another job search cliche that isn’t true: “looking for a job is a full-time job”

“Looking for a job is a full-time job.”

No, it’s not.

I don’t know why people say stuff like this. It’s one of those simplistic cliches that have ended up getting repeated over and over without being true.

It’s a great way to mislead job-seekers about what an effective job search is really about.

If anyone is really spending 40 hours a week on a job search, stop and regroup. Focus on the essentials instead: applying only for jobs that are truly a strong match, writing great cover letters, having a resume that focuses on your achievements rather than just responsibilities, and making sure you’re tapping into your network.

Go for quality over quantity, and laugh at anyone who tells you it should be a full-time job.

{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    My dad told me that when I was laid off. (I was over 50, but to your dad you’re always a kid!) I found that if I aimed to make a few new contacts a day, ping a few old contacts, check the job boards, do a little research on potential employers, and send a resume here and some thank-yous there, I’d often come to the effective end of the day a bit before noon if I didn’t have an interview. Beyond that I’d start scraping the bottom of the barrel and acting hopeless and desperate. So I’d knock off for the day instead, go outside and get exercise, prepare the vegetable garden, take my husband to a matinee at the dollar theater, and volunteer my time here and there learning new things and meeting people. Half a day job seeking seemed to be the right balance for me to search seriously and still keep spirits high and hirable. It seemed to work. I beat the odds for my job, salary, and age group.

    1. Kristinyc*

      Same here! I had a big list of projects around the house I wanted to do, and I’d job search in the morning and work on projects in the afternoon. It was kind of nice actually. I wish I could still do that…

    2. JessB*

      Reading your comments, I realised I’ve been wasting a lot of time over the past two weeks when I’ve been job searching. You and Allison have inspired me to be much more regimented and also to get personal tasks done too. Thanks for that!

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s not a full-time job. It just FEELS like a full time job because it is so demoralizing and degrading.

  2. Diane*

    I think they just mean that it’s a lot more work than you think and people who are unemployed aren’t goofing off all day.

    There’s always a job posting on a website you haven’t heard of yet! I’d been looking for a job for 3 years and I was still stumbling across websites I didn’t know. Further, when you do get an interview there’s preparation for the interview, researching the company, etc. I never took it to be meant literally, just that a job search is a lot of work and should be taken seriously.

    1. Diedra B*

      I agree. It’s definitely more work than people realize. Add to that, if you’re supposed to do all the other non-application things such as volunteer, intern, network and so on, you’ll keep yourself quite busy.

    2. Curious*

      3 years? That must have been a very challenging time. I hope that you were successful in finding work in the end or will be soon. All the best.

      1. Diane*

        Thanks, I actually have been looking for longer (it’s a long story involving a few city moves) now, but I do have a full-time job, I just would like a new one! But thanks for the good wishes.

  3. Rana*

    It seems to me that there are better uses of your time than spending eight hours or more a day hunting down job offers and sending out applications. That time could also be used to improve your skills, gain or maintain experience through volunteering, re-connect with friends and colleagues you were too busy for before, and so on. It’s also a good time to think about what it is that you want to do with your professional life, and whether the path you’ve been walking is still likely to get you there.

    What I find, as someone who has been unable to follow a steady track in my original career, and who is now pursuing freelancing, is that it’s not that you need to spend all your time looking for work. It’s that you need to keep up the habits of concentration, focus, socializing with peers and colleagues, etc., and not sink into apathy and indifference. Learning to value yourself in ways that don’t depend on holding a specific job title is also important, because one of the hardest things about being unemployed (lack of money and benefits aside) is that feeling of not being valued. Spending your waking hours desperately applying to any job that crosses your path is going to make you feel worse, in my experience, and that helps no one.

    1. Rana*

      I’d also add that it depends a lot on your field and your background. As I noted, I’m shifting into freelance full time this year, and the simple reason is that there aren’t that many jobs in line with my professional background, let alone ones that are either in-area or where it’s possible to telecommute. Sending out applications to the handful of positions for which I was a good match has garnered nothing; three afternoons of in-person networking and sending out query emails about my freelance work has gotten me several good contacts, some potential project offers, and at least one offer that is likely to get me some paid work.

      I do feel for those of you struggling with the requirements of the Unemployment boards. The one time I qualified, I found the hoop-jumping to be incredibly draining and unproductive. The “must be actively looking for work” requirement was particularly awful, in that I was limited to local employers, and 95% of the jobs in my field at the time were out of state. It’s not like a position for assistant or adjunct professor gets posted every week, even when the economy is good, and applying for work outside my range of experience would have been a waste of time for both me and the would-be employer. (Oh, yes, factory components manager, you do indeed want this history Ph.D. to repair your widgets!) Trying to explain the realities of the academic job market (they only post in fall and spring, and no, an assistant professor of biology is not the same thing as an assistant professor of history) to the Unemployment board was quite difficult; I almost lost my benefits because of it.

    2. L*

      “Learning to value yourself in ways that don’t depend on holding a specific job title is also important, because one of the hardest things about being unemployed (lack of money and benefits aside) is that feeling of not being valued.”

      Yes. This.

