Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search

March 15, 2010 at 8:39 am 16 comments

It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized?

Almost everyone has heard of the Food Pyramid, which describes the various components of a healthy well-balanced diet. Well, just as it is with food and proper nutrition, an effective job search should consist of several distinct components – each with its own recommended percentage in proportion to the whole – designed to make up a healthy well-balanced job search. So below is a special variation on the familiar pyramid we all grew up with, which includes these four job-seeking components:

1) Networking Activities
2) Responding to Online Job Postings
3) Working with Recruiters
4) Contacting Companies Directly


The percentages shown on this pyramid are merely averages, intended as a recommended guide. They can be adjusted plus or minus 5% according to your own working style or preference. Let me break these four components down in detail, from bottom to top:

Networking (75%):
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. That’s why networking is weighted so heavily in this pyramid, and it should be what takes up the majority of your time. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. [For details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]

Answering Job Postings (10%):
Too many job-seekers spend the majority of their precious time searching for and responding to internet job postings. The truth is that this is one of the least productive uses of your time, and has an extremely low success rate. Online job boards are merely an updated version of the old classified ads in the newspaper, which are even less likely to get you anywhere in today’s internet-centric world. Most online submissions go totally unanswered. Those résumés, cover letters and applications that you’ve labored over usually go into the proverbial “Black Hole of HR.” That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. Oh sure, every once in a while responding to an online job posting scores someone an interview, or in some cases even an actual job. It does happen … albeit infrequently. So I’m not suggesting that you totally ignore this method of job searching. Simply limit the time you spend on it to around 10%.

Working with Recruiters (10%):
Recruiters can be a great resource … but the vast majority of job-seekers today will NOT find their next job through a recruiter. The best strategy here is to simply try to get on the radar of a recruiter who specializes in your industry niche, and then stay in touch with that person. Meet or talk with them at least once, and make them aware of your qualifications and job-seeking status. Then periodically check their agency’s job listings, and if you see a job that exactly fits your background – then and only then re-contact that recruiter and alert them to your match for the job they are already working on. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how to best use recruiters.]

Contacting Companies Directly (5%):
Sending your unsolicited résumé and cover letter to companies where you have no networking contacts, and there is no job being advertised is a very “old school” way of job searching. It is extremely unlikely to produce results in today’s challenging, candidate-flooded job market. It is the job-seeking equivalent of a salesperson’s “cold call.” There are certainly better ways to spend your time! Of course, there are occasional exceptions to this from people who beat the odds. I recently heard a story of someone who wrote a letter directly to the president of a company he was targeting expressing his interest … and he actually received a response back from that president asking him to call him. Again, I’m not saying that you should never do this – just minimize the time you spend on it to 5% or less.

SO – the overall message here should be very clear. Use this Job-Seeking Pyramid to plan your time efficiently. By all means, use a multi-pronged approach … however, concentrate on those activities that are proven to be the most likely to produce results (i.e. networking!) and minimize the activities that are less likely to be successful. Make sure you are maintaining a healthy, well-balanced job search. Stay positive, and keep plugging away!

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , .

Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips Getting Un-Stuck from your Rut!

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dan Griffin  |  March 15, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Excellent work, Michael. As usual.


  • 2. Van Can Ngo  |  March 15, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    It is very useful article. Excellent work, Michael.

    Thanks a lot. Keep up your good work.


  • 3. Betsy Richards, Personal Brand Strategist  |  March 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Michael, this is a wonderful article. I love the pyramid, very easy to follow. I will share with my students. Networking is truly what it is all about, teaching people how to network is the challenge.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • 4. Matthew Alleway  |  March 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Thank you Michael, nice article how to prioritize, focus and balance your job searching time.

  • 5. Roz  |  March 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I find networking, in higher education to be helpful, to get background information about an institution. But with posted positions and search committees, do you feel that networking has the same benefit as in other industries?

    • 6. Michael Spiro  |  March 16, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      I’m no expert on jobs in higher education, but I can certainly imagine the challenges one would face in that area regarding search committees, internal politics, etc. Still, I would like to believe that networking your way to decision-makers in any organization or institution can only help you in the long run. It certainly can’t hurt!

      – Michael

  • 7. Kaukab Usman  |  March 17, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I stumbled upon your blog and found it extremely helpful – especially the tips on networking. What I liked the most about your articles/tips is that you hold people’s hands and walk them through the process and don’t assume that people know things. Social networking is especially a new concept and many people don’t know how to use it to their advantage. I am one of them. I truly believe that no one has ever thought about the novices treading the waters. You seemed to be in the minds of these people and answered all the questions that they could possibly have. Fantastic job!!

