Unemployment is hard. Use time management to help you through it.
While this is article stands alone, this is also Part 5 of New Graduate’s Guide to Becoming a Business/Data Analyst.
- Time Management — How to Keep Your Sanity During Your Job Search
- Make a daily schedule
- Make sure there’s at least of each of these things in your schedule
- Have something else going on — preferably multiple things
- Set small goals
- Take care of yourself
- Give yourself a break
Make a daily schedule
Look, I’m a not routine person. But when you’re living in your parents’ basement in the midst of a pandemic, or simply out of school for the first time in your life trying to do something you’ve never attempted before, you need to do something to ground yourself.
Just make a schedule, try to stick to it, and for fuck’s sake, it doesn’t have to be as intense as school.
For most of my job search, I aimed to do job-search related stuff for at least 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, and it was plenty. For comparison, I usually spent 10 hours a day, 6 days a week doing homework or attending class during college.
If you decide to try a similar schedule, let yourself stop working after you’ve finished your allotted hours. Even if it feels like you’ve done nothing — trust me, you did something today if you worked that long.
Your schedule can be as vague or precise as you like. And since it’s just you making a schedule for yourself, it can be very strange. Maybe you break down each hour into specific activities, or maybe your schedule is “wake up at noon, brush my teeth, eat breakfast, network and job search for 5 hours, and play Call of Duty until 3 am”. The beautiful thing about being unemployed is that IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Just come up with a routine or schedule that you can stick to at least a few days a week. It will probably take some tinkering to figure out, and it will probably change as you move along in your job process. And yes, it still counts even if you only sort of follow it a few days a week (speaking from experience — also my old therapist said it counts).
Include necessary tasks, pleasurable tasks, and meaningful tasks in your routine/schedule
That said, try to make sure that each day includes these three components:
- Things that you need to do (necessary tasks)
- This category will probably be pretty apparent to you. This is the finding jobs to apply to, the networking, the cover-letter writing. However, it also might be time you spend making data visualization projects.
- Things that you enjoy doing
- I’m not going to lie, I watched a lot of TV. I got really, really into House Hunters International. (Did you know that there is an entire neighborhood of London where many flats are converted horse stables and now they rent for like $1200 per month?)
- But seriously — maybe it’s talking to a friend, or playing video games, or taking a run, or drawing. Just do something that is relaxing and/or fun for you and don’t feel bad about not using this time to convince someone to pay you for your labor.
- Things that feel meaningful
- This is the trickiest category to figure out, but it will be the key to you keeping your sanity through long weeks of hearing absolutely nothing from any of the jobs you applied to.
- Figure out something that makes you feel like you’re doing something that matters or that is validating or that you are making clear, measurable progress on. In short, find something that makes you feel excited to do it and proud of yourself when you accomplish goals related to it. It might have something to do with your job, or it might not.
- For me, there were 4 main things that fell into this category:
- Bluebonnet Data Fellow volunteer work: I happened to be applying for jobs during fall 2020 and got involved with Bluebonnet Data, and I build a Covid-19 tracker for a rural Texas house district and supported Democrats in Michigan.
- Blogging. Obviously, this is a blog, but I didn’t start blogging until I started looking for a job. Honestly, I started blogging because I thought it might help me get a job, which I think it did. However, seeing that even a few people read my posts on Medium and even clapped for them gave me validation when I was feeling very alone and confused and not sure if I was on the right path or doing the right things.
- Rock climbing. When Covid-19 restrictions were soft enough to let the rock climbing gyms open with limited capacity, I went quite frequently. I improved enormously over just 4 months — I went from bouldering V0s and V1s to being a solid V2 climber, and struggling on 5.8 top roping to flashing (completing on the first try) V9s and completing V10s.
- Meditation. A key part of my routine was taking a walk every day and meditating on a bench or the ground during the walk for about 10 minutes before I started doing any job-related work. It really helped me deal with anxiety and also I felt like I was doing something virtuous/meaningful by taking care of myself.