      Trying to remember to value yourself and not let your self-esteem be completely demolished by the job hunting process is so, so important. Not just for the sake of your mental health (though, obviously, that’s huge) but because your attitude really will come through in your cover letter, resume, interview, etc. Then a vicious cycle ensues: apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for or don’t want, spend less time and effort applying for jobs you do want, get fewer interviews because you’re applying for the wrong jobs, feel crappy about yourself and more desperate for a job, apply for even more jobs you aren’t qualified for or don’t want, etc., ad infinitum. Don’t do this. Been there. It’s not fun.

  4. Anonymous*

    As a note in a lot of states Unemployment will require you to look for work a certain amount (usually full time 32 hours +, or they’ll require a list of contacts or something).

    But often you can count job search related items. So taking computer classes (who can’t use better computer skills), volunteering (hey you never know who could help you find work), talking with friends (again never know), reading a book vaguely related to your field (heck all reading is aiding your reading comprehension skills), writing (who doesn’t need writing skills), or anything else that can be called skills related should be included in that time that you have to spend.

    So be careful with your Unemployment when you listen to AAM’s advise here.

    And some people (ahem, like me) are required to repeat this cliche dozens of times a day. Please don’t laugh at me. I’m just doing my job so I can stay employed. Your former employer is technically paying for you to look for work full time.

    1. Anonymous*

      ^^This! And…

      Perhaps when times were good, people didn’t have to worry about getting a job and could go for a certain period of time without having to work. But times have changed, and in order to get a full-time job – or any job for that matter – one must put in full-time work. And it doesn’t have to be just sitting at a computer typing out cover letters; it’s everything the person who I am answering includes.

      I disagree, respectfully, that this “cliche” is laughable. Not in this day in age.

    2. Anonymouse*

      Agree. Job hunting isn’t just sending out resumes. It involves finding suitable vacancies, learning about your targeted employers, reading annual reports, anticipating & documenting interview questions ( & then practicing your responses. Researching the challenges your industry will see in the coming years. Networking with new faces and re-establishing contact with old ones. Finding out who works where and who can refer you. Joining alumni groups. Going to seminars/lunches. Taking classes. Finally get that certification. Read whitepapers… my head spins. You can easily spend 40 hours in a week doing your homework & send out a single resume.

  5. Wilton Businessman*

    Literally, no. But I think the general gist of the statement is that finding a job is not something you attack willy-nilly. Sometimes this means spending a couple hours to get the cover letter right. Sometimes it means going to dinner with an old colleague to update your network. It means that you’re a professional and your job is finding a job (if that’s what you want to do).

    And who considers 40 hours a full time job? That gets most of us to Wednesday.

    1. Ellen*

      The opposite take on that: I got hired “full time” a couple weeks ago and the way they do it, it’s 9-5 but I have to take an unpaid hour for lunch. So I can only work 35 hours a week. At my other job, a full day is scheduling you for *nine* hours and requiring you to take an unpaid hour for lunch. It’s only a semester long position so I can deal with it but it would be a difference of $95 a week. I guess I didn’t realize that 35 hours would qualify as full time.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        In most jobs where hours/shifts can vary (think retail management, restaurant, etc) Full Time often means 32+ hrs a week.

  6. LP*

    Maybe it wasn’t initially meant to be taken literally, but I had to complete a job searching course a few years ago where they repeated this mantra with absolute sincerity. After you’ve applied for every available job opening (hey, you’re always in with a chance), what do you do with the rest of your day? Spend some time cold calling – but try to find out the hiring manager’s name first, so you can get past the receptionist. Walk the streets and drop your resume in at every business – again, try to get the manager’s name so you can speak to them personally and turn this into a mini-interview. We were constantly told you need to spend at least 40 hours a week submitting applications for jobs – the more the merrier.

    It’s hard to believe, but there are an awful lot of people out there trying to convince others that this is the best way to job hunt

  7. Jonathan*

    Looking for a job was a full-time job for me. I graduated in 2009, the worst possible time to start looking for a job, and I spent a minimum of 40 hours a week looking for jobs, applying to jobs, rewriting my resumes and cover letters, in addition to studying multiple subjects to increase my range of knowledge. Perhaps in other economic times, looking for a job is not a fulltime job, but when there is ~9% unemployment and ~20% underemployment, looking for a job IS a full-time job.

  8. Anonymous*

    I agree job hunting can be time consuming but not something someone needs to spend 40 hours on. However, I would at least call it part-time work. For those that are currently employed (working 40+ hours a week) but looking to make a move, job hunting at the very least can feel like a part-time job. I am currently employed and spending time job hunting at least 3-4 days a week. I have been looking for about 5 months now only applying to jobs I feel can take me on the path of where I want my career to head. Since I have a full-time job I must do my job hunting after work or on the weekends. I totally agree that you should be targeted in your search and send each employer a cover letter tailored for them and that position. Still I find myself spending a good amount of time searching then applying to the things I feel I can qualify for. I even keep a spreadsheet of the jobs I apply for (company, title, log in, feedback, etc.), still it takes time out of my already full day of work. Would you agree it is at least a part-time job? Also, what would you suggest to someone with connections but has a fear of using them because their boss has many of the same connections and doesn’t want it getting back to them that they are searching?

