You’ve charted out the goals for your week. Send another 40 applications, request 15 more informational interviews, review and revise your resume for the umpteenth time.
Sure, your full to-do list looks good, but it isn’t exactly the perfect blueprint for accelerating your path to employment, much less experiencing life enjoyment.
Full-time job seekers often jump into “grind mode,” burning energy at a higher rate than they would even for a “typical” 9-to-5. It’s understandable—the urgency of securing a new position when you’ve been without work for days, weeks, or months on end can lead you to believe that the best way to land a job is relentless output and an immeasurable amount of applications.
Contrary to that belief, when it comes to finding your next best opportunity, “more” isn’t always the most effective.
What you actually need is a meaningful strategy that empowers your productivity, defeats emotional exhaustion, creates a more substantial job hunt, and affords you the necessary time for recreation.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you create an optimal structure and timeline for a week that balances both a routine job search and catering to yourself.
4 tips for creating a healthy structure between jobs
1. Pursue quality before quantity
Slow down on those job applications. Sending numerous, templated applications a day may get you a few additional introductory phone screens, if you’re lucky, but ultimately, you’ll be expending valuable energy that could be used to position yourself for better opportunities. In fact, most career advisors recommend submitting 2–3 resumes per day so you don’t sacrifice the pursuit of ideal positions for time-fillers.
Minimizing your to-apply list may seem counterproductive to securing your next gig, but the real deal is that you’ll make more progress in this process with well-thought-out plans and meaningful action. As an added bonus, when you think more strategically about the jobs you’re applying to, you’ll be reducing the likelihood of burnout throughout the week.
Tricia Lucas, cofounder of the award-winning, woman-owned career consulting firm Lucas Select advises her clients to be proactive, not reactive, when seeking employment. “A job search is a process, so stop randomly sending out resumes to black holes,” she says.
Set aside a couple of hours per day with the goal of finding and applying for high-interest jobs—and before you cement your candidacy, be sure to do your due diligence.
Read job descriptions in their entirety (you’d be surprised how many people submit applications without even skimming the requirements), visit business websites, and read-through company reviews to better understand the company’s culture, benefits, and priorities. If both the role and organization are in alignment with your long-term goals, tailor your resume to ensure you’re including buzzwords and background information that position you as an exceptional contender. Then, hit “send.”
2. Prioritize purposeful networking
More than 80 percent of jobs filled are based on personal and professional connections, which means a significant part of your job search should be spent seeking, building, and nurturing relationships.
One of the most salient benefits of social media in today’s digital age is that folks can easily jump into Direct Messages (DMs) and reach out to potential employers—but because of that ease, hundreds of competing job seekers are doing it. To stand out among a slew of peers vying for the same opportunities, focus on providing more value during your direct outreach to hiring managers, potential mentors, and peers in roles of interest.
Pencil in at least two hours a day to research and interact with thought leaders and existing connections, intentionally positioning yourself in their line of visibility as a contributor and asset to the voice of your industry.
“Learn about what’s trending and what innovative companies and their leadership teams are doing to stay successful in today’s marketplace, then follow, comment, and share content with and from your favorite industry leaders,” Lucas says. Continuously engage with your connections’ content and share informative resources that add a unique and useful perspective about key challenges or developments in your marketplace.
In addition to leveraging social media for your networking, get involved with an organization associated with your profession.
“Your industry should have one or more trade organizations that you can join,” Lucas says. “I use the American Marketing Association (AMA) for marketing professionals as an example. These orgs are incredibly useful and help to keep you informed through their newsletters and publications, networking opportunities, meetings, and conferences.”
Most leaders are actively involved in community service—on boards, leading teams, or attending events to build their own contact lists—so there’s a good chance you’ll build connections with influential managers who can give you a heads-up about hiring or put in a good word with their network.
3. Add more value to your resume
Continued education should be a fundamental part of your job search — and the good news is, skill-building is a best-of-both-worlds effort that nourishes your mind and helps to better position you in the eyes of recruiters (or hiring algorithms).
When coaching job-seekers, Lucas encourages them to “be a diamond, not a dinosaur” by vigorously staying up to date on skills, trends, and resources in order to remain a best-in-class prospect for upcoming employment opportunities.
“Demonstrate that you’re ‘relevant’ by investing in professional learning activities that are designed to keep you current in your job field and allow you to better anticipate changes, innovation, and opportunities that are on the horizon,” she says.
To do that, you’ll need to dedicate at least an hour of your day to leveling up your industry knowledge or getting hands-on to improve your experience level with programs and applications that are vital to do business effectively in your trade.
“Technology is always changing so it’s imperative that you continue your professional development activities through workshops, conferences, and certifications. There isn’t much you can’t learn online—and the options are many and affordable,” she says. “Coursera, Open Culture, Udemy, EDEX, LinkedIn Learning, and YouTube are a few good examples. These activities really speak to me as a recruiter and give me greater confidence in presenting you to the hiring manager. I want to know that a candidate is the best at what they do.”
4. Make room for leisure
Incorporating time in your week to circumvent anxiety and fatigue is just as crucial as scheduling informational interviews.
Between applying for positions that you’re genuinely interested in, extending your network, meeting with recruiters, encountering disappointment, updating your materials, and playing the waiting game, it’s easy (and natural) to begin to feel emotionally exhausted. This is why experts in career planning recommend limiting active job-seeking to 25–30 hours per week.
“In a job transition, you may face overwhelming rejection, so you’ll need to have a mental health plan in place. If you’re following your proactive, not reactive job search plan, you’ll naturally have more time for self-care,” Lucas says.
Allow yourself at least two hours during your “work day” to prioritize self-preservation, joy, and home-life activities that need attention.
“Get out of the house, hang out with positive people, and turn up the music!” Lucas says.
And be unapologetic about it. Your intentional strategy creates space (and permission) for daily downtime.
If the air of toxic productivity creeps in and you start to feel anxious about taking those breaks, remember that it takes clean, positive energy to fuel a robust job hunt. You can’t do first-rate work when you’re running on empty, so try your best to not feel guilty about time away from your desktop.
“My outlet is sunshine and exercise with my dog.” Lucas says. “Sunshine helps the body produce Vitamin D naturally, which is huge for the immune system. Exercise releases endorphins, which help alleviate stress and anxiety. And dogs… well, they love you whether you have a job or not.”
Other unabashed acts of self-care for your day could be reading, hitting the gym, visiting with family and friends, traveling, cleaning, napping, and exploring new hobbies.
Whatever you choose to do to honor yourself, rest assured that it will still be a constructive part of your day—and an essential part of your job search journey.