Take 10 (Minutes, that Is) to Conduct an Effective Job Search—or to Build Your Career
The trick is in the setup. By organizing a few key tasks for yourself (yes, this process will probably require a rare few hours, rather than minutes), you can create a series of mini projects that can be pursued at a moment’s notice. If you store the projects on your phone or in the cloud, you’ll be able to access them no matter where you are. Following are four steps to help you make use of this great organizing strategy.
Step 1—Set up your projects
You’ll need two things for this step—a device, such as your phone or laptop, and a set of job-search related projects (more on that in a minute). Once you have decided which projects you want to tackle, all that’s left is to break the project itself into small bits and set them up for easy access on your device.Here’s an example. Suppose you need to finish your CV so you can begin sending it out for positions you’d like. If you’re planning to use your laptop, you might start a word processing file on the desktop. Then you could download a template or create sections on the CV such as Post Graduate Training and Work Experience; now you can begin dropping in information in the appropriate section whenever you have a few minutes to spare. At the end of a week or so, you’re likely to have quite a bit of data in the file; now you can start using your time to organize each section. When that step is done, you can look at the document as a whole and make choices about the format. Finally, when the CV is completely written and formatted, you can print it and review it carefully for accuracy and flow.
Now for that list of projects related to job search. In addition to making your CV, you can:
- Create a LinkedIn profile
- Write a template cover letter
- Update your AAN job seeker profile
- Build a list of places you’d like to work
- Bookmark important sites (including the AAN Neurology Career Center)
- Complete applications or other outreach to employers
- Send emails to recruiters or your mentor
- Network by sending a note to a colleague or making a LinkedIn connection
- Download or bookmark applications, articles or other tools you want to review later
Step 2—Implement the strategy
The beauty of this process is that you can come back to it any time, day or night. As long as you keep at it, you’ll make progress. That said, you might feel more peace of mind if you can build a routine, such as arriving 20 minutes ahead of each shift so you can work on one of your projects. That way you’ll know you’ll always be moving forward. Even if 20 minutes a day is all you’re able to do, by the end of the week you’ll have completed over two hours of career building, which might be more than you would have been able to free up in one sitting.
Step 3—Save, sort, and replicate your materials
Like many projects, much of the success will hinge on organization. For example, when you can easily identify the employers or recruiters you’ve contacted in a job search, you can make appropriate decisions about follow-up communications. Likewise, keeping an electronic record of your letters helps you re-create or revise them for other employers, saving the task of writing an entirely new letter.In this step, the emphasis is on streamlining as many tasks as possible, by creating a system to save your materials and other work product related to job search. You may choose to use a digital tool, such as Evernote, or you may feel more confident with a series of file folders on your computer desktop. Whatever you decide to use, try to understand as many features as possible. For example, learning how to use the search function in your email program will save you the frustration of hunting through your inbox for an important correspondence.
Step 4—Capture your ideas
As you probably know, career development is not a static process. It’s more like a moving target, with fresh information arriving every day, and new job ideas crowding out earlier goals at a brisk pace. The busier you are, the harder it is to capture those great ideas, especially if they come to you while you’re driving or working. Luckily, there are lots of good ways to capture your ideas so you can review them later in one of your slivers of time. For example, you can record your thoughts by speaking them into your phone, or by sending a voicemail to yourself. Or, you can use the tried-and-true notebook method, jotting down your ideas whenever they pop into your head. File folders and shoeboxes can also play a role, capturing such things as newspaper articles or other physical artifacts that trigger job search ideas for you.However you go about capturing your ideas, the important thing is that you stop to review them at different points of your career building process. This will help ensure you’re staying fresh and not losing energy for the search.
Bonus Step: Convert the process at each career stage
Once you land your job, you might assume that the process stops. It would be more accurate—and strategic—to say that the steps don’t stop, but they do change course. Now, instead of networking for a job search, for example, you can be networking to build relationships with your colleagues. You can also use your time to hunt for conferences to attend, committees to join, meetings to try, and articles to read. Or you can write letters and memos to colleagues, post new ideas to your Twitter or LinkedIn accounts, or research sources for an article you’re writing. Although you can continue to use your 10-minute time chunks for these projects, you might find that your schedule now allows you to block off 30 minutes each week with some consistency. That would be an excellent start on a lifetime of career enhancement.