    1. NicoleW*

      I have the same issue. With a full time job, hour commute each way, and parenting – it’s hard to find time to job search for something better. There are days I make time and days I need a break.
      But I also have the similar problem of having nearly all the same contacts as my boss. I have had the same boss and the same boss’s boss for the past 7 years. Many of our independent contractors and consultants are also personal friends of both my superiors. Figuring out networking and references has been rough. We have one current consultant I trust enough that I talk to him about my job search, and we have one past consultant that understands my need to move on. But after that, I’m out of ideas.

  9. Potomac Nick*

    A few months back, I had an serious relationship fall apart in large part because of my employment status. After a week of moping, I decided to follow that advice. It took four hours to me to figure out that I’d looked at everything I was going to find that day. The next day…it was all the same stuff. There’s only so many jobs to be listed. I can’t imagine spending 40 hours a week doing it, simply because there’s not 40 hours worth of stuff to look at and apply to. Unless you’re only applying to Federal jobs, then you can take two hours just to apply to one position. Although I’ll say that with the caveat that I was looking at one city.

  10. Carla Bosteder*

    Most people will get out of their job search what they put into it. If you want to work in your veggie garden in the afternoon, that’s fine for you. Other people may prefer to spend that time beating a few bushes for jobs.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Did you read the comments here? There have been quite a few articulate explanations of why this advice doesn’t make sense for most people. They’re not being lazy; they’re being sensible.

            1. Eva*

              I read it the same way that AAM did. Carla, try breathing deeply and owning up to what you wrote instead of worming your way out. It’ll be a growth experience for you, promise!

              1. Karin*

                Me too.

                I googled Carla and she’s running a career advice site. Her latest advice on twitter is “A resume objective statement is a fundamental part of every resume. Don’t exclude it.” Kinda tells everything we need to know.

          1. Long Time Admin*

            I didn’t get that from Carla’s post at all.

            I read it as her saying some people are better off focusing 8 hours a day on their job searches, and others are better off with 4. You do what’s right for you.

            1. Eva*

              She also wrote: “Most people will get out of their job search what they put into it.” How is that not implying that putting more time into one’s job search will yield a quicker or better result?

              Plus, I really dislike the line she followed up with: “I’m sorry you read that into it.” Apologizing for how someone else perceived something: Condescending fail.

              1. Carla Bosteder*

                Each individual has to do what makes the most sense for them. If I were out of a job, I would not be spending my time focusing on my hobbies. That is my personal choice.

                I agree that quality efforts often outweigh quantity, however, that is not a pass to slack off when you are unemployed and have bills to pay. All efforts have value when done with integrity and sincerity. No one should ever send out resumes randomly, for example. That kind of quantity just doesn’t work.

                And – often working harder and smarter does yield quicker results.

                As for the “I’m sorry you read that into it” comment – I beg to differ with the “condescending fail” comment. Some people will misread comments due to their perceptions of the conversation. I have no control over that.

              2. Eva*

                Carla: “I have no control over that.”

                Which is exactly why it is meaningless and hence disingenuous for you to apologize for it!

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Hey Carla. You’re totally entitled to your opinion, but you clearly are implying that people who don’t spend all their time on their job search are doing something wrong (your reference above to “slacking off,” for instance), so I’m not sure why you denied that earlier. If that’s your opinion, own it. Don’t come here, say something kind of nasty about people who don’t do things the way you think they should, and then act confused when people call you on it. It seems like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth here.

    2. jmkenrick*

      Carla, out of curiosity, how do you find that the job-search takes up a whole 40 hours a week? I’m looking for work right now because my current position is going to be eliminated in a few weeks, but I’ve found that much of the steps of job searching involve waiting to hear back from someone.

      Even when reviewing job boards, if I narrow the field for jobs I’m qualified for, am interested in, and are nearby, it hardly leaves so many that I’ll need to spend 40 hrs a week working on the applications. Of course, there’s also networking, and I do that, but that also doesn’t take hours a day, because you don’t want to reach out to your network so much as to be irritating.

      Are there some other aspects of job searching that you think would cause it to be a bigger time investment?

      1. Carla Bosteder*

        There are a number of things anyone can do to search for a job. Whether it takes 40 hours or not depends upon many things including the position you are seeking, your work habits and your ability to organize your efforts.

        First of all, I believe that each job requires that a resume be tailored for that position. Whether you use a Resume Objective or a Summary of Qualifications, you need to ensure that your accomplishments and credentials are laser focused on that position. Even the body of each resume should be edited, qualifications reworded or shifted to better identify your best traits for the prospective employer. That takes time. The same holds true for each cover letter. Personalize each one and make sure they tell your story as amazingly as possible.

        Next, you need to consider where you look for jobs. Networking isn’t just about contacting your friends and family… or at least it doesn’t have to be. It can be more far-reaching than that. You can join a number of organizations (network-focused or not) and increase your network substantially. The more people you meet (and help), the more you stand to be helped – and the more time it takes. Also, take some time to view news sites and PR news sites. Contact companies in the news and ask them if they are looking for new talent. Directly contacting employers shows initiative and is something many other job candidates won’t do because it is uncomfortable. It takes time to do the research, but it can really pay off. A few other ways to search for jobs includes contacting professional or trade organizations, university web sites and government web sites.

