How to Fit Your Full-Time Job Search into Your Full-Time Life

job search. career counseling

“Looking for a job is like a full-time job!” 

... says every job seeker ever. Whether this expectation is present when going into the process or not, the amount of time and energy needed to land a new position is often still surprising. For people who hold full-time jobs already, finding extra time for job-seeking in an already packed day can be a true challenge. This doesn't mean unemployed people have it easy; they can become overwhelmed by having too many options and not enough structure or guidance on how to focus their energy.  If either of these scenarios resonates with you, here are some tips for organizing and fitting your efforts into your schedule, no matter what it looks like.

Set Goals

This is the foundation. Submitting applications and never hearing back, sending thank you emails after interviewing and receiving cryptic replies, or refreshing your inbox every few minutes to find out whether or not you have been selected can certainly make you feel helpless. On the flip side, setting continuous goals and taking proactive steps to reach them can lead to feeling energized and, most importantly, empowered. The more you operate from this position of strength when searching, the more motivated you'll be to take time to do the work.

Use a two-pronged approach to determine what kind of goals to set: proactive and reactive.

Proactive goals include researching new companies to add to your target list and sending out informational interview requests.  Reactive goals include applying to vacant positions that are already being publicly advertised. The overarching guideline for both of these is quality over quantity. Instead of applying to a job you are not really interested in just to go through the motions, find someone with a background similar to yours at a company you admire and learn from him or her about the hiring process. You'll get more out of that conversation than you will from any application you submit when your heart isn't in it, as your passion (or lack thereof) will be evident in either scenario.

Prioritize Where You Spend Your Energy

This is similar to goal setting but relates to the bigger picture of assessing when you'll be able to do this work. If step one is clarifying your goals, step two is taking a realistic look at opportunities to introduce tiny shifts in your routine to make space for progressing forward. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, start by looking at one week at a time. If that feels like too much, try just two days and then build from there.

First, write down all of your responsibilities for that duration of time. Place meetings/appointments on the days they are scheduled, but then plug in your other responsibilities including everything from meal preparation to the job-search goals you want to achieve.

This kind of prioritization sounds so simple, perhaps even obvious, but many people don't spend time on these little actions, or they write things down but never look at them again. The result is decreased productivity and increased frustration. People typically in this culture of “busy” look at one day, one hour, or one task at a time without considering the landscape of the rest of the upcoming days. The days and responsibilities can swiftly get away from anyone.

For example, you may set a goal to craft and submit an application “this week,” but then you work late two nights, have a commitment another evening, and spend one night cooking meals, and suddenly you're left with one weeknight to complete your entire application.

If you put that pressure on yourself to get everything done in one sitting, you risk setting yourself up for failure.

Applications can take longer than anticipated, whether due to writer’s block or more documents and forms to complete than assumed. Leave space for multiple drafts, edits, and opportunities to walk away and return with fresh eyes. It may seem like you're spending more time overall on the application, but in reality, you're just dividing your efforts differently and giving yourself a chance to bring more attention to the process.

To make space for this, find the non-negotiables of your schedule (such as childcare, train times, or standing appointments) and decide where, outside of those, you can create buckets of time for yourself in 30-to-60-minute increments throughout the week.

Next, add those to your calendar just like any of your other standing appointments. Then...

Show Up for Yourself!


Do you notice that the busier you are, the harder it is to commit to your self-care activities?

Finding a job that gratifies you is a form of self-care.

The more responsibilities you have on your plate, the more likely it is that these seemingly “non-mandatory” activities will continue to be delayed. Just like you avoid being a no-show for a meeting with a friend or a doctor’s appointment, honor the commitment you make to yourself and your goals in the same way.

If you need help holding yourself accountable, ask for help!

Reach out to a friend or family member (or me!) for that added layer of responsibility. The simple act of sharing your goals with others will facilitate a deeper sense of obligation to seeing them through.

Remember that you have more power over the process than you think, and that there are many people who will be happy to support you on your journey. 

My content and the first photo were originally shared on Prioritizing a Job Search