On Careerealism there is a post with 14 tips for working from home (here). I was going to link to it and say go read it, but it is about working from home for an employer. It is a great read, if that is what you are doing, but I want to submit my own tips for job seekers who work from home.
A surprise in my job search was that I changed from a structured environment where I had a system and expectations to a lazy boy chair and laptop, and not much else. I wasn’t sure where to start, how to fill my day, and what to expect to have accomplished by the end of the day. With that in mind, here are my tips. I would love to hear yours, in the comments.
- Have a PURPOSE. My overall purpose was to get a new (and better) job. But I didn’t break that down into the steps to take each day/week/month. My purpose was too big, and I got lost in the ambiguity. My daily purpose should have been bite-sized, acheivable goals, like “contact three people from target companies” or “follow-up with three people I contacted 30 – 60 days ago.” Not having a short-term purpose meant I never accomplished my long-term purpose. People, I put this as #1 for a reason!
- Prioritize. Okay, you have a purpose. Make sure you do (a) the most important, or (b) the scariest things first. If you do all of the easy, comfortable stuff first, you will not get to IMPORTANT. If you don’t know why that is important, brush up on 7 Habits (the four quadrants). My business coach talks about doing Three High Value Activities every day. Honestly, if I do those three, I am “done” for the day. Everything else is gravy. I have peach of mind that I’m doing the most important stuff with consistency. I can do it all by 8:30 in the morning… of course I continue to work, but I feel GOOD about moving forward (and, I see results!).
- Create a system. I heard this from a professional speaker (Kathy Loveless) and was blown away as she described her system. Now, here’s my caution. Don’t spend too much time creating your system. Do your High Value Activities and then work on your system. But yeah, get a system. This might include when you get up, showering and getting dressed, personal study time, cleaning and eating, etc.
- Honor the system. This was the second part of Kathy’s presentation. Once you create the system … DO IT!! Actually do it! Give it a chance! Don’t tell me all the reasons why you can’t do it.
- Create boundaries. This is the low-hanging fruit, obvious list item. But not having the right boundaries will kill you. My young kids new when to leave me a long (when the door was shut, or when I was on the phone, or something like that). Create boundaries and help people know what they are. People will respect that. My wife, as a homeschool mom, had a boundary that she would not answer the phone before 1pm. She either turned off the ringers or let it go to voice mail. This was a powerful boundary that let her get through school without getting any outside distractions.
- Exercise. I neglected this and I dearly paid for it. This doesn’t have to be intense, heavy metal, profuse sweating. Consistency is your friend. I have grown to love WALKING and doing what I call “stairs push-ups” (push-ups on an incline – I have a bad back and weak abs – there, I’ve said it!). The physical benefits are awesome. The peace of mind from being proactive is awesome. And heck the endorphin brain thing is awesome. It doesn’t take that long (20 minutes?) to knock this off your daily list.
- Eat right. My idea of eating right was way off. Here’s a thought: are you eating to feed your cells (nutrition provided to your body) or to feed your belly (to make you feel full, or take the hunger away)? Much has been written about eating, so I won’t go into it, but I love that phrase/question.
- Get out of the house. I was “so busy” online doing a job search that I didn’t go out much. That was NOT good for my wife, for my personal hygeine (why do it when you don’t have to?), and for my sanity. Please get out regularly, and see real people. If nothing else, go to the mall and people-watch. Get out… get fresh air! Go to network events, go the library, and try and get lunches/breakfasts set up with people you need to network with.
- Avoid internet distractions. It is so easy to just look at the news… and then two hours later get back to real life. Sure you might “deserve a break,” but don’t let those breaks become how you spend your day. Distractions are abundant online (even LinkedIn Signal can be a major distraction). Go back to the first point in this list and make sure you spend your time on your purpose.
- Give yourself a break (in Career Realism, this is #9: Understand your work style). If you haven’t figured it out yet, you are probably different than other people. Some might be very disciplined in X, and you are disciplined in Y. Some are awesome at networking, others at organization, others at ____. Don’t compare yourself, and beat yourself up. Understand who you are, how you work, and focus on your purpose with your strengths, instead of beating yourself up because of your perceived weaknesses. Here’s a life tip: the people you think are awesome… they have weaknesses, and many times see your strengths and wish they had them. Stop comparing, give yourself a break, and move forward.
- Stay organized. Use JibberJobber to organize your job search. I can’t tell you how many people say “I wish I would have known about this last week,” last month, etc. Look, the reality is your job search will either be long, or you’re going to have a lot of data (network contacts, where you applied, follow-up needs, etc.). You can try and monkey around with other systems (Excel, etc.) but when you are ready to get serious about your career, get on and use JibberJobber. And make sure to jump on a JibberJobber user webinar. The peace of mind you can get from feeling like you are in control of this data can be priceless.
- Don’t hide from your job search (by being overly organized??). When I worked at the FBI as a clerk I remember days where I would “organize my files.” I was bored out of my mind and the only thing I could do was go through, again, my file cabinet. It was a useless exercise. As a job seeker it’s easy to revert to something that kind of makes you feel productive, but in the end, provides no value. Don’t waste time on activities that are not helping you with your purpose! I see job seekers do this by applying online too much, by tweaking their spreadsheet, and many other things.
- Each night, plan for the next day. I have learned that if I take a few minutes to list what I need to accomplish the next day (even listing my High Value Activities for the next day), my next day goes much, much better. If I don’t do that, and try to figure out what I’m going to do in the morning, I find most of the morning gone, unproductive, before I really get started.
Those are my tips. What would you add?