    I am in transition. This is the first time in my life that I am looking for a job and I am overwhelmed by the process. Your articles put my mind at ease and I was pleasantly surprised that there are people out there who are actually helping people without any fee.

    Thank you again for doing such a wonderful job. God Bless!

    Kaukab Usman

  • 8. Sally  |  March 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I just read your blog for the first time today and really appreciate your straightforward advice. I’ll begin following your advice today and hope to make better progress in my networking and job search efforts! Thanks

  • 9. Diane  |  March 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I enjoyed your article, especially the pyramid. This is my first time being without a job and it has been a slightly daunting experience and has left me uncertain. For those of us that are still novices in the networking department, it does take a lot of work and patience. Thanks for the guide and for being realistic and professional.

  • 10. Kristin Harrington  |  March 26, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I recently came across your blog and find it very informative and well thought out. I work in the University of Missouri-St. Louis Career Services office, and would love to share this with our students! I know this could really benefit them as you explain your thoughts very clearly and the pyramid diagram is a wonderful way to explain it for the visual learners we work with.

    Thank you for your time, and thank you for sharing your insights! I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future!


  • 11. Cathy Thomas  |  March 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Great article with insight. Thanks.

  • 12. Dr. Sohan Jindal  |  April 2, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Excellent. I hope it will help job seekers like me.

  • 13. Felix Somarriba  |  May 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Great discussion. Useful tips. Thank you!

  • 14. kkarora  |  May 19, 2010 at 3:55 am

    Dear Sir
    I am in full agreement with you that AGE discrimination exists in the corporate world and really there are some unfortunate people in this world who have either suffered or going to suffer in future.

    I personally feel that constitution of each and every organization, big or small is very sacred and people loving, but persons at the helm of affairs make it bad with the result some people suffer.

    I just want to share my personal experience in this regard with you Sir to lesson my burden on mind which i am carrying till date.

    I was working with Hindustan unilever limited till june 2009, and had served for 36 years in the company as an executive having very successful innings in Delhi Branch.I was looking after company$ Defense business in Jammu & Kashmir [India]

    I worked under a boss [Mr. R.B.Singh] for 3-years [2006—2009], and had a very humiliating and unfortunate experience. As a matter of facts, all the times he was after me, harassing me ,insulting me before my colleagues in the meetings.and never left any chance to disturb my mental balance.
    Even he started fudging my reports,putting false blames, withholding my expenses reimbursements for months together,and year after year spoiling my annual reports [Appraisals].and encouraged Insubordination in my area, with the result people got undue advantage and enjoyed at the cost of company.

    Even this was well in the knowledge of seniors and HR. MANAGER Delhi Branch.
    Since I was at the fag end of my career with just 3.5 years to retire from the services, I was just helpless and was having sleepless nights.
    in June 2009 I was asked to take premature retirement.

    I am just without a job, sitting idle and worried at the moment.
    I am trying my best to get a job, as i have a great urge to work, but perhaps my age factor is a hurdle for me, or the right opportunity is yet to come.

    thanks & regards.

  • 15. Alice Hanson  |  May 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Many boomers lived through the evolution of computers and were too busy living to keep their skills up to date. Esp if they have been in one company for most of their career –or at least since they turned 40 (10+ years ago – which is common). They know the systems of their old job, but not much else. And now that job is gone ~The best thing any boomer can do to stay competitive is to keep computer skills current.(and if you are reading this, you are obviously current-I was at a job search class last week and the moderator didn’t know what “linked in” was~). The next best thing is to build a network that extends beyond their generation. Volunteer, make friends online.

    It used to be that you could work for companies that were not so computer savvy, or were dominated by older workers (i.e.,government, hospitals, insurance, manufacturing) – and companies that were not image-conscious (forget marketing, retail, any place where your old face fights the younger image the company wants). But many of these places have hiring freezes. And even if they don’t, younger labor is often cheaper labor and willing to put in long hours to advance.

    So how do you beat it? Networking. Someone will still hire and refer someone they know. Old answer, but it works. And building your network, online presence to show you are computer savvy…JMO. Thanks

  • 16. Neil Keim  |  June 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Another good article Michael. I’m glad I found you as you have very good insight and it will help me in my job search.


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Unemployment Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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