        Something else that reaps rewards, but also takes time is tracking your job search. Let’s say you get invited to a job interview and you are asked to bring additional copies of your resume. Ummm…which resume exactly did you send to that particular company? If you take the time to keep accurate records of what you send to whom, when and for which ad, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. You’ll probably want to whack your head against a wall after awhile because it is labor intensive, but it can really pay off.

        Does all of this take 40 hours each week? I don’t know. It could.

  11. RecentInterviewee*

    Alison, I applaud your sound advice about the inaccurate cliche of “looking for a job is a full-time job.”

    While I seek a full- or part-time position in my chosen field, I am enrolled as a full-time college student working on certifications to help me move forward with my career. Not only will the classes assist with my long-term goals, but completing homework assignments and studying for exams helps to keep me focused on something besides constantly thinking about receiving responses from potential employers.

    I realize not everyone has the time or means to take courses during their job search. Others have mentioned volunteering, possibly taking free webinars, or just catching up with former colleagues and good friends. Anyone in a similar situation should at least consider doing what he/she/they believe will work best given the time, money, and other resources available.

    One point Alison made that I 100% agree with is wisely spending time applying to jobs that you, as a sincere job seeker, believe will fit with your skill sets. Applying to random positions online just to meet a resume-distribution quota wastes your time and may just annoy harried HR folks who are sorting through hundreds of applications.

    However, this is just one job seeker’s experience.

  12. Kelly O*

    There is so much garbage out there as far as job search advice goes, it’s no wonder those of us looking (whether employed or not) wind up scratching our heads wondering which thing is the right thing.

    I know there are people who will think I obviously don’t want a better job badly enough, but there is no way I could make it a full time job. I spend an hour or so every day looking through my job-search matches or skimming LinkedIn or the business journal looking for potential leads.

    That’s it. Is my resume perfect? No. But I’m going to tweak it for pretty much every position I apply so it doesn’t have to be. I struggle with perfectionism anyway, so the second I start worrying about something, I have to step away and give myself a reality check. If words and grammar are good and I’m hitting all the keywords I need, it’s okay.

    And you know what? If I get a little extra time on weekends, I’ll spend some of that looking. But I spend time with my husband and my daughter. I decompress from work. I go for walks. I talk with my mom on the phone. I go to church and volunteer. I play with the cat.

    Now, I realize if I were dealing with unemployment and having to prove all the time I spent working on my job search, things would be different, but it doesn’t mean I don’t take the next step in my career seriously. It just means I’m trying to maintain, if not balance, an overall sense of my own priorities and what I value most in my life right now. At this precise moment, it’s my sanity.

      1. Jamie*

        I wish the phrase “maintaining sanity” would replace “work-life balance.”

        FWIW I think Kelly O has a great approach. It sucks that it’s not a quicker process, but once you find something else the chances of it being a great move forward are far better than if you were just closing your eyes and leaping blind into the first thing that opens up.

        I’ve read your comments for a long time and you have a unique ability to cut through the crap of the workplace and have a really rational common-sense approach to things. When you find the right new job, they’ll be lucky to have you.

        1. NicoleW*

          +1 to both Jamie and Kelly O!

          “I know there are people who will think I obviously don’t want a better job badly enough, but there is no way I could make it a full time job.” I feel the same way. My job search efforts over the past year have waxed and waned. My priorities, keeping my sanity, and figuring out a job that would be a better fit have all played a role in my somewhat turtle’s pace job search.

  13. Kate*

    Whether it is or is not a full time job, I cringed every time yet another person with good intentions felt a need to tell me this or list it in an article about looking for work. The fact that Alison did not mention this in her excellent book was a big plus for me!

  14. Suzanne*

    The job search is maybe not a full time job, but darn close. When I was looking, I was not getting unemployment because I had worked for a religious institution that was not required to pay into unemployment–so they didn’t. I live pretty far out of town and, at that time, had an old, slow computer. It could easily take me an hour or two to fill out the online application. Include in that tweaking the resume to fit the job, and rewriting the cover letter to fit the requirements, and you’ve easily spent half the day or more submitting one or maybe two applications.
    My profession is in the death throes. I networked like mad, but there simply are no full time jobs in this area and moving is not an option. I took a few computer classes, but couldn’t really afford to spend the gas money to drive to a volunteer gig or use resources to take more classes hoping they might possibly, maybe lead to employment.

    I wish it was so simple as to target your search, but it isn’t. I’ve heard too many people try that only to remark that after a while, they gave up and just submitted applications to anyone for anything out of sheer frustration.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve heard too many people try that only to remark that after a while, they gave up and just submitted applications to anyone for anything out of sheer frustration.

      But how did that work out for them? Not well, I’m guessing. I understand the impulse (people want to feel like they’re doing something to move toward their goal), but ultimately it makes more sense to stay focused on what works.

