Written by Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator
I’ve talked before about the importance of job seekers staying organized and setting goals. A really important part of being able to stay on target is learning how to say no (or at least “maybe”) to all the people, projects, commitments, and other distractions that lead you to fill up your time, leaving less for the search.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s great to be involved in your community (or kid’s school, or church, or whatever group you’re a part of). And just as you may sometimes depend on your family for help, there are times when you need to be the helper. But being the go-to person can be a slippery slope, especially if you’re feeling pressured to fill up your day because you’re not working for pay.
Here are some tips for setting boundaries with yourself and others:
Don’t let others guilt you into filling up your time. While you may not be working full-time for pay, that doesn’t mean that others have an unlimited right to your time and energy. It’s reasonable to think that you may be more available for things like driving someone to a daytime doctor appointment or volunteering the classroom, but you should decide in advance how much time you can reasonably commit. Plan and schedule each week’s job search activities so you have a clear idea of how much time you can spare for other activities. Don’t apologize or automatically re-arrange your planned job search activities to accommodate others’ requests.
Choose wisely. If you opt to spend time volunteering, pick an organization or activity that is either personally meaningful/significant or one will help you reach your career goal. If you’re volunteering for the sake of getting out the house and adding structure to your day, find something related to your field – you’ll be doing good and meeting potential contacts at the same time. On the other hand….
Don’t look for the payoff. Doing good for others can certainly be its own reward, and you need to go into any commitment or favor expecting that will be the case. It would be nice to think that every time you volunteered it would turn into a full-time job you love or net some great contacts in your field or lead to public praise and recognition – and sometimes it does – but you can’t assume that will be the case. Volunteering can be pretty thankless work, so be sure you’re willing to put in the time without additional expectations.
Beware of overcommitting. If you’re used to working full-time, the prospect of 168 unscheduled hours per week can seem downright terrifying. But saying yes to every request that comes along can very quickly take up a significant chunk of those hours, leaving little time and – perhaps more importantly – energy and inclination to work on the job search. Don’t respond automatically when someone asks you for assistance; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for some time to think it over or check your calendar, particularly for a large or long-term obligation. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you.
As with so many other things, balance is important. Keep in mind that while love and enthusiasm may be boundless, time and energy are not. Choose the ways you’ll spend your non-job search time carefully, and you’ll find that those commitments are ones you’ll enjoy keeping even when you’re gotten your career back on track.