When I lost my job, I decided I was going to think positively and enjoy the change of pace for a while. “It’s going to be like summer vacation all the time!” I thought, remembering days off from school spent lazing on the couch, watching daytime TV. For the first few days, it actually was refreshing to sleep in and not worry about meetings and deadlines. As the days wore on, however, doing a whole lot of nothing became less and less enjoyable. I felt directionless and without purpose. Turns out sticking to a schedule had become a familiar way for me to set and reach goals; without one, I didn’t know what to do with myself! 

Looking for Work is Work

Unemployment can be a shock to the system. After leaving a regimented work environment with clear-cut hours and responsibilities, job seekers find themselves with a sudden wealth of free time. How do you stay motivated to do the work of finding a job?

The trick is to truly treat the job search like a job in its own right. Creating and sticking to a schedule is a great way to optimize your job search. By committing to a semi-regular work schedule, job seekers can achieve more by being more mindful of time and keeping better track of goals. Additionally, sticking to a semi-traditional work day can actually boost mood and  better prepare candidates to rejoin the workforce when the time comes. 

Sticking to a Schedule that Works for You 

Every career is different, so it’s important to find working hours that fit your goals. In most cases, it helps to stick to a schedule that will mirror that of a future employer; 9 to 5 is generally a safe bet. After deciding on a schedule that works for you, be sure to display it in a place where you can’t miss it – whether that’s a white board in your home office, the calendar on your smartphone or just a sticky note on the fridge. 

Here’s an example of a schedule designed to optimize the job search:

Rise and Shine – 7:30 a.m.
Getting in the habit of waking up early not only allows job seekers to get the most out of the day when job searching, but also ensures that this will already be routine when a new job starts. 
Physical Activity – 8:00 a.m.
In addition to the physical benefits of getting active, taking the time to move every day can also have a powerful effect on stress levels.  
Hearty Breakfast – 8:30 a.m.
Take your time and enjoy a balanced breakfast to power the mind and the job search! 
Check Emails – 9:00 a.m.
Ease into the work day by checking a professional email account being used for all job applications. Review your inbox for any updates from applications, and reply to employers when appropriate. 
Apply to Jobs – 9:15 a.m.
This is the meat and potatoes of the job search. Carefully review job postings and apply to opportunities that are relevant to your career goals. If you find yourself feeling burned out by looking at the same job boards, add some variety to the search and explore elsewhere! It can also be beneficial to work in short breaks after completing applications. 
Lunchtime – 12:00 p.m.
Recharge for the second half of your day! This is also a great opportunity to catch up with someone in your professional network. 
Review Outstanding Applications – 1:00 p.m.
Log into any employer portals where you have already applied to jobs. Are there any status changes to note? If an employer had mentioned that they would be in contact by a particular deadline that has passed, this is a great time to check back in with them. 
Build Skills – 1:30 p.m.
Employers love to see job seekers growing as professionals even during a gap in employment. Use this time to learn new skills through online courses or elsewhere. 
Network – 3:30 p.m.
You never know where the next conversation will lead you! Connect with past colleagues online or make a date to catch up over coffee. 
Volunteer Work – 4:00 p.m. 
If you’re struggling to find purpose without work, consider spending time volunteering to close out your work day. Not only will positively impacting others feel good, but you can also build skills along the way.

Every job search is different, but you can optimize your job search by sticking to a schedule. Suddenly, that intimidating free time becomes structured in a way that makes it easy to stay on track and land that next job! What’s your method for sticking to a schedule during a job search? Share your ideas in the comments below!