Finding a Job: Looking for a Job When You Don’t Have a Job


Seeking a job has great urgency when you are out of a job.  Before jumping into the job market, however, there is some preliminary preparation that needs to happen.  You must be on a physical exercise program (under the direction of your doctor) in order to maintain mental clarity and withstand the rigors of multiple interviews on the same day.  Psychological preparation is critical to maintain self-confidence and will require motivational reinforcement.  A set program is a must.

But, let’s flash ahead to our victory celebration at the end of this process. If I asked you to evaluate the process you would tell me, “I didn’t love it, but I learned new skills and I will be stronger and more in control of my career as a result.” If I then asked you what helped to put you in control of your environment you would say, “Once I understood and became comfortable with the fact that the frustrations I was feeling were the same ones that other successful people had experienced then I felt normal. This raised my spirits and helped me to gain confidence in my new surroundings.” Overcoming the frustrations in the job search involves understanding and coming to terms with:

  1. Loss of Control of Time – Much of the time at work you have been in control of time.

When you needed to see someone it happened quickly, if you needed resources you had access to them, etc. In this process you temporarily lose that control of time. This is the largest single frustration in the process. For example, have you noticed how impatient you can become when you don’t control a process that will run its course without regard to your timetable. Loss of control of time, in this process, usually means that there is someone you need to meet (and fast) who can help you move closer to your objective (a new job), yet they (and not you) determine when and if the meeting will take place.


  • HARD WORKThe more opportunities you can generate the better.

As you begin to open your network there will be many people whom you will need to see. Although the ultimate decision when the meeting happens will be in the other person s hands, you will have more than enough to do so the time lag will not seem so bad. The same is true later in the process when you are looking at live situations (real jobs). The more opportunities you can generate the better because, if one situation “falls off the plate”, there will be others on your plate.

  • PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – Aerobic exercise 3 to 6 times per week (assuming excellent health

Even with an outstanding work ethic there will be frustrations such as those days when you have two or three network meetings scheduled and they are all cancelled (by people you really warned to meet). An aerobic exercise program (walking, swimming, cycling and/or jogging) is essential to stress reduction early in the process and to be “in shape” for two, three or more job interviews on the same day when you reach the interviewing stage.

  1. Up and Down Nature of the Process – In addition to the loss of control of time there is a general up and down nature to the process that can lead to highs and lows. If, for example, progress is slow you might wonder, “Will I get another job?” or “Why are my friends amazed that I’m still out of work?” or “Why does my spouse ask when this will be over?” On the other hand, it is easy to get a high when your ideal company has had you back for a second, third and fourth interview and things seem to be going well.


  • POSITIVE ATTITUDE The most important single ingredient in a successful campaign.

Perseverance, determination and organization are also critical. It helps to have the eternal optimism of the best sales professional you have ever met. This may require reading positive or inspiring works, reflection, religion or whatever keeps your spirits high.

  • BALANCE  The good news cannot let your spirits or emotions run too high and the bad news cannot let your spirits drop too low.

The journey has many ups and downs. Even when we are close to an offer we must remember that old adage “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

  • MISSION  – Internalize the fact that you will land successfully.

It is critical to internalize the notion that you will land successfully. The only individuals that do not are those that do not want to work (e.g. have a retirement program and really don’t want to make the effort to do a job search) or those who conduct a job campaign ineffectively.

  1. Means of Evaluating Success Much of the time at work you were able to evaluate tangible, quantifiable data to determine how you were doing in relation to your objectives. In this process that is difficult because there is one moment in time when you have no job and another moment when you are offered an outstanding position.


  • EVALUATION – There is both art and science in the process of evaluating progress toward a position.

In the early stages, you must paint broad evaluative guidelines based on what is happening. During the interview stage it will be possible to get a clearer (more quantitative) picture of progress when you have had 3, 4, or 5 interviews.

  • TWO GOALS – The two goals of the process are: 1) the right position at this stage of your career and 2) a better network than you had at the beginning of the process.
  • SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES – Setting achievable short term objectives will help you gain control of the process and allow you to see clear signs of progress (e.g. I will make 10 calls today, have two network meetings, etc.).
  1. Time Management – At Work The process of networking and conducting a job search is not hard but it takes diligence and commitment. Do things in the workday that can only be done then, i.e. phone calls, interviews. etc. Lack of focus and lack of activity are two concerns that can lead to feelings of depression (e.g. will I get a job? etc.) or becoming frozen in place. It is critical not to let that happen.


  • ORGANIZATION – The more organization the faster you land.

Work day-the same length as you have been used to (5 days per week).

Define your greatest skills and accomplishments.

Establish a marketing plan early on – select an industry (or industries) including 25-30 companies to focus your network efforts on.

Spend time wisely – schedule your time to emphasize those activities that have the probability for success (i.e. that bring you closer to landing a challenging position).

Put first things first – each morning perform those tasks (i.e. letters, follow-up calls, etc.) necessary to manage your hottest prospect, second hottest prospect, etc.

Make contacts through LinkedIn, and Facebook, check job postings, and e-mail or send letters to executive search firms at night so as not to waist valuable time during the work day.

  1. Time Management – Outside Work – Bright, aggressive people tend to think that they can speed up the process of identifying and landing an exciting job by working smarter and longer. There is truth to the statement when applied to the business day. Outside the business day (8-10 hours/day, 5 days per week) the logic breaks down because people will seldom network with you on “their time”. You can use this time to accomplish certain individual tasks such as scheduling, drafting letters, updating records etc. The bottom line, however, is that individuals who try to continue the external job search during off hours to “get this over with faster’ only frustrate themselves and their families.


  • RENEWAL – Recharge your batteries in a manner consistent with your life and career goals.
  • Spend more time with family.
  • Get involved in community – coaching/church/charity.
  • Read professional journals or books to remain current.
  • Join a professional association.
  • Take a course or learn to use your computer.
  • Exercise more.
  • Do something you have put off (e.g. give up smoking, visit your child’s school, etc.).

While there are frustrations in the job search, there are also great opportunities. The greatest, perhaps, is that the process offers a Time for Reflection – Most of us find that the daily challenges of family, work, and other activities keep us moving at an incredible pace. We don’t have many opportunities to evaluate where we have been, where we are now and where we’d like to go. This is a time to ask yourself:

  • Do I have the right balance between work and non-work activities?
  • Do I enjoy what I do? Am I in the right function? Am I in the right industry?
  • What is my ideal job? How can I get to it?

These questions should be addressed throughout the process and from time to time when you are happily situated throughout your career.



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