how to work smart when looking for work

When you’re looking for work (either a full time job or freelance projects) do you feel like you’re never doing enough unless you’re actually getting hired?

Or do you get really down on yourself when nobody calls you back or gives you any feedback at all?

If so, give yourself a break because you ARE doing enough and you’re not a loser if your phone’s not ringing.  It’s just the nature of looking for work.   It’s a lot of “planting seeds” and if you keep doing it, it will pay off eventually.  Unfortunately, it’s not always on your timetable, so in the meantime, I’ve come up with a few pointers to help shift your thinking.

1. If you’re not working at all and looking for full time, don’t feel you must fill 40 hours a week with looking for a job.  I know that it’s common advice that this is exactly how you get a job, and I’m not saying to spend all week shopping or lounging in the park, I’m just saying be realistic about how you work.

For one thing, remember that 40 hours in an office with constant meetings and interruptions is a lot different than 40 hours of working solo.   I know many people who get more done in 3 hours at home than they could in 8 hours at the office.

Sure, it’s easy to goof off when you’re on your own too, but if you’re honest with yourself, you can figure out the best times of day to be productive, where to work most effectively and strategies to stay focused.

Jane might find she’s most productive in the morning before anyone in her family wakes up, while Bob can only focus at night with headphones on.   Only you will know and if you don’t, figure it out.  You just have to be persistent, realistic and honest with yourself.  It also can help to track your time for a few days.

2. Networking means thanking people. I’ve mentioned this before in Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing, but I think it’s very important. Sometimes it’s worth doing a little extra. If someone introduces you to a decision maker, but you don’t get the job, they still took the time out of their day to help you and should be thanked.

It’s also a great way to remind them that you’re still looking. You could say something like, “Hi Joe, I didn’t hear back from Kathy on that job, but thanks so much for introducing me to her and please keep me in mind if you hear of anything else.”

This way, if Joe thinks you really should have heard from Kathy, he might be inclined to reach out to her or suggest something further you could do. Or, it’s simply another reminder to Joe that you’re still looking.

3. Be flexible with your “to do” list. If your plan for the day was to make a list of target companies, but you ended up applying for two jobs that someone sent you, then that’s still being productive.

When looking for work, there are many actions to take and the way to prioritize is to do what’s time sensitive first.  In other words, don’t wait to apply for a job so you can finish up the “target list” you had to get done today.  That just gives everybody else a head start.

But, this can be frustrating at times.  I hear many of my clients say they can’t get anything done. Then they tell me all the great connections that they made over the past week. Again, because they’ve not yet received anything concrete, they tend to feel like they’re spinning their wheels, but if they’re taking actions, they’re not.

If you’re consistently feeling unproductive, create a “got done” list at the end of the day or week. You could surprise yourself.

4. Make time for exercise/meditation or whatever keeps you sane. This is another thing I mention a lot, but I believe so strongly in it’s importance that I’ll just keep on saying it.  Most of us feel really good after working out. Many of us say we’re too busy to do it.  But, if you’re not working right now, you have time to do it, so make it work.  If you work for yourself, then make time for this very important thing that you always wanted to do when you were working for someone else.

5. Consider a co-working space.  If, like me, you sometimes get a little kookoo in your home office, consider a coffee shop or a co-working space.  Here are a few resources to get you started:

Citizen Space (San Francisco)

Grind Spaces (NYC)

New Work City (NYC)

PariSoma (San Francisco)

I have no affiliation with any of these places, but they were all recommended to me. You can also find more by googling co-work space and the city name.

The bottom line is that it’s not easy looking for work of any kind.  It can be really tough on one’s self esteem and confidence.  The key is to be aware of this inclination and take steps to keep yourself moving forward.

Because that’s really the key:

Keep taking actions so that you’re always moving forward and quit worrying about the results. 



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3 Responses to how to work smart when looking for work

  1. Great post yet again Anne. As a freelancer myself I know all too well the time when you’re between gigs and wondering if you’re being productive enough and can easily get down on yourself.
    Love the idea of “planting seeds” because that is exactly how it works! One week there are no calls and then the next week you get 3 offers in a row – when it rains it pours, you just need to be patient.

  2. Brett S. (brettson) says:

    Thanks for this one Anne, it really hit home!

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