  15. Erica*

    After searching a lot and getting a little burnt out a few months ago I started writing in my cover letter “If the position has already been filled I am eager to learn and am willing to intern, un-paid, if that is a possibility. I am fresh out of college anyway so It’s not like I cared going to a Community College, enrolling in a program and hooking up with their internship coordinator. I ended up landing a great internship and they kept me on, now I get paid to do what I want. I also would suggest others do this through their local community college if you’re thinking of switching careers or trying something new. You come across to an employer as an excited and eager person that really just wants more information and experience in a new type of work, how is that bad? :)

    1. RecentInterviewee*

      Erica, congratulations on your new job!

      Your comment caused me to break out into a full smile. It’s truly fantastic to see someone who took such initiative receive a reward of an internship that transitioned into a full-time position.

      I also agree that community colleges are incredible resources for people either beginning or shifting their career paths.

      Again, I must sincerely write “way to go, Erica” for your desire to get experience any way you could and build on it in a professionally savvy manner to secure a paying position she enjoys.

  16. Scott Woode*

    “Reap what you sow” may sound like a trite Judeo-Christian response but I think it makes perfect sense. I was the most successful at job hunting when I followed AaM’s advice and worked on delivering applications of the best quality that I could muster, which meant that I sent out roughly three (sometimes more) a day until I was too tired to continue my search and then I went about my business running errands, reading, writing in my journal and putting together my grad school applications. The most important piece to “looking for a job is a full-time job” is not that you spend 40 hours a week looking (maybe you do, maybe you don’t) but that the time you DO spend looking is focused, attentive and efficient. AaM and the Turtle are right: Slow and steady (quality over quantity) wins the race (lands the job).

    1. Jamie*

      “AaM and the Turtle are right: Slow and steady (quality over quantity) wins the race (lands the job).”

      I love this. The image of Alison and a wise turtle dispensing advice made me literally laugh out loud. Thanks!

  17. Carla Bosteder*

    I’m clearly having difficulty communicating here. ;) “Most people will get out of their job search what they put into it.” I stand by that. Slacking off does not equal lazy. It means not working full time at something. I’m not trying to say anything nasty about anyone. Why is everyone so quick to jump at everything I say?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because “slacking off” has a negative connotation. It does not mean “not working full time at something.” It means being sluggish and acting without sufficient care.

    2. Joey*

      So Carla,
      Do you tell your clients to write slacking off on their resume when they’re not working full time? You clearly have your foot in your mouth.

      1. Carla Bosteder*

        Slacking off – according to the Free Dictionary is tapering off or not working as hard as usual; to reduce gradually.

        Anyone who chooses to “taper off or gradually reduce” their job search is welcome to do so. What I am trying to get at is that they will likely get fewer responses to their efforts than if they continue to work at it full time.

        Why is this so hard to understand? I’m not being mean.

        Yes, quality, but quantity and time does play a role.

        If someone reduces the time they work on something, it is no longer full time; it is part time. This is neither “good” nor “bad”. I am simply stating that the results will vary depending upon the amount of work a person puts into their job search.

        Please try to just read my words for what they are and not look for hidden meanings.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m going to assume at this point that you honestly don’t understand the negative connotation that “slacking off” has, but please believe those of us here who are explaining it to you.

          If you really don’t see that your message came across as judgmental and kind of nasty, there’s no point in going back and forth about it — but I’d encourage you to consider with an open mind the feedback you’ve had from some of us here, because if you honestly didn’t intend to convey that message, you might have some communication challenges that it would be good to be aware of.

          As for whether results will vary depending upon the amount of work a person puts into a job search, that depends. It depends on the industry and the person. A great candidate may need to do very little to get interviews and offers. Someone else, or someone in a different industry (like academia, using one of the examples given here) may need to do much more. It varies widely — and that’s exactly why this advice is so silly.

          1. Eva*

            “I’d encourage you to consider with an open mind the feedback you’ve had from some of us here, because if you honestly didn’t intend to convey that message, you might have some communication challenges that it would be good to be aware of.”


          2. Anonymous*

            To be honest everything this woman has written sounds condescending and judgemental.

            And the results will vary on a lot more than the effort you put in. In some areas you may only need 2 hours a day to cover all the opportunities available to you at the moment. In other areas you could need all day. Some people will need extra reading and online courses to further themselves. Other people will not and there won’t be stuff out there for them.

            No one is saying that people should set a time clock and once that 2 hours or so has gone they should put down whatever they are doing and let it wait until the next day.

            1. Anonymous*

              Is everyone in this group always so hateful? It seems like folks ought to be allowed to have an opinion.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s not a hateful group of commenters at all — that’s kind of the point. She came into a site that’s typically quite respectful and was kind of nasty. Hence the reaction.

              2. Anon*

                I don’t agree with her position, but I do agree that she’s being unfairly attacked.

                It’s usually pretty civil, but it clearly went off the rails this time. She had a couple of defenders at first, but getting no back-up from AAM probably scared them away.

              3. Anonymous*

                While I love candor and honesty of this forum, I agree that people (not just Carla) are sometimes judged to the point of being criticized.

