Whatever you are doing, it’s good to have a plan, and process can help you execute your plan. To get a job is not a plan, it’s a goal. A plan might be to look at companies you really want to work at, find or make connections there, and apply with your best cover letter, portfolio and resume. You can see how that plan, ties back to the goal. The strategy there is to leverage personal connections. I have not defined the tactical execution of the strategy. Strategy is the high-level approach to move from A to B. Tactics are the details actions you take to fulfill the strategy and a process is a system used to execute on those tactics.
My friend was recently on the job search and approached it with a clearly defined process that would help him focus his search and energy while allowing him to take advantage of his newly found free time. He has graciously shared his process with me and allowed me to share it with you. Getting a job is difficult, even in this period of low unemployment. I want you to remember that and try not to take rejection personally. That said, I want to share with you the process my friend Jason used.
Most of my life I have either worked for myself or been recruited, so job searching was new to me when I was cut loose in January 2018. I wanted to take advantage of this time between jobs to enjoy life while remaining diligent in finding another job. When faced with a potentially difficult and demoralizing search I wanted to build a system to keep me moving forward regardless of my motivation level. My criteria for a job were broad; a minimum salary, proximity to climbing and surfing, and I had eight months of cash reserves until I had to hit the panic button. My life’s circumstances may differ from yours, but hopefully some of the lessons I learned will be helpful should you find yourself on the job hunt.
Part one: The job search.
By spending some time up front setting up my systems, I was able to cram an intensive search into and average of 9.5 hours a week, using the rest of the week to enjoy my unplanned sabbatical. Job hunting is really just an exercise in marketing. It’s all about the conversion rate. It’s about working smarter, not harder. The hard part is getting through all the “thanks, but no thanks” without losing spirit and keeping faith in your system.
Even though it’s impossible to know what your conversation rate will be it’s important to try and optimize it regardless. My beginning goal was 10 applications per week. I started calculating my conversion rate as soon as I started receiving responses.
My conversion rate ended up at just over 3%. For every 31 positions I applied to, I would get one job offer. This is not a conversion rate to brag about, but I have a weird skillset so I was ok with it. This rate showed up pretty early in my search, and allowed me a bit more comfort that something good would pan out. I backed off my applications still sending out at least 5 per week. After six months of searching my numbers were; 93 resumes submitted, 13 interviews, 6 second interviews, and three offers. This is unique to the wide net that I cast and your numbers will differ greatly. The point really is what to pay attention to when on the search.
How did I spend my time? My 9.5 hours per week broke down to 3 hours of searching job posts, 3 hours researching for a scheduled interview and 1.5 hours in an interview. That’s effectively one long-ish day a week. Had I less cash reserves, I could have doubled, or even tripled my workload and still had time to enjoy my sabbatical.
Here are the lessons that I learned.
- Write out your job parameters as a commitment to yourself and post them somewhere visible during your search. If you hold these in your head, it’s easy to fudge them when feeling beat up by the search. I had mine on a “sticky” note on my computer’s desktop.
- Avoid the demoralizing rabbit hole of scrolling through thousands of jobs. Batch the search. Find the relevant search sites to you. Set up filtered weekly emails with your criteria. Keywords can offer better results than position titles. Spend time testing search filters before choosing which to use for your highest ratio of qualified results. Once chosen, put a time slot on your calendar and ONLY review the emailed job listings at that time. This helps avoid the job browsing rabbit hole. Take the ones that stand out and put them on a list to apply for at different scheduled time. Better even than my process; level up by using a virtual assistant for the search. If I were employed while searching for new job I absolutely would have done this.
- Batch the application process. Choose a day per week, sit down and indiscriminately crank out applications. I chose a different day for applications than my searching because I found the energy to do one, took away from being effective at the other. Do not get lost in research. Only skim the job description and website enough to edit your boiler plate cover letter as necessary.
- Boiler plate and test your cover letter. I tested three versions of my cover letter. I first tested mine with a selection of friends that had been on hiring panels. Then by sending each version to 5 jobs that were in my field, but that I didn’t want and tracked the response levels. Then for future applications for jobs I was serious about I stuck with the one cover letter that received the most responses.
- Research an employer only AFTER receiving an invite to interview. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of researching a place before even applying. Don’t do it. It saves time and energy that could be used for better things. This process only works if you are wide open to options.
- Track everything on a spreadsheet; all applications, interviews, and results. Review and watch for signals that jump out so you can make any adjustments necessary.
- Trust your system.
Part 2: Traveling can be cheaper than staying put.
|Expense||Saying in Juneau||On the Road|
|Phone||$60||$120 (international plan)|
|Travel (airfare or gas)||$30||$700|
Yup. My cost of living dropped by nearly $500 by traveling!
There are a few things to note about the way that I travel. First is that I am truly blessed the friends that I have around the world. This is one of the reasons I chose Australia. I have some dear friends there that I hadn’t seen in years. They were also willing to house me and often loaned me their vehicles. However, if you are traveling to a place that you don’t know anyone, Couchsurfing.org is the single most useful travel tool I have ever used. There are numerous free homes available in many countries. Over 12 years of using it, Couchsurfing.com has saved me thousands in lodging, led me to places I never would have seen, and I’ve made some great friendships.
I’ve put these thoughts on my job search together to challenge assumptions of what one is supposed to do. When facing unemployment, regardless of how much time you have before needing to hit the panic button, you are gifted with the time to do something that you have wanted to do. As Americans, we get two weeks off a year and feel guilty even asking for the time off. Don’t let an unintended sabbatical go to waste because within our culture of busy, an unplanned sabbatical can be an incredible time for doing things that you’ve always wanted to do.
As a final note; I was able to do these things because I’m single (until recently), childless, male, with an American passport and some fuck you money stashed. Everyone’s circumstances are different. My systems and approach may not work for you. Regardless, by sharing my approach I hope to spur some thinking in case you find yourself in position of having to make similar decisions.
If you want help thinking through your own scenario, please feel free to reach out. I would happy to be your thinking partner.