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Activity vs. Productivity
July 2010

Anyone who has been following the Career Zone during the last few months knows that job loss can happen to anyone…even the subject matter expert who is writing the articles! I have wanted to be transparent with you all about my own current job search so that you can take my experiences and lessons learned and apply them to your own situation.

During a job search it can be very easy to feel like a hamster running around on a wheel, not getting anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

It has been a little over 3 months since my last day of work, and I have been crazy busy. It really is true that finding a job is a full time job. I am actively networking and using my personal positioning plan in the process. Prior to developing my positioning plan I was finding that I was getting frustrated that I was not seeing more progress in my search. Now that I use that plan during some of my conversations, the conversations are much more productive.

During my search, I have spent a lot of time speaking to others who are in a similar situation about their search progress and I noticed that many people feel like they are busy with a flurry of activity that is yielding little or no results. Everyone sounded very active, but not very productive.

Emailing résumés, applying for jobs online, phone or information interviews are all examples of activity. They are primary steps in the job search process. Remember, you are not being seriously considered for a specific position until you are sitting in front of a hiring manager, discussing a specific opportunity that has been budgeted and approved.   
It's very easy to get caught up in activity that is not productive. And increasing activity may not get you closer to your goal of finding a new job. When your job search gets stalled, it is important to recognize this quickly and adjust your job search approach accordingly. Search smarter, not longer.

Some steps you can take to make your search smarter and be more productive include:

  • Develop your target list of 25-30 companies and then focus on reaching out to people within those organizations. Your target list should include top organizations in your industry, location or organizations that have specific problems that your unique skills can solve better than anyone else. If you already have a target list of companies, take a look at it.  Have you reached out to multiple people in each of these organizations? If the answer is no, pick up the phone and start setting up some meetings.

  • When you do talk to people in your network do not approach them about a job.  Instead, talk to them about what is going in the industry or their company. Get some insight and gather information. Your contacts will know what's going on within your target companies. Why not learn from them? Learn the key corporate initiatives and challenges, what projects their departments are working on, what business their company is focused on attaining and how they work with the department you are interested in. If your contact can't or won't answer these questions, talk to someone else in the company.

  • Adjust your résumé so that you position yourself as the person that can help them solve their problems. Create a solution for those problems and make yourself the only candidate for the job that can resolve those problems.

The job market has changed and techniques you used years ago do not necessarily work today. So instead of getting caught up doing the same thing over and over, look for ways to be more productive with the activities you do, and step out of your comfort zone and try new approaches. I took a fresh look at my own job search and made some minor adjustments to my approach, and because of it I have had six interviews in the last ten days. Imagine what being more productive could do for you!