Looking for a job is full-time job (Part 1: Getting Started)

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Pied Tamarins are just one distraction that can destroy a job search. Photo/Wiki Commons

If looking for a job really is a full-time job - this week, I should have gotten canned. 
Here's what I accomplished: spent most of my cash betting on horses and drinking beer at Arlington Park, took in Blackout's hilarious Thursday night improv show, nearly wet my pants when I saw these hideous but endangered creatures at Lincoln Park Zoo and tried a sandwich stuffed with coleslaw and French fries at Wrigleyville's Lucky's Sandwich Co.

 

Here's what I didn't do: apply to jobs, get up before 10 a.m. 
My final paycheck from my job in Connecticut arrived last week. That's it. I ain't getting no more. In truth, I should have spent this week subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and no air-conditioning. 
This week, I've resolved to do better. Instead of rolling my eyes at the 'ol "looking for a job is a full-time job" adage, I'm going to treat it like one. I've talked to a lot of unemployed people over the past several weeks, and I've learned one very important thing: If you want success, you need set yourself up for success, and that's just what I plan to do.
Here's my  "Quick Start Guide" ...

Step 1: Invest in the right tools.
It may seem counterintuitive to spend money when you're not making any, but if it will help you find a job faster and easier, it might be worth the investment. The first thing I learned was that my desktop computer, while arguably vintage at this point, wasn't adequate for my job search needs. Since I'd always had a computer at my job, it took me longer than average to discover that my home computer is a giant, heaving monster that magically transforms me into a raging, violent bitch each time it takes a full five minutes to load up a job description. Looking for a job is frustrating enough without having to pay to replace my neighbor's windshield after I throw a Dell tower through it. I invested in a mini laptop for about $350 at Microcenter. Now, not only am I portable, but I'm back to my usual sweet job stalker self. 
Step 2: Find a workspace that's not home and set your hours.
As I mentioned earlier, looking for a job can get lonely. Looking for a job from home can be downright depressing (not to mention distracting). I joined a writer's space in Uptown for the month. I plan to make it my job-hunting island and having other people around means I'll stay on track and won't get lonely. I also plan to check out Jelly Chicago http://jellychicago.com/ on the days when I'm working on this blog or another side project. I also plan to work a regular shift and "leave my job at the office." If my dream job decides to write back at midnight, the email will probably still be there in the morning.

Step 3: Create a plan to diversify your time.

Looking for a job is a lot like setting up your retirement portfolio. You need to diversify: if you invest all your money in the auto industry and stay online all day obsessing over the stock ticker, you'll lose your mind and end up greeting at Wal-Mart well into your 80s. Same with job searching; it isn't enough to just send out a bazillion applications a day and compulsively check your inbox. There's networking, revising, attending career fairs, making online connections and seeking out side projects that can pay the bills in the meantime (just because you don't have a full-time job, doesn't mean you can't make money). My first project Monday will be to set up a schedule that gives proper weight to each of these items. Now I just need to follow it.

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  • These are great tips. I've told myself I'm going to start job searching again September 1st. Now I actually have to get myself to do it. How about a post on motivation?

  • In reply to ShariWeiss:

    Good idea, Shari. I'll try to get up the motivation!

  • Step 0 : Honestly and truly know thyself first. You've heard it a million times but here goes a mil + 1 : FIND OUT WHAT YOU LOVE AND IF YOU CAN FIND A WAY TO CONNECT IT TO A JOB OPENING, THEN GO FOR IT. I worry lots out there are spending their whole days just sending resumes to EVERYONE! For Christ sake that just makes it worst for the whole. Use sites like ResumeRace.com! Others in your field will rate your resume and cover letter. Call your friends up and ask 'hey moe, what'm I good at?' If you don't have a friend name moe, call your mom. If you mom passed, pray to her, whatever you do, it all starts with developing yourself!

  • In reply to deezzer:

    I don't have a friend named Moe. But I wish I did. Good advice. I think many of us are MOST afraid to go for what we love because when we don't get it, the fall hurts more.

  • Hey Julie, great post!

    As someone who's been out of work for almost 9 months, I completely relate to what you've talked about. It's hard to adhere to a schedule when Twitter, Facebook and I Can Has Cheezburger are calling.

    I think it became much easier for me when I started to think about it as a job. I started to block off the same amount of time every day, break those blocks down into specific tasks (ie, an hour on researching, an hour on callbacks, an hour on sending written correspondence).

    And just as you would in a regular job, you still have to have that coffee break, or check the Interwebz, or unplug for a few minutes in some way so you can keep going through the day.

    I agree on diversification. Probably the worst thing someone can do is sign up with one job site and make that their only area of focus. I use several sites, including LinkedIn, and I also work on sending "cold" resumes. Research takes up a lot of time but makes a difference.

  • In reply to ChgoPatrick:

    A friend suggested yesterday that I purposely work at least one day a week from somewhere without wifi. Not a bad idea. Now excuse me, I Can Has Cheezburger is calling.

  • In reply to ChgoPatrick:

    just looking for a job is a full-time job. I've been looking since spring.

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