10 Tips to Win The Procrastination Game During Your Job Search

John Krautzel
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As a self-managed activity, your job hunt may be prone to delays when you don't have official deadlines to keep you motivated. The thought of wading through job postings and tackling those dreaded cover letters can easily drain your will to land your next dream job. Dragging out your job search only adds to your frustration, so follow these tips to stay productive and keep procrastination at bay.

1. Define Your Career Goals

Procrastination is often a sign that you are uncertain about what you want or are overwhelmed by an unfocused search. Think about the types of work you love and the qualities you look for in jobs and employers. Defining your goals can help you refine your search criteria, so you can avoid the burnout of applying for jobs that are definitely a bad fit.

2. Plan a Schedule

Make job hunting a part of your weekly schedule. Allocate one to three hours a day, and plan your objectives for the entire week. Your objectives should be specific and measurable with a clear timeline. For example, plan to send out thank-you notes to two interviewers by Friday or complete two work samples for your online portfolio by Wednesday.

3. Refine Your Personal Brand

Remember that scrolling through job postings all day is not the only way to find work. Find personal outlets that let you market your brand online and in your local community. Join local committees, host social events or create digital presentations on topics that you enjoy. Prepare a short, personable brand statement that describes what you do best and how your experience benefits others so you can deliver a compelling pitch with confidence.

4. Update Your Resume/Profiles

Revise your resume and online profiles to include your most recent accomplishments. Boredom leads to procrastination, so make sure your resume conveys your enthusiasm about your career. When describing past jobs, use action-oriented statements that demonstrate what your employers gained from your skills.

5. Team Up With a Buddy

Creating accountability is one easy way to stay on track. Team up with a friend or colleague who is also on the hunt, and provide peer support to keep each other motivated. Choose a dependable buddy whom you feel comfortable consulting for advice. You can help one another stick to deadlines, find leads and proofread application materials.

6. Find a Mentor/Support Group

Enlist a mentor who has industry connections and can provide advice on best practices. A good mentor can give you an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, helping you fill gaps in your skill set. Meet regularly with your mentor to discuss your progress and get feedback on your portfolio or interviewing skills.

7. Network and Volunteer

Do yourself a favor, and step away from your computer. Try to attend one to two networking events every month to meet potential employers in person and connect with other professionals. Stay engaged in related activities by devoting time to nonprofit causes or volunteering to organize events at your current job. Volunteering helps you build transferable skills while meeting new people.

8. Expand Your Portfolio

Compile a diverse set of work samples to display on your website and take to interviews. Building a portfolio lets you reflect on the highlights of your career, making it easier to explain your value to employers.

9. Gather Recommendations

Reach out to your references to keep them up to date on your job-search goals. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements from clients and colleagues, and offer to do the same for them. Show the people in your network that you are invested in their success, so they are happy to reciprocate in the future.

10. Set Up Alerts

Periodically review your job-search objectives, and set up email alerts to coincide with your schedule. Email reminders force you to remember how productive you were at the beginning of your job search. For example, schedule an email three days before the deadline to remind yourself to submit an application or get new business cards.

The next time you choose a game of solitaire over a job-search session, think about how many attractive job postings disappear while you procrastinate. Seek out positive experiences that improve your skills and expand your network. Staying focused on your goals is the key to overcoming exhaustion and obstacles that send you veering off your career path.

Photo Courtesy of Roger Koun at Flickr.com


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  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I think getting involved in community events, whether you're volunteering or joining a business organization like your local Chamber of Commerce, can definitely increase networking opportunities. In addition, you may discover new career options or fields of interest. You may discover that you want/need to go back to school or you may want to embark on different career path after listening to a talk by a local business person or after participating in a volunteer or community event. Learning more about what you want in a new job can help you focus more on finding that job rather than procrastinating.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Erin it could be that being more active will lead to less procrastination. However, in my experience, one who procrastinates has done it all of their lives and will probably not stop. Volunteering opportunities seem to get a person to think outside of themselves and sometimes this helps to lessen the trait.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    I have to agree with Kellen about procrastination and volunteering. How does that help with procrastination? I agree with the author that it could lead to the development of other skills and the socialization part is great, too. Do you think that the author was trying to make the point that being more active or involved could help to end procrastination?

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    Thank you for the comments. I like the idea of engaging in volunteer work to help others with your skills as you await to clinch that coveted job. I believe prospective employers would be so impressed if voluntary activities feature prominently in an employee's profile. This could actually give you a head start in the interview.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    I love the tip about refining your brand. Many people think that branding is strictly reserved for businesses, when in fact it's a great way to define yourself as well. Once you've figured out who you are from a job-search perspective, the next step is self promotion. Don't be afraid to market your best characteristics to prospective employers: those are the traits that'll get you hired.

