Nine Ways to Stop Job Search Procrastination
Updated: Mar 4
While it’s commonly said that looking for a new career is a full time job, it’s arguably more difficult. Instead of the consistent validation (hopefully) and pay that gainful employment offers, the hunt for a career is just as likely to be met with rejection or a complete lack of a response from a prospective employer. Procrastination, in this case, may be a survival mechanism in this case -- a subtle kindness we are tempted to give ourselves in order to keep our mood elevated. Steady wins the race, though. The required introspective analysis; the consistent, sustained effort of sending out cover letters and resumes; and networking are the best strategies to bring the search for your calling to a desirable end.
1: Break down your career change into subtasks
Literally write down all of the tasks you need to complete to get your professional transition underway -- meet with a career counselor, update your resume, write a boiler plate cover letter, improve your LinkedIn profile, etc. -- and break them down into subtasks. This will make the work ahead of you seem more manageable and keep you from forgetting important details. You’ll want to customize your resume and cover letter for each job, so consider the research you will do for each company as a subtask and schedule it into your day. Keep copies of the links or hard copies of articles you use organized to refer to them later to prepare for the interviews.
2: Set (realistic) daily goals
It’s tempting to tell yourself, “I will send out 10 resumes a day,” but be kind to yourself and thoughtfully consider how much time it will take to meaningfully prepare for each resume submission. You’re less likely to suffer burnout or make needless mistakes if you give each submission its due.
3: Reward yourself after meeting a daily goal
Instead of indulging in habits that put off your search, like watching Netflix or meeting a friend for coffee, pose these distractions as rewards for specific goals. Tell yourself for each resume and cover letter you send out you get to watch one episode of Succession or call a friend to join you for a walk. You’ll move closer to your goal and enjoy your leisure activities with a clean conscience.
4: Schedule a time to complete appropriate tasks in a quiet place free of interruption
Find a place in your home in which you can work comfortably, control the noise level and shut a door that separates you from your household. Make it clear to the people you live with that your job search time needs to be sacrosanct and interruptions will not be tolerated -- if they can’t find the can opener, the tuna fish sandwich will just have to wait.
5: Set up mini-delays to prevent you from distractions
If you don’t trust yourself to avoid your distractions ask your housemates or family to help. Ask your partner or roommate to change your Hulu password and not tell you until you’ve sent out a requisite number of resumes or block Facebook from your laptop so you can avoid that worm hole altogether.
6: Create a job search binder and/or set up a Job Search folder on Google Drive or Dropbox
Even if you set up a file on Google Drive, Evernote or Dropbox account to keep track of your cover letters and customized resumes, there’s something about a physical binder that makes a project more, well, tangible. Make at least two tabs, including Jobs Applied For, Jobs to Apply For and include a spreadsheet near the front to track your progress. Include printouts of job descriptions and attach a copy of the corresponding resume and cover letter that you send.
7: If you hate using a computer, go old school as much as you can
If technological tools like Google Drive, Evernote and Dropbox make you queasy, content yourself with the job search binder and make peace with it. You’ll actually be more efficient at your job search if you don’t waste time trying to wrestle with applications that suck your will to live.
8: Appoint someone to keep you accountable and help you practice interviewing
Ask this person -- your spouse, a career counselor, your best friend -- to check in with you at least once a week to check on your progress, offer encouragement and review your cover letters and resumes. This technique will keep you motivated and increase your confidence, which you’ll need, especially if the job hunt goes continues for more than a month.
9: Make networking count but also make it fun
Remember that even a night out with your girlfriends or a Superbowl party can be networking. Since networking is by far the best single way to acquire a job, the people you spend time with who know you already (or the people they know) are your best shot at landing a job. And it doesn’t have to feel slimy -- a simple, “Hey, would you mind asking [insert name] if [insert company name] is looking for anyone in marketing right now?” Don’t assume people will think to tell you without asking, and your friends sincerely want to help you find a satisfying career.
Above all, keep your spirits up and remember that your hard work will pay off when you find the career that lets you truly be yourself.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, job search, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.