How long should your job search really take?
One of the number one (if not THE number one) complaints job seekers have is how long it really takes to find a new job. So, what’s a reasonable expectation?
It’s not uncommon for me to meet a new job seeker who is looking to change careers completely. They’ve got to rebrand themselves, update their resume, make new networking contacts, and interview for and land a new job. When I ask when they’d like to have a new job, they casually say, “I’m thinking about four weeks from now.”
Does this sound reasonable? Well, it depends. Many people land jobs when they aren’t expecting them. They seem to drop out of the air when a family friend suggests you come work for him, or an old boss calls up to check in.
Unfortunately, these jobs that drop out of the air don’t always match our expectations. They can leave us feeling unhappy at work. When we are actively job seeking, it’s often because we want to find something new and different — a job we actually like.
I think of the entire process a little like buying a car. Many years ago, before I went to graduate school, I was in the market for a new car. It didn’t need to be fancy. It just needed to be reliable and get me from place to place. Finding the car took very little time and was a relatively pain free process.
Just a few years ago, I was in the market to buy a car again. This time, I wanted a specific kind of car: a sports car. I researched all the available models. I test drove them in multiple cities. I compared coupes to convertibles — with hard and soft tops. I even rented one for a week to see what I thought of driving it around with the top down. I graphed the depreciation over time. I got estimates on the price of car insurance. I researched the maintenance on the various cars.
When I finally decided on the kind of car I wanted, I set out to find the perfect one — nation wide. I looked at dealerships, on eBay, and on other car sites. Eventually, I narrowed it down to three cars. I hired a professional mechanic to inspect each car to be sure they were in good shape. Then, I began negotiations with the dealerships that had the cars. Once I picked my future car, I signed the paperwork and had the car shipped to me cross country.
This process that had taken just weeks the first time around had taken over a year the second time. But, I wanted more than a car that would take me from Point A to Point B. I wanted a special car; a specific car. And, in time, I found it.
This same rule applies to job seeking. When you graduate from college and are looking for your first job, it’s likely that you’re more flexible on your requirements. You’d accept a job anywhere, paying any amount of money, doing a large number of different job functions. You just need a job. You need experience, and you need to pay your rent.
But, over the years, you learn what you like and what you don’t. You become more specialized in your career. You want to be in a certain city, or region. You have a family to support, so you need a certain level of income. You want a boss with a certain leadership style. You want a company whose values align to yours in some way.
The more specific you are in your job search, the fewer jobs there are that meet your criteria. A CEO job is a great example! For every company with thousands of employees, there’s just one CEO. Therefore, it takes much longer to find a CEO job than a job that reports to the CEO.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s great to know what you want. The more specific you are, often the happier you will be in your new job. But, it will also take longer to find. The chances that the perfect job will show up after just a few weeks of looking is slim. But, if you stick with your search, the right job will come along in time.
Here’s a graphic I designed a few years ago to share with my clients on how to think about the time it takes to get a job. As you can see, the more requirements you have, the longer it takes. The more flexible you are, the faster it is to find a job.
Keep this graph in mind to keep your expectations in check. It will help to lower your frustration level, and keep you moving forward with your search!
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.