2 important work-life balance components in the job search

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Work-life balance in the job search? Doesn’t that only apply to employment? When I ask my clients what values they look for in their future companies, a majority of them say work-life balance. So why not apply this value to the job search?

work life balance

Recently, I posted a question to my LinkedIn tribe. The question was, “….How many hours a week should one dedicate to the job search? Do you lean more toward 40, 35, 30, 25? And why?” As I’m writing, the comments keep rolling in.

I’m sure many people reading this are wondering how one can possibly quantify the number of hours in a week they should dedicate to the job search. This is like guessing how many marbles are in a fish bowl.

I will say that you’ll be prone to burnout if you lean toward 40 hours a week of relentless job search. You need to have work-life balance for your search, as you must have for your next job. For the record, I’m leaning toward 25 hours of dedicated job search activities.

1. Looking for a Job is a Job

This is a mantra of job-search pundits. They tell their clients that to find a job is a full-time job in itself. I believe this to be true if you examine the nature of work and realize that the number of hours actually spent working is not 40.

One person who responded to my question provided this link to an Inc.com article that states the actual hours of productive time at work is close to three hours. I find this hard to believe, but when you think of the time employees waste, it seems plausible.

We take breaks, extend our lunch time, use meetings to socialize, and linger longer in our colleagues’ cubes than we should. Even when we are focused we are distracted by email, text messages, a phone call from a family member, etc.

Like people who are employed and successful at what they do, job seekers are more productive when their searches are focused and planned. It’s helpful to break down the activities involved in your job search, select a few to prioritize, and stick to them.

Let’s look at some common job-search activities. I’ve listed them in order of my personal priorities:

  1. In-Person networking in your community and small groups
  2. Networking at formal events
  3. Writing approach letters to companies of interest
  4. Volunteering
  5. Online networking
  6. Contacting recruiters or staffing agencies
  7. Calling on your alumni
  8. Using job boards

Your list of priorities might differ from mine, which is fine. I see the job search as being more proactive. I advise that you choose four or maybe five of these activities, as trying to accomplish more would spread you thin.

2. But You Can’t Forget About Life

Employees who are fortunate to have work-life balance are not anchored to their desk or in the field. They have the time to see their children’s events, go to a movie and dinner, hike and walk, actually vacation on their vacations, etc. Why should it be different for people in the job hunt?

If you’re looking for work, your state of mind is already frazzled, perhaps you’re depressed. Worries about money and feeling of failing might come into play. You might fear about the future, especially if you’re an older worker or your industry is unhealthy.

Your first instinct after losing a job might be to lick your wounds and take some time off. I advise no more than a week. I also advise that you take structured time off. For instance, you rise every morning at the same time as you did when working. You take a morning walk or hit the gym. You take some time to reflect. In a week, you will be looking for work in earnest.

I knew a man who confessed to me that he was spending easily 60 hours a week looking for work. He also told me that his marriage was in ruins and that his health was failing. When I told him to take it easy, he sullenly told me that he had to find a job.

My concern for people who are in the job search is the tendency for burn out. Spending six hours a day, seven days a week behind one’s computer is some job seekers’ idea of a productive job search.

Linda Ferrante added this to the LinkedIn discussion, “I do not recommend making it a 40 hour a week thing. Just a couple hours per day, but make it at YOUR peak performance times. Also take time to be active: go for a walk, clean the house, walk at the mall, volunteer. Do something that makes you feel productive!”

Ingrid Golbloom Bloch, MA MBTI Certified believes it’s important to have a structured job search with action items and goals. She also believes job seekers should reward themselves when they’ve met their goals. This could mean a run, a trip to the gym, or “getting a great cup of coffee at a local shop to get out of the house or going to the movies at the end of the week (during the day!)”

For some, it may seem frivolous to treat themselves to rewards and even time off from the job search, but unemployed people are using a great deal of energy on the emotions of their situation.

“If I have a client that has been laid off, they might be dealing with some tough emotions that are going to use up some of their available energy.” Sabrina WoodsHolistic Coach

Wellness can’t be overlooked. Perhaps, being unemployed requires more attention to wellness and less attention to spending unproductive time in front of a computer looking for jobs on Indeed.com, Monster.com, and (dear I say) LinkedIn.

If trying to enjoy life’s pleasures while looking for employment, doesn’t work for you, I suggest seeking therapy. Many people do. It’s not unusual and, as tell my clients, totally normal. When things are dark, don’t hesitate to get professional help.

Back to My LinkedIn Post

Most of the people who responded to my question were in agreement that a 40-hour a week job search is unhealthy. There were a few who live by the old saying job-search pundits would use, but I wonder if they realize that a full-time job search should also include life balance. Or do they really believe that anyone is capable of dedicating all their week to a job search? I certainly don’t.

Photo: Flickr, Alan Barry Consultants LLC



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