The average job search can take anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on factors like your industry, your experience, and the economy. That’s a lot of ambiguity—and if you’re feeling a time crunch, it’s not a very helpful statistic. If you’re seeking to put the job hunt timeline on your own terms, there are things you can do to maximize the time you do have. Let’s look at three different job search plans to make the most of your valuable time.
The 90-Day Plan
Let’s say you’ve given yourself three months to find a new job. It can a pretty spacious timeline, allowing you to take your time on all of the necessary elements. You can use some of that time at the start to figure out what you want to do.
- Are you looking for the same kind of job you had/have now?
- Are you thinking about a career change?
- What would you like to do next?
A less urgent timeline helps here, and gives you the opportunity to really consider what your next steps are.
With 90 days, you have the time to do a deeper dive. Translation: you’re not just blitzing every related job opening you can find with your resume. You have time to research potential target companies and adapt your application materials (resume, cover letter) accordingly. Now is also the time to start really looking at your network to see if there are the kinds of targeted job opportunities you can pursue over the next 90 days.
With 90 days, you don’t have all the time in the world to learn how to do something from scratch, but you do have time to boost skills, or take a refresher. The average online course is eight to nine weeks, so this gives you time to work on some next-level skills—especially if the class is self-paced.
Take the time to overhaul your resume. Seriously, do it. You’ve got a few months in your plan, and if you really want to get the most out of it (and maximize your interview-stage potential), your resume has to be spot-on. Start from scratch—no shortcuts!
It’s about quality, not quantity. If you haven’t already, start reaching out to targeted people who may be just outside of your network, friends of friends, or someone you met once and added to LinkedIn, but who now just happens to work at the company where you want an “in.” Because so much hiring is done based on who you know and not always what you apply for, as much time as possible in your 90-day plan should be devoted to bolstering your network. Hiring expert Lou Adler recommends spending 60% of your time networking if you want to score a new job within 90 days.
Your Interview Prep
Build in a little interview preparation every day. This could just be five minutes as you’re getting ready in the morning, or a few quiet moments before you hit your pillow at night. Things to work on in the meantime, so that they come naturally when the time comes:
- Your handshake. Grip is key here (think confident, but not arm wrestler), so it can take practice to get the right combination of strength and moderation.
- Your body language. Things like eye contact and posture can be your best assets in making a good initial interview impression.
- Your outfit. You have time to think about what your go-to interview outfit(s) will be, and then make sure they’re cleaned, pressed, and ready to go as soon as you get that “hey, come meet us and talk about the job” email.
- Your talking points. Take your resume and come up with real-life examples for each bullet point. Practice talking about them, ideally with a trusted friend or family member, so that you get comfortable talking about yourself and your achievements.
By putting extra effort into the pre-work and crafting a strong base for your job hunt (serious consideration of job openings and companies, a rebuilt resume, time spent building skills and personal habits that will benefit you in the future), you’re making the most of those 90 days.
The 60-Day Plan
If you have about two months before you’d like to see yourself settled in a new gig, you’ve still got buffer time to do some quality building when it comes to your application package.
Like with the 90-day plan, you have time to focus on particular areas or companies and do your research. But because 60 days will pass quickly, it’s time to increase the intensity. Your job search should be highly focused, with you looking for the best-fitting opportunities that align with your goals. If you’re unsure about what you want to do next or what job openings you want to go for, take the time to reflect on your goals for this job search (beyond “get a job”) and your immediate professional goals. It takes some time up front, but will save you time later on in the 60 days.
Sixty days can be enough time to brush up on skills on your resume that could be stronger, or to revisit old skills that you want to feature for a particular job. Self-paced online courses can help you get the crash course you need, or even just a self-study program where you’re intensively researching things online, reading up on new trends, etc. And let’s face it—there’s a YouTube video for everything these days, so there’s no shame in using those for your skill-building! The most important thing here is, again, focus. It’s not really enough time to say, “hmm, maybe I really should start to learn HTML.” It’s more like, “Okay, I have these basic HTML skills. What do I need to bump them up on my resume?”
