Notes from a Job Search: Staying Motivated

A CFO on the job hunt talks about how to endure a long, lonely process.

With so many people caught between jobs these days, CFO asked Gary Starr, a CPA and MBA who most recently headed finance at a professional-service firm, to write about his current experience looking for a new position. In the second installment of a series, Starr advises how to structure the search and avoid mental roadblocks.

Searching for a job can be a lonely and arduous process. As finance types, we have additional factors working against us. For one, we never think we’ll be out of a job, so we don’t care about networking. Then, when we are unemployed and need to network, we’re not all that good at it.

It’s certainly a culture shock to suddenly be home every day instead of going to work. But at some point in our careers, we have all had to get up, dust ourselves off, and begin something new with zeal and enthusiasm. That’s the way you need to approach a job search.

The key to maintaining a successful search is to be organized and active. Here are some tips to keep you hungry and busy.

Set Goals

You need to plan your day and set daily goals. Right now my goal is 10 “touches” a day. This doesn’t mean that I actually have to speak to 10 people; it just means that I reach out to 10 people through e-mails or phone calls. These people aren’t total strangers but rather came to my attention through networking sources, and are therefore highly likely to respond. (If I do reach out to strangers, that only counts as an ancillary “touch.”)

By setting a goal, I push myself to continually reach out to new people and stay motivated about my job search. I may not always be successful, but I am always thinking about whom to contact. You can start with a smaller number, but as time progresses and your network grows, the goal should be increased.

Plan Beyond
the Day

You not only need to plan your day, you also need to plan your week. You should never wake up and wonder, “What am I going to do today?” Have a plan for each day, even if it only involves having breakfast with friends, exercising, planning dinner, writing an article, cleaning the garage, or volunteering your time.

Making appointments with potential contacts, admittedly, is very difficult. Most people are averse to meetings, and you will run up against a lot of cancellations. But it’s important to constantly persevere and get on as many calendars as possible.

Stay on the Radar

“Out of sight, out of mind”: it is very easy to be forgotten. But it is also very easy to be considered a pest. How do you stay on people’s radars without annoying them?

I have found that almost all my networking contacts are receptive to receiving monthly e-mail notes about my search. I always keep the notes short and put in a sentence about my progress. Most people don’t respond, and that’s OK. I have had people say to me later, “I get your e-mails and even though I don’t respond, it’s good to see your name pop up as a reminder.” Consequently, many have sent me leads just because I keep in touch with them. Nothing is more invigorating and motivating than having your network send you leads. It keeps you going and gives you faith.

Without question, searching for a job in the current economic climate is hard; the process can be lonely and long. But by setting goals, planning ahead, and staying on the radars of your network, you’ll keep busy, stay invigorated, and make the process easier. — Edited by Alix Stuart

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