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    Unless you want to work in a related industry, I really don't think volunteering will help you land a job. If I am trying to find a job as a mechanic, volunteering at the local homeless shelter is not going to help me with that goal. I suppose it's better than sitting at home and procrastinating, but I wouldn't include this on a list about "winning the procrastination game."

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Jacob in years past that might have been true but today, it's expected. Never to late to start networking whether you do so through Beyond or another site or you do it in person. @Stephani there are many places that can help you with your resume including the Resume Writing Service that is offered at Beyond. Check around your local area for resume writing services - maybe even through your local library or through your alma mater if you attended college. If both of these are not a viable option for you, take the time to review some of the samples on the Internet for your desired position and use them as GUIDE - not as your own. Once you start writing, you will see that there is nothing to fear. Best of luck.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    If you don't have a well-developed professional network, either online or in the local area, is it too late to build and lean on that when you are already unemployed? It kind of seems like if the first time you show you up is to hint that you could use work, potential mentors and employers might find that bit callow.

  • Stephani B.
    Stephani B.

    I appreciate the advise. My concern id the content of my resume is great its just not written well. The same for my cover letter. Any input would be great. Stephani

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    The best thing I did during an extended job search was to stay busy. On a day or two when I didn't feel like looking for a job, I did some temp work where I received pay for the day I worked. I didn't earn much at the temp jobs, but I did something that paid for my labor. Even though it was just $50 to $60 bucks a day, the temp job helped clear my mind. That time at ordinary jobs gave me ideas about my own job search and career as my mind drifted to other things during mundane tasks.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Abbey the motivation to stick to a plan is as individual as we are. It depends upon what you want, where you are in the process and what your end goals may be. Do you really want to find that next great position? There's a great motivator. Do you have bills piling up but no income to pay them? Another great motivator to keep you on track. Scheduling your time truly is a great way to manage and keep you from procrastinating. Keeping a to-do list is another great way. It's so satisfying to cross things off on the list knowing that you have accomplished your goals for the day. However, if you are the type who procrastinates and then tries to blame everyone else of everything else for not accomplishing those goals, maybe you need an accountability partner. Your partner or a friend would work. Send them your to-do list or your schedule and ask them to keep you accountable. And let them know that you are happy to repay the favor. Some of us just need a push from an outside source to keep us motivated and moving.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    These are all really great tips. I especially like the idea of scheduling your time, and I understand the need to create and keep a schedule to stay on track. What are some good tips to keep you motivated to stick with the schedule you plan out? What things can you do to ensure you don't deviate from the schedule and get off track?

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Catherine, I agree. We tend to avoid things we don't enjoy doing. For me that's customizing my resume. I am learning not to worry as much about a perfect resume, focus more on pitching employers on why you're the perfect fit instead. I also agree with breaking up activities into smaller tasks. As the article shows, job hunting involves various activities. So it's not just about writing resumes. You could be out and about enjoying yourself in real time while also doing activities that can lead to a job offer.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    In my experience, planning a schedule is one of the most helpful strategies to combat procrastination, especially when fear or hesitance is what is stopping you from completing tasks. I usually create an hourly schedule to keep me on track. It also helps to incorporate 10 minute breaks within the schedule to refresh.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Katharine I am the same way - schedules and to-do lists are my way of life. Should you do a 9-5 search? That is an individual judgment call. You know your own circumstances. It does help to keep you disciplined but you sure will get burnt out quickly. I recommend breaking the day up into manageable segments. Such as so many hours for searching new jobs; so many for responding to the postings including modifying my resume and cover letter for each position; so many for doing follow ups from my job spreadsheet and so on. Or you could decide, upfront, that you will apply for so many jobs per day. If that takes from 9-5 then that's what is needed for you. But if that only takes a few hours then maybe you get to play hooky for the rest of that day. Discipline is good but it's not worth it if it backfires and you dread sitting down to do your job search because you are burnt out! Happy balance will make life so much easier!


    Procrastination is the worst! When I was looking for a job in the past year it took me weeks to finish perfecting my resume because I dreaded doing it. One suggestion that really helps me when I'm procrastinating is too break up daunting tasks into smaller components and commit to doing one or a few each day. This makes the task less overwhelming and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you meet your goals and start making progress in looking for a job.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    Love this article! I need a schedule for everything or else I'm miserable. Do you recommend a 9-5 workday of job searching? It can be overwhelming, but on the other hand, the self-discipline it imposes would likely be helpful.

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