures, and sharpen your pencils.
Your new office is now open for business and it is time for the work to begin.
Establish a Routine
Are you a 9-5er? Do you start earlier in the morning, and arrive promptly for family dinner? Perhaps you are a late riser and work through the evening?
Regardless it is important to best maintain established routines that you followed when fully employed. If you are currently working and this job search is your new side hustle you also must also establish a set schedule for these job-seeking activities and follow that consistent script. Maintaining or creating a sense of normalcy and familiarity for you and those around you will be extremely important.
Whatever your plan, start each workday in a similar fashion. Schedule breaks, take a lunch, work your day, and when the day is complete, shut down your computer, rearrange your desk, and get ready for starting fresh the next morning.
Set Goals and Recognize Wins
It is important to set a series of daily, weekly, and monthly goals for accountability as you journey through your job search. Of course, the number one goal is to find that next role, but that goal alone may only foster a negative and fear-based mindset that success can only be achieved once I have found a new job.
Rather it is suggested that you have 5-8 daily goals that drive you toward completion of 3-4 weekly goals, resulting in the attainment of 2-3 monthly goals. And believe it or not, there are no bad goals. My suggestion is to always start small and not overreach in outlandish standards of measurement as this is not the time for stretch goals.
So put pen to paper and schedule time to review and refresh these goals on a periodic basis and when you meet or exceed a goal whether big or small make time to celebrate.
This daily, weekly, and monthly cadence will lead you toward that one goal of finding your next role.
Build Some Sweat Equity
As Jack Nicholson in the movie classic, The Shining, stated “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. If you are coming off of a job where you regularly worked 50-60 plus hours, my bet is that there has been an ongoing struggle to find consistent time for physical activity.
And while as previously stated it is best to keep a consistency in your schedule very similar to your normal week, I would offer this one caveat.
A job search is hard work and you must find time to step away from it. Whether you commit to a daily walk, a 20-minute moderate workout, or something more strenuous, it will serve your mind and body well to incorporate some extra activity into each day.
But remember the key here is consistency.
Schedule these time blocks into your schedule and do your best not to deviate. A break here or there will bring you back fresh to your job-seeking activities. And this might just afford an opportunity to establish a new and healthy routine.
Trust me, a mental break, with a little sweat will refresh and put you in a mindset that will be greatly appreciated by those around you.
Schedule a Vacation
When faced with a job change, most job seekers will prudently reassess their current financial situation. Perhaps you were awarded severance by your previous employer. Maybe you have been diligent in building a nest egg, yet there is fear that whatever funds have been accumulated will quickly run out.
This advice will be hard but it is important to live as you have always lived and if only for the sake of those around you. It is appropriate to calculate your monthly spend and determine the number of months before that number depletes to zero. However when calculating your level of dry powder include every dollar whether in liquid assets or in the event of cashing out a 401k early and with tax penalty.
In short how much do I have and based upon our spending patterns how many months of runway do we have left?
So too often a job seeker will impose undue stress upon their spouse and dependents in immediately developing an austerity plan. Let’s cancel dance lessons for Amy and soccer training for Billy. No more date nights at our favorite restaurant. Maybe we should sell one of our cars. We simply can’t afford that trip to Disneyland with the family. Did you see that Costco has a sale on Ramen noodles? Of course, if your runway of funds is less than a few months then perhaps some changes might be required but arguably you may at best obtain a few additional weeks or a month of expense coverage.
However in my experience, it is often offered that there are some funds that are untouchable. “I just don’t want to lose ground and deplete my retirement savings”. But while sensible, this is simply the wrong approach. In short, your runway number should be the complete sum of all savings, nest eggs, and other sources of funds.
Trust me in that if you approach this calculation in this manner you will have a realistic view of your war chest and in doing so not cause a greater disruption than already caused by the job change itself.
So yes – plan and take that family vacation. A job search is real and tough work. You and those around you will need it and your search mentality will directly benefit.
This is the second in a series of articles for my upcoming book, “How to Hack Your Next Job Search”. For my readers, I will be sharing insight, observations, and specific coaching on how best to conduct a job search. These strategies are simple, yet diverge greatly from most traditional approaches. It is my goal to share a proven process and cultivate a mindset that will elevate you into the top 5% of job seekers in any particular market or industry.