                What comes to mind recently is the poster who didn’t understand why her mom wasn’t allowed to be her +1 at holiday parties. Numerous people posted about how weird and, basically, immature they thought it was to bring her mom to work functions. To me, the point of the posting was to gain insight on who should be allowed to receive office perks; not receive commentary on who the OP spends time with.

                Submitting questions and opinions on forums is a great place to gain feedback and insight. It’s can also be a great place to see the pack mentality rear its ugly head.

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Anonymous, on the person who was asking about bringing her mom to a work party: I think part of the value of this forum is that you can hear how stuff actually comes across to people. And it’s probably useful to know that a lot of people would think it was odd to bring a parent to a work event. The OP can do with that what she likes, of course, but it’s useful to be aware that some people will perceive it that way. Or at least that’s my take, anyway.

              5. Anonymous*

                Yes, I understand and want to reiterate that I feel these types of forums are a great way to gauge how situations are being perceived by outsiders. However, when words like “weird” and “immature” are used as part of people’s feedback, I feel it goes from being feedback to judgemental statements. There are more constructive ways of letting someone know what they are doing may not be the best way of handling a situation.

                When I was reading comments for that particular post I cringed and actually felt embarrassment for the OP. Not because I felt she should be embarrassed but because , according to others’ reaction, it was almost like she had admitted to taking her dad to the prom.

          1. Vixen*

            I can’t help doing this even though the conversation is old. Aam says slacking off has a negative connotation…
            Carla responds with the “dictionary definition” while continuing to argue about what others read into her comments.
            Connotation is NOT the same as definition. Get out your dictionary again. It is one of my favorite words. And in one of my favorite songs – the beginning is “Slacker: a person who shirks his work or duty; a person who evades military service in war time” Not that I approve of doing such things. I like the song for a different reason but I’m just saying that’s what the word slacker means based on connotation

  18. Anonymous*

    Hm. Should “merely” replying to job ads be a full time job? Maybe for a couple of weeks. But I actually had a rather successful job search, and between the resume/cover letter thing, phone screens, and out-of-town interviews, I did find the process to be quite time consuming. I recall thinking that I would scream if somebody asked me what I was doing with my time while I was unemployed — looking for a job is a full time gig, dontchya know?

  19. Piper*

    When I was laid off, I spent about half my week searching, applying, and interviewing for jobs. The rest of the time, I worked on grad school, volunteering (in an area that built my portfolio), and my personal/professional website. In a sense, everything I was doing was to move me into getting a job, so it really was full-time efforts. But, the actual logistics of job hunting were not.

    1. Mabel*

      Hmm, that sounds like a good plan. I’m looking for a job now. Was set to begin a Spanish class this month that was to improve my previous position, but now will improve my future ones. There are lots of things I can be doing to back up those resumes and cover letters I’m sending out that don’t equate to “pavement pounding.”

  20. Joy*

    “Looking for a job is a full-time job.”

    This made me want to scream, because I actually am looking for a full-time job (not to leave my current job I don’t like, but because I don’t have any job right now). I’ve actually always heard it said “Looking for a job is *like* a full-time job.” Because it is, *like* that. It takes a lot of time, energy, emotional investment and it is full of highs, lows, disappointments, mistakes, and learning opportunities. It can constantly occupy your thoughts and your conversations with friends, family, and strangers (if you let it). What does that sound like? Work! And it feels like full-time work, but without the obvious perk of a paycheck.

    So, no we job seekers aren’t spending 40 hours a week job searching (although we’re definitely spending more than 10). But when we lend each other moral support by saying, “Hey, this job search thing is like a full time job” we’re just recognizing and validating the hard work that goes into job searching. And yes, even though it may not be, it can certainly feel like a full-time job.

  21. KellyK*

    I think that as with a lot of other things, looking at the time you spend is the wrong measure, and it’s better to look at what you actually accomplish. If you send targeted resumes with strong cover letters to three positions that you’re highly qualified for, that’s a good day’s “work” in job-hunting, whether it takes you all day or just all morning. And if you find yourself unfocused and having trouble, taking breaks and working on hobbies can help with that.

    If you decide that you must spend a fixed amount of time on job-hunting, that can lead you to do job-hunting activities that aren’t worth your time, and that add to a feeling of burnout. “Well, I’ve only spent six hours today, I guess I better check Monster *again.*” (Obviously, if you’re obligated to spend those hours to keep getting unemployment benefits, then you look at it the same way you look at a pointless task in any other job, grit your teeth, and do it.)

    On the other hand, if there are lots of openings in your field, or if you’re applying to places with obnoxiously complicated on-line application systems, it might be a full day’s work to put in a few applications.

  22. Brandon*

    Well I have to disagree slightly.
    You see finding other people jobs is my full time job and in fact I work more than 40 hours per week.

    With all of the resources that are available you can easily spend all day every day applying to positions that are a very good fit for your background. You can also make personal connections with recruiters, reach out to employees of company’s you may be applying to, and there are several networking groups that meet on a weekly or even daily basis in every major city that can get you back to work.
    You don’t have to treat it as your full time job some people apply for one position, get one interview and are back to work in a day or two but for others getting back to work can be an exhausting process that consumes more time energy and effort then the position they had before.

