Job-search from home with children: 6 tips on how to do it

Articles on working from home abound. There’s even a hashtag for working from home, #WFH. But there aren’t as many articles on job searching from home, #JSFH. Throwing dependent children in the mix adds a new dimension. Now we have a new hashtag, #JSFHWC.

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For those of you who fall under this hashtag know the complication of trying to find a job while also tending to children who are preschool age and demand your undivided attention, or are of school age and were home taking online classes. With school out, a whole set of issues present themselves.

I’ve been fortunate to keep my job (fingers crossed) thus far throughout the pandemic. I’m also fortunate to have two independent children living at home with my wife and I. My daughter goes to work at a farm and my son goes to work (at 12:00 pm) as a lifeguard.

When I’m on a Zoom call or delivering a webinar, they know well enough to be scarce. But this article isn’t about me. It’s about the millions of people who have to look for work while also caring for their children.

I conducted a poll on LinkedIn asking people who are looking for work at home with children if they have a more structured schedule. Not surprisingly more then half of them said they don’t, only 33% said they do, and 14% said sort of.

I also asked the voters to comment on their situation. A valued LinkedIn connection who just went through a job search with her husband offers this sage advice:

My husband just spent the past 2 months job searching – with our kids at home. He had a very structured schedule which included time for job search, time for kids (as I remained working full time), time for himself, and time for other/home activities. It worked well as it ensured we all knew what/when was going on and could respect his focus – and he landed a new role 2 weeks ago. Was it always easy? No.

Adrienne

Fortunately for my valued connection, all worked out well for her husband and their family. He was one of the 33% who was able to structure his job search with some help from her, I’m sure.

One voter writes that structure can go out the window with children in tow. There are brush fires that always need distinguishing when JSFHWC.

I’d say one of the biggest things is permitting yourself to let go sometimes. If the kid’s laptop crashes, then you are IT support. Now! You have to let go of the idea that you can control your day like you can when you’re cocooned in an office with various types of support. Pair that with focusing on a limited list of “Gotta Dos” and you have a shot at meeting your goals for the day, week, whatever. (I use the hierarchy of “Gotta Do”, “Needta Do” and “Nice ta Do” for determining which tasks get done and in which order.)

Adam

These are but two examples of how #JSFHWC? has gone with two job seekers—one positive, the other not so positive. If you are struggling with this situation, here are some tips that might be of assistance.

1. Prioritize: set aside time for yourself

As my connection said, her husband prioritized his job search. This is essential if you want to stay sane and land a job. The first point she makes is that her husband made time for his job search.

It’s important to plan time for your job search and more important to stick to it. This might not come easy to you, but it’s a make or break situation.

A client of mine told me he gets up before the sun rises, gets on the stationary bike, and then dives into the job search almost before his children are screaming for breakfast.

Biron Clark, a career coach and former recruiter, reiterates the importance of setting some time aside for yourself:

Develop a plan and schedule that works for your life. You’re going to get better results in your job search if you’re able to put in consistent effort for at least a couple of hours per day without distractions. This can be difficult when you’re at home with your family, though. If you have children at home, think about whether you can wake up before them to get a few uninterrupted hours each morning. If that’s not an option, then think about another time of day. Either way, set a schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible.

2. Reach out to your support system

It’s also important to develop a network of people who can support you in your efforts. Another voter who commented said that he has support for the times when he has interviews:

I treat my job search as a part time job right now. Both our children are very young and not in school. My job search starts at 5:00 am to 7:00 am then picks up again at 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm 6 days a week. When I have an interview I have help from my neighbors to watch the kids. It takes a lot more planning and time management but we have found this structured schedule has worked best for our family.

Darrick

You might not be fortunate enough to reach out to your neighbors. Call on your family to see if they can entertain your children via Zoom or Facetime. What about your former colleagues, ask if they’d like to do some Kid Share; they entertain your children online or in person and you return the favor. Make sure to physical distance.

3. Rely on your network

Marie Zimenoff, who trains career coaches and resume writers, says when you’re networking to leverage them; don’t do all the work. You have to be explicit in what you’re looking for, including the companies with which you’d like to work.

If you are job searching at home with kids, start with the people that already know, like, and trust you (your Champions). Share your target list with them and ask them if they know anyone there (or who used to work there), if they have other organizations they’d add to the list, or if they have any other insights on the companies on the list. Don’t discount people before you give them the opportunity to help! You can use systems like Facebook or LinkedIn to help connect the dots between those Champions (who won’t mind if your kids are wild in the background) and the “weak ties” who are key to landing your next role.

Don’t let the fact that it’s difficult to reach out to your network in person deter you from contacting them. This pandemic has taught us that using modes of communication like the phone, video platforms, email and LinkedIn are essential. Those who don’t grasp it will have a hard time networking.

4. Use LinkedIn for more than its job board

What many people don’t realize is that LinkedIn is a powerful research tool that can help you locate people in your target companies. Your goal is to connect and develop relationships with as many people as you can in your target companies.

Sarah Johnston, an executive career coach, produced two LinkedIn Learning videos—one that explain the importance of making an extensive list of your target companies and the key players you need to connect with—and a second one that explains how to use LinkedIn’s search capabilities to find said people.

Also use the little time to make changes to your LinkedIn profile. You might be new to LinkedIn and haven’t polished your profile. This article gives you some ideas of how to update your profile during the pandemic.

5. Use the job boards sparingly

Too many people consider applying online as their primary/only method of searching for jobs. This is a huge mistake, as it’s been proven that the success rate is extremely low—5% is a conservative estimate.

This said, I tell my clients to use the job boards, e.g., Indeed, Monster, Dice, etc. sparingly. Set aside time to get on your computer and access your favorite sites. Or if you’re with your children outside, use the apps while keeping one eye on them and the other on the apps.

Couple your job-board use with LinkedIn. Like Sarah says in her video, LinkedIn can be a great way to find people on LinkedIn before or after you’ve applied for a position at a company.

6. Get outside

More than ever people are walking and running in my neighborhood. Fresh air and exercise do wonders, not only for your body but for your health as well. This is an acceptable part of your job search. When I was out of work, I increased my walking from 45 minutes to an hour. It was a great way to clear my head.

Take care of yourself. One of my LinkedIn connection, Vincent Phamvan, says it well:

Spend some of your time on activities outside of your job search. Spend time with family, take walks, try to eat healthy meals. This will keep you mentally fit and ready to rock your upcoming interviews.

Use this alone time to strategize about how you will tailor your resume to that position for which you’re perfect. Listen to books on tape regarding the job search or podcasts from my valued connections, Mark Anthony Dyson and Virginia Franco.


I have heard from job seekers that the pandemic has made it impossible to job search from home with children. Some have abandoned the job search entirely, relying on unemployment plus the $600 provided through the CARES act, which at this writing has stopped.

Career coaches can’t change the mind frame of people like this. Job seekers need to realize that unemployment benefits will eventually run dry, so they need to adamantly dive into their JSFHWC.

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