With 60 days on the table, it’s still worth it to rebuild your resume from the ground up—it doesn’t have to be a long undertaking, just a focused one. You’ll also want to take the time to take another editing pass and optimize your resume, which can help you get more out of applications.
Cultivating people in your network by having email conversations or even having a coffee IRL is great, but there’s no replacement for human contact. However, with 60 days to meet your goal of getting a new job, there might not be that luxury. That’s why networking tools become so handy in this two-month window. LinkedIn is a good starting point to start focusing your networking efforts. Are there people who work at your target companies? An old friend who you know happens to be married to someone in your field who might be hiring? It’s time to harness the power of what you’ve already got.
That’s not to say you should neglect starting new relationships, but on your more aggressive timeline it’s most important to maximize what you have.
Your Interview Prep
Like the 90-Day plan, you have some time to prep. Practice your body language skills especially, and rehearse your talking points. And the earlier in the two-month window you have that interview suit dry cleaned and ready to rock, the better.
The 30-Day Plan
If your plan is a 30-day one for whatever reason (like economic urgency, or you need out now of a terrible gig), then that’s a daunting goal, but a do-able one. There just isn’t much wiggle room or time for blowing things off. If you’re serious about getting a new job in a month, then that means your focus has to be on the job hunt.
It’s time to come up with a hardcore job hunt time budget. With such an aggressively short window of time, you really don’t have the luxury of saying, “Oh, maybe I’ll do that this week.” Instead, write down your list of job search goals for the week and attach specific days/times to them. For example:
Monday: Check saved job searches, research job openings at ABC Company.
Tuesday: Call Karen about potential referral for ABC Company.
Wednesday: Follow up with HR at XYZ Company about application.
Whatever time you have available, figure out how you can set a time budget and stick to it. The closer you stick to that plan, the less likely you’ll be to fall off schedule, and discover that 20 days have gone by before you hit your early checklist goals. Figure out where you can devote chunks of time (ideally each day) to check things off on your list.
At this point, you need to go with the skills you have, or ones that you can learn very quickly by researching online or playing with programs (like finally learning how to do a vlookup, or revisiting how to use Adobe Photoshop). Focus on the core skills you want to feature most prominently on your resume and in interviews.
It’s definitely crunch time, which means you don’t really have a week to write, edit, and seek feedback on your resume. So let’s truncate that a bit. Start with some of the great tools that are already available, like resume templates you can use as a starting point.
But—and I can’t emphasize this enough—never skip the proofreading step. If you have zero time, give it the most thorough check you can. And if it’s at all possible, have someone else read it. They may notice mistakes that passed right under your hurrying eyes. Simple mistakes can put your resume in the “no thanks” pile quickly, so even with a short schedule, you need to take the time for those extra steps.
Whoever you have on your side now, that’s the squad you’re taking into battle. Focus on the people you already know who can help you with your job search. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, or any professional contacts you have, and don’t be shy about letting people that you’re on the lookout for a new job. Though that comes with a caveat: if your search is on the DL because you don’t want your current boss to find out, you’ll still want to be a little discreet. No blaring Facebook posts saying, “I’m looking for a job!”
Your Interview Prep
As with other aspects of your job search, your interview prep should be laser-focused on the resources you have. Identify your most interview-ready outfit, and get it ready to go: dry clean, fix any messy bits (like loose threads or saggy hems), and dust off your lucky interview shoes. Your schedule is so aggressive that you need to be ready to go almost immediately for interviews—if you get an interview tomorrow, you may not have time to rush around getting ready.
It’s also important to know your resume points backwards and forwards, so you can speak to any aspect of it on short notice.
However much time you’ve assigned to your job search plan, the most important thing is to maximize whatever time you do have. Coming up with a goal-oriented plan is a great start, and will help you make the most of the coming weeks. Good luck!