    1. Adam V*

      > finding other people jobs is my full time job and in fact I work more than 40 hours per week

      Finding other people jobs is different, though – whereas I can look at a single job listing and say “that’s not for me” and move on, you might have to go look through your entire list of “people I’m searching for” and determine whether it’s a fit for any of them.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is sort of the point though: It varies dramatically from person to person and field to field. So just telling people that their job search should be a full-time job, without regard for their situation, is a bad move, one that’s guaranteed to make people feel like they’re not doing enough and to get them anxious about what else they should be doing, when in fact they might already be doing exactly what they should be doing. It’s not useful advice.

    3. Liz T*

      Well, if one person is searching for jobs for multiple people, obviously that is going to take more time than one person searching for jobs for one person.

  23. Glenn*

    As one who has preached that searching for your next job should be viewed as a full-time job, I have to take issue with your thesis. I do agree with your point, however, that doing busy work for the sake of doing “something” can not be expected to be productive. Your full-time job can be viewed from the same perspective. If you view your full-time job as merely staying busy for 40 hours a week, than your point would be valid. If, however, you view your full-time job as a continually improving process and an endless search for always trying to find new and improved ways to perform your duties, than I stand on my point. A full-time job is not merely sending out resumes and completing on-line applications for 40 hours a week, but continually searching for a person who can introduce you to another person, who can introduce you to another person, who can point you to a company who has a need that matches your qualifications.

    Staying busy for 40 hours a week is not the same as working effectively and productively for 40 hours a week.

  24. Holly @ Carousel*

    It definitely *can* be a full-time job, if you want it to be. But as you said, that’s being ineffective. One of the most important things to do when starting a job search is to review time management tips. With no one supervising your search for you, you’re all on your own, and if you’re not good at managing your time, you could easily be spending 40 hours a week wading through job specs on the web.

    Plan your strategy, determine priorities, and plan tasks with specific deadlines. That’s key in any job hunt.

    And, as someone else commented…if your motivation is down because you’ve been at it for a while or are not searching effectively, it can definitely *feel* like a full time job.

  25. William*

    And…subscribed. Found your blog quite by accident today. Greatly appreciate the frank advice. God bless my parents for trying to help with my job search, but your tips for new college grads seems to square perfectly with what I’ve experienced.

  26. Blogging4Jobs*

    The post was relatively short, and highly generalized. But the comments here are extremely interesting! Such good input on the activities of the unemployed jobseeker.

    On the one hand, a job search is not a full-time job, otherwise those who ARE employed would be unable to search for and attain different positions. On the other hand, when you are unemployed, you spend much more time making yourself look more attractive than other job candidates, by doing networking and job-search related activities, as well as continued learning.

  27. Kelly O*

    Can I just add that we (the collective “we” I mean) need to be really careful about making generalizations about things with broad ranges of potential experiences, like job searching?

    My husband is an IT guy. In the past when his jobs have been downsized, we’ve had periods of unemployment ranging from six weeks to over six months. When the job that moved us back to Texas ended their relationship with him, I was terrified we were going to be back in one of those six month or longer stretches of nothing. He was out of work exactly two weeks.

    As a matter of fact his present employer met him at 10:00 on a Monday morning and he started work at 8:00 on Tuesday morning. Exactly two weeks after he was unceremoniously shown the door, almost to the time. I have my own thoughts on what caused it, but you have to admit it’s rather odd in the current job market.

    And it proves that even in the same field, and in relatively similar positions, you can have a huge variance. Timing, physical location, the people you meet, the conversations you have, everything contributes to what makes your job search uniquely yours.

    I see so many people advertise themselves on LinkedIn as professionals or career coaches who don’t seem to grasp that you absolutely cannot say with 100% certainty that your way of doing something is the best way. What’s the saying about stopped clocks being right twice a day?

  28. kristin*

    People actually take “looking for a job is a full time job” literally?

    I always took it as a put the time in and search for the best fit. If you treat looking for a job like a job you’re actually good at – (working smarter, filtering results and plying responses/tweaking resumes) you’ll spend a good amount of time on the effort, but still have plenty of downtime. The only suggestion I would add is make the most of the downtime by staying upbeat and busy, knock out projects you never had time for, because this down time won’t last.

  29. Piper*

    Here’s an example of why people feel this way: I just spent no less than 2 1/2 hours trying to get through a company’s complicated and badly designed application process. This was after I had already spent a half an hour tailoring my cover letter and resume.

    After I hit the “submit” button (thinking I was done), I was subjected to another 20 “qualifying” questions that included long-form answers and not just radio button selections.

    Also, they required that I fill in an objective.

    So, if I spend 3 hours for just one job and more and more companies are going to these awful online application systems, it can easily take up almost an entire day if I apply for a few jobs like this.

    1. optifex*

      Exactly. Then you find out that they gave the position to someone in-house. I think everyone who has tried to limit their time searching, has tried to work their network, and still is having this experience, can agree your article falls short of the mark.

