But if you learn to identify your biggest time-wasters, you can turn those minutes and hours into productivity. Here are eight common job-search time-wasters and how you can beat them:
1. Applying for everything.
You’re doing such a good job applying for jobs that you stop reading the job descriptions. If it’s within your function or industry, you let the application fly. It’s so inexpensive and so easy to shoot off a resume. Why wouldn’t you apply to one more?
Because you’re wasting your time and the time of the hiring company. Rather than applying for every job that even remotely fits your qualifications, clarify your specific job-search objectives and apply for jobs that fit what you’re looking for. Sending out fewer applications will allow you to spend more time on choosing jobs that are right for you and put more effort into those applications.
2. Reconstructing your resume—again and again.
How many versions of your resume are on your computer? Do you even know?
Your resume should be used to entice employers. It’s a marketing tool to attract a call or e-mail from the hiring manager. While it makes sense to emphasize different aspects of your background, stop creating entirely new resumes for every job posting. Instead, have a few versions you can use again and again, depending on which job you’re applying for. While you’re at it, stop relying on your resume to land interviews. A far better strategy is networking.
3. Falling into a cover letter craze.
Like with your resume, your cover letter is a document that takes way too much time to write as a custom document. Put effort into it, but don’t spend hours crafting the perfect pitch. Instead of starting a new cover letter from scratch every time you apply for a job, create a good cover letter template that you can tweak quickly—preferably in 15 minutes—for each job. Then move onto your next task.
4. Bugging recruiters.
Recruiters are eager to play their role in the job market—helping their clients (companies) find qualified candidates. You’re either qualified for an opening or you’re not.
Multiple e-mails and phone calls will not make you appear more qualified. Instead, it may make you appear desperate. Follow-up with a recruiter, but don’t bug or annoy them, or they may not come to you the next time they have an opportunity.
5. Becoming addicted to digital.
While spending time on the Internet can help your job search, it is possible to spend too much time on the Web, especially if you’re easily distracted by social media, online shopping or other Internet evils.
To avoid letting your digital addiction render you unproductive, create time windows when you work on your computer, smart phone or iPad. Then put the electronics down, and find other ways to boost your job search, like in-person networking, reading books about your industry or taking time off to recharge.
6. Networking blind.
There’s a difference between networking and socializing. If you spend a week at various events simply re-connecting with your job search crew, you’re socializing. Blind networking, or collecting business cards and lunching with anyone and everyone who wants to meet with you, isn’t productive either.
Instead, network with a purpose. Decide who you want to know, and figure out how to meet those people on your target list. Communicate your specific job-search objectives. Ask a friend to introduce you to someone at one of your target companies. Rather than networking blind, build your network with your eyes wide open.
7. Sucking on social networks.
Some job seekers have their mouths over the online fire hose and still feel thirsty; they’re signed up for every possible social media network. After all, if you have extra time and little structure in your life, why not? Isn’t this period without a job a good time to catch up with friends and family?
Sure—but only until it becomes a time-waster. Make sure you’re using social tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to deliver needed outcomes in your job search. Use them strategically, not wastefully.
8. Hyper-focusing on one job.
Do you feel you’re uniquely qualified for one specific job? Then create a plan to find warm entry points via your network. Follow application directions, and get a strong resume in the right person’s hands.
But if you don’t hear back in a week or two, don’t let that stop you from continuing the job search. Rather than thinking about that perfect job, focus on finding other perfect jobs. That way, if the first perfect job pans out, you’ll have the power of multiple options, which will help you interview and negotiate with confidence.
Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and share his 30 Ideas E-Book with job-seeking friends.