Brian Ray (pictured) is founder of Crossroads Career Network, a national, non-profit membership of churches that provides online job search/ career resources and access to career groups. He is also author of the 2010 Crossroads Career Workbook, owner of Primus Consulting executive search, and former vice president for human resources and administration for Chick-fil-A restaurants.
Like a good financial investment, a successful job search takes effort, time, and money. But in a job search, you’re investing in yourself, your most important asset. Here are a few suggestions for spending your effort, time, and money wisely, in order to reap the greatest dividends for your career:
Work on finding and doing work every day. Plan your activities every week using SMART goals:
- Specific: Set measurable goals. Define exactly what you want to accomplish. For instance, "sending resumes" is not as measurable as "sending five resumes to companies I would like to work for."
- Moderate: Select two to five goals per week that you can reach. Too many goals can be overwhelming.
- Accountability: Show or tell somebody what you plan to do, and at the end of the week, let them know how you did.
- Record: Keep a written record of your goals and progress. It can help reassure and motivate you.
- Time-Activated: Give yourself deadlines. For instance, "by Noon on Friday, send five resumes to companies I would like to work for."
If you're unemployed, invest time every day that adds up to at least 40 hours a week. Set up a daily career transition work schedule with start-to-quit times similar to a typical workday.
If you're beginning your search, focus on pumping up your attitude, targeting opportunities, and discovering and marketing your career strengths. If you're in job search mode, use some of your time looking online for postings and openings, but spend 50 to 85% of your time networking for personal referrals. When you're interviewing, continue discovering and marketing your strengths while you search for new opportunities. For a complete six-step guide with exercises, download this Career Workbook.
If you're employed and looking for a new job, invest one to seven hours a week. Use breakfast, coffee and lunch times for personal networking and interviewing. Do your homework at night or early in the morning. Be sure to review and plan goals and activities every weekend.
Meanwhile, consider these two questions:
- How long will it take for you to find a job? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average time it takes from being laid off to being hired again is (gulp) more than six months! For you, it can be faster, depending on how many hours you invest, what you're looking for, the depth of your search plan, and how well you execute it.
- How long will it take for you to change careers? It can take a few weeks to a few years. The more education and experience you need, the longer it will take. The key is to start now. Discover your strengths, then target opportunities that fit those strengths.
Businesses spend money to make money, and so should you. Ask yourself, "How much can I invest in me, in light of the money I hope to make?" An effective job or career search is not free. You may have to spend money on travel, clothes, grooming, phone and internet use, resumes, printing, publications, education, training, coaching, and more.
To free up some money for your search, cut expenses and save on non-essentials. Sell things you don't use. Establish a monthly budget that includes what you spend on your career. And keep good records because costs related to a job search may qualify as deductions on your income tax return. Check with the IRS, your tax preparer, or an accountant for what you can deduct.
The Bottom Line
At the end of every week, review what you accomplished and where you fell short. Then, set your goals for the following week. Use this Progress Review & Preview Exercise to guide you. Remember, the right investment combination of effort, time, and money can pay off for you in the end.
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