  30. Gwen*

    Taking your time and being selective during a job hunt sounds great, but what if you need work today to keep a roof over your head! I just graduated from college with a BA, I am 47 and there is no more student loan money. I am appling for anything and everything, I need immediate employment to survive! I apply for 2-6 jobs per day, some are just jobs some are select career opps. I spend at least 1-2 hours applying for just one career opp to make sure the coverletter is perfect. So, for me job hunting is a full time job.

  31. William*

    I have been job searching for my first entry-level job ever since I graduated college 9 years ago. Job searching is definitely a full-time job. I also recommend applying for jobs that aren’t a strong match. Otherwise, I’d starve to death if I didn’t.

  32. Michael*

    If you’re looking long enough, it should become a full-time job in terms of improving yourself, networking, visiting companies and writing letters/resumes. I wouldn’t worry if the search doesn’t start that way. But 99% of advice given by the so-called professionals isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

    So few people even look at resumes for more than a few seconds nowadays, especially in the nonprofit world where research on a candidate or former employer is relatively easy. Unfortunately in the nonprofit world it’s becoming 90% who you know and 10% what you know.

    I know this sounds negative, but unfortunately nonprofits have become very political. So I would focus on deepening relationships with the right people in the right organization and hopefully the right job will open up for you. Since most nonprofits are small, it also wouldn’t hurt to broaden your skills to make it easier to be selected for another job with the same charity (i.e. other than the one for which your hired). By my count, I am trained in technically four professions.

      1. Michael*

        I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for 15 years. Discrimination is rampant and hiring is too often very politically based.

        I had an NYC headhunter encourage me to hide the name of a former employer on my resume because revealing the name would likely lead to discrimination.

          1. Michael*

            No, he was being quite honest. I had a friend finish 2nd for a job with a well-respected nonprofit in my area. The ED told her that her primary weakness was that she was “very white.” I had a similar experience with the same charity.

            Most charities are not professionally run in this regard especially.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Two experiences with one charity doesn’t equate to “most charities are not run professionally and are full of discrimination.”

              Of course there are poorly run ones out there — there are poorly run organizations in every sector. But it’s no more common in nonprofits than it is anywhere else.

              1. Michael*

                A lot of charities get a majority of their money from the government and therefore who you know is critical.

                I was just getting warmed up. I could come up with many more examples just off the top of my head. It’s the biggest joke in nonprofits that grants are supposed to be temporary.

                One executive director from another nonprofit with fancy corporate offices asked me, “Who do you know?” during an interview for a fundraising job. It’s become quite predictable.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Who you know is actually a reasonable question in an interview for a job as a fundraiser; fundraising above a certain dollar level is all about building relationships.

                2. Michael*

                  I don’t see the reply button for the below entry, so I’ll just answer here. It’s supposed to be more about your relationship building ability than who you know since the people you know may not have an interest in the mission of your new employer as opposed to your old employer.

                  A related problem is that established nonprofits year after year keep taking grant money from public and private sources that is normally meant to be temporary. This reduces the chances of a new nonprofit with a good idea getting seed money.

  33. optifex*

    Remember to take some time to work on a personal project. Why waste all of your time looking for a job when you can print money by writing a book, or create cash flow by building a company?

    Also, you’re right, networking is way funner than blasting resumes.

    That said, looking for a job can be INCREDIBLY time consuming, and I think your statements fail to encapsulate exactly how much time and effort people are forced to pour into this endeavor. Quite frankly, often it is fruitless. And of course they’d rather use their time more effectively, or fruitfully. That’s the hell of looking for a job, is that you know you could be more productive, but you’re forced to LOOK FOR A JOB.

    Not only do people not realize you’re spending that much time, but they look down on your for not working. Then, having to deal with people saying you’re spending too much time? It’s too much.

  34. Maria*

    I agree with the post and I’m speaking from experience. I’ve remained employed all throughout the recession at a bunch of different jobs, most of which I enjoyed, and not once did I spend full-time hours looking for any of them. Instead, I focused on what skills I already had, thought about local companies I thought I might want to work for, and started looking at their websites or applying in-person. I did as perfect a job as I could with my cover letters and resumes, which actually took more time than applying and interviewing.

    I am now looking for work again while working because I want something much more permanent and full-time, and this time I’m actually spending 60 hours a week as my hours are temporarily less, but I can’t imagine anyone who is unemployed doing the same without losing their minds. Spending even 40 hours a week just job hunting instead of doing a variety of job-hunting related things is a recipe for very quick burnout and depression.

  35. Rich*

    When I google the 40 hours for job searching, I do see people saying to not think of it that way, including this blog. I do know that it is a matter of results. HOWEVER, I do want to think of it this way: Exactly what can I commit at least 8 hours a day to that would end up maximizing my chances at having a successful career, now that I am between assignments/jobs and have time to do? That is what I would like to try to get answered. Would like to find a way to plan my day better. I would count reading stuff on an area, skills building, and other things, as part of it.

    This partly came to mind when the state of NY was DEMANDING that everyone who was in their system show how they spent 8 hours of their day job hunting. That did end up making me think what could be done better. And one advantage of keeping busy is that it helps build momentum and ward off getting depressed.

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