Dear StopSign, I’m unemployed. How many hours per week should I devote to my job search?
As usual, I checked with my close sources (searched the internet) and found a wide variety of answers.
Forbes says 30- 40 hours per week. Another site said 40 hours is probably more than most people can handle.
Several sites recommended ranges from 15 to 25 hours per week--- then broke down their recommended schedule into numbers for each job-search activity. For example, one site recommended:
· 5 hours per week on resumes and cover letters.
· 11 hours per week networking.
· 3 hours per week applying online.
· 3 hours per week interviewing
Finally, I launched a poll at LinkedIn, asking your question, and people responded as follows:
30 – 40+ hours: 45%
20 – 29 hours: 27%
10 – 19 hours: 18%
< 10 hours: 9%
Clearly, there’s no one definitive answer. In fact, Mr. StopSign suggests you stop envisioning some optimal number. (Stop doing that!)
You want a specific number, because we humans evolved to prefer certainty and safety.
In cases such as this, people want a solid number that will enable them to measure progress, justify how they spent their time, allow them to feel good about their job-search, and of course, ultimately find a job.
· Hey, I spent six hours last week applying to 40 jobs---I’ll have a job by next month!
· Sorry, I can’t go for a walk; I have two more hours of networking to do.
In short, most of us want a formula for success.
Do you think you’re willing to stop looking for that?
Of course, there’s a fine line between not spending enough time and spending too much time on the search. The former means your job search likely won’t get anywhere; the latter means you’ll likely burn out. If we can’t choose a number, then how does one determine the line?
Mr. StopSign suggests a flexible approach. Every day, ask yourself, (1) did I accomplish this week what I wanted to? and 2) How do I feel today?
Did I accomplish what I wanted to?
Just about all the career guidance resources stress the importance of planning, organization, and goal-setting. Those matter, because organized people complete more activities and achieve more goals than people who simply “wing it.” It helps your mental health, too.
Mr. StopSign recognizes some people are extremely organized and others are not. Some people set up Kanban boards; some use spreadsheets; others just use an online calendar or post-it notes. Use whatever method works for you.
Next, at the start of every week plan what you hope to accomplish that week.
Then on every day, review your previous activities and performance, and consider what else you could achieve that day.
For example, on Sunday night or Monday morning, you could set general goals for your volume of job applications and networking events. You could also set general goals to tweak the resume; update the LinkedIn profile; meet two people for informational interviews, and apply to 3 jobs for which you are truly qualified.
As your week proceeds, each day—in the morning or the evening—take stock of what you accomplished compared to what you had planned.
In short, have no concern about the number of hours you worked. Instead, focus on what you did.
How do you feel today?
As the week progresses, you will cross off accomplished goals and add new ones. Some days you will feel energized. Other days, you will feel like staying under the covers. Obviously, how you feel affects your capability of working more.
In other words; it’s 5 o’clock and you met all your goals; but you feel you are on a roll--by all means, keep going! If you accomplished a lot and it is only 2 or 3pm, you have the right to reward yourself and go out for an ice cream.
Conversely, if you’re not meeting your own expectations and just don’t feel like slogging through another hour—then stop doing that. Instead, go for a walk or watch TV—do something light to re-energize yourself for tomorrow.
The goal is to feel good about yourself at the end of your work day and work week; no matter how long they are.
If you truthfully answer the two questions-- (1) did I accomplish this week what I wanted to? and 2) How do I feel today—odds are your job-search work week will be as long as it needs to be.