- As you can see, two of my “meaningful” activities ended up being job-related, and two weren’t. However, even when my meaningful activities were job-related, the key is that I chose to do them primarily because I was excited about them, and secondarily because they could help me get a job.
Have something else going on
Maybe that something else is your meaningful tasks, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Spend your weekends protesting for racial justice or volunteering at an animal shelter.
Just have something going on that directs your attention away from your job search for at least 5 hours per week.
Set small goals and challenge yourself to meet them
Obviously, you have one major goal in mind: get a job. But in the interim, it really helped me to set smaller goals that helped me move forward in my job search. I recommend setting daily and/or weekly goals.
- One day I decided that I was going to read job postings and find two jobs that I felt I was an excellent fit for, instead of just applying to every job that had title “Data Analyst”.
- Another day, I set a goal to spend 5 hours working on a data visualization project.
- One week, I decided that I was going to complete an entire project that I had been working on by Friday.
- I will build a draft of my website by the end of the week.
- I will set up two networking informational interviews this week.
While it was challenging to keep myself accountable to these kinds of goals, I felt accomplished when I managed to actually achieve them.
Take care of yourself
You’re not going to be able to find a job if you’re living off Cheetos and Red Bull. Take the time to cook healthy meals for yourself, exercise regularly (even if it’s just going out for a 10 minute walk), and do whatever else makes you feel like a happy, healthy human.
Sometimes, you will spend 2 hours cooking a nice meal for yourself and then feel too exhausted to go to yet another boring networking event. This is okay. Job searching is hard. Making that tofu and veggies was still worth it — it’ll make it possible for you to finish your latest data visualization project tomorrow.
Give yourself a break
Again, it’s not school. If you were anything like me and my friends, you pushed and pushed and pushed through the semester until a break and then you collapsed in exhaustion safe in your childhood bed.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Except, unlike an actual marathon, you don’t know long the race is or who you’re competing against. In school, you know exactly when your work will let up. In the job search — not so much.
So while it may seem as if looking for a job full-time is easier than school, it has its own unique challenges.
First of all, you are dealing with tremendous uncertainty and uncertainty sucks. Will that job I applied to offer me an interview? Was that cover letter good enough? Will I get an offer in November, or in February? Who else is interviewing for the position that I’m interviewing for?
Secondly, you have to make your own schedule 95% of the time and this is very difficult. Have compassion for yourself. Unless you have insanely helicopter-y parents, no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re applying for jobs instead of being on Facebook all day.
Give yourself credit for the fact that this is really hard, so if you feel like it’s too hard one day, just let yourself watch TV. You can look for a job tomorrow. Seriously.
Third, for many of us new grads, this is the first real job that we’re trying to find. And regardless of the field, the hardest job to find is your first job. I talked to many people and confirmed this fact over and over again.
And, you, you very brave young person, are trying to do in the midst of a global pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So not only are you trying to do the hardest job search that you will likely face in your life, but you are trying to do it without interacting with anyone outside your household and with the fear and grief that comes from living through this time.
All of this is to say, be kind to yourself. It’s hard and lonely and you WILL get through it. If you need to take a random week off in February because you just can’t handle anything right now, go for it. If you could only get yourself to do 2 hours of job-work today and all you did was unsuccessfully debug something, give yourself credit for doing 2 hours of hard, thankless work! You managed to move forward even when it was difficult.
- You will get a job.
- It is still a pandemic, there is still an economic crisis, and it is ALWAYS hard to get your first job.
- You are getting closer to finding a job each day.
- It is okay to feel bad.
- It is okay to feel good.
- Your feelings and expressions of those feelings are valid, even if they seem irrational and inconvenient.
— — — —
A New Graduate’s Guide to Becoming a Data/Business Analyst
Part 1: How to Become a Business Analyst 2021
Part 2: Skills and Projects You Need to Get a Data/Business Analyst Position
Part 3: How to Network and Use LinkedIn to Find a Job
Part 4: How to Use Professional Groups to Find a Business Analyst Job 2021
Part 5: How to Keep Your Sanity During Your Job Search