How to stop procrastinating and (finally) get your job search going

Would you rather, say, paint your garage instead of update your resume or apply to jobs? Career coach and author Larry Finkelstein shares some tips on how you can get motivated to job search.

How to stop procrastinating and (finally) get your job search going

Find motivation to start job searching now.

Be honest: Have you ever avoided doing something scary by giving yourself a list of other things to do first? Maybe you organized your closet, cleaned out the attic, or even binge-watched an entire series.

We’ve all been guilty of procrastination, no more so than when we know we have to look for a job. In fact, longtime career coach Larry Finkelstein has advised so many procrastinating job hunters over the past 30-some years that he decided to call his new book …and then I painted the garage. “We all fear rejection,” Finkelstein says. “So, rather than face the possibility of hearing ‘no,’ it’s tempting to stay busy doing other things instead.” Just one problem: Your dream job won’t come to find you while you’re doing household chores.

So, put down the brush and step away from the can of paint because …and then I painted the garage: Getting the job you want in the least amount of time is here to help. A thorough and thoughtful step-by-step guide to career planning, the book starts with a series of quizzes designed to pinpoint exactly which kind of job is right for you.

“Most people don’t realize they need to know their own strengths before they start job hunting, so they have a clear mental picture of where they will fit in and thrive,” says Finkelstein, who is head of human resources consulting and outplacement firm Transition Management Associates as well as a licensed psychotherapist. “Even a little bit of preparation can help your job search a lot.”

He asks his coaching clients to put in two full weeks of detailed introspection at the outset of a search, in large part because Finkelstein says finding the right job “is about much more than just work. First, understand what your life is about, what matters to you, and what you are passionate about. Then, narrow that down to possible careers, and then you’re ready to look at specific jobs.”

Monster recently spoke with Finkelstein about how to move forward with your job search.

Q. Job seekers often hesitate to apply for a job unless they have every single requirement listed, but you recommend applying even if you’re not 100% qualified. Why?

A. What people usually don’t realize is that a job description is a wish list. When I consult with companies that are hiring and help them write job postings, it’s understood that the list of requirements really describes the ideal candidate. But few hiring managers expect to find that perfect person, even assuming he or she actually exists. They’re just trying to get as close as possible. 

So, let’s say you have 75% or 80% of the requirements for that job. Or, suppose you have, for instance, four years of experience when they’re asking for five. Go ahead and apply. You may not get the job, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Q. Many job hunters don’t want to “bother” friends and relatives by asking them for help. Why should they do it anyway?

A. Part of that reluctance comes from not wanting to admit we’re job hunting. It’s natural to want to “save face,” especially with people who are emotionally important to us. Also, of course, there’s a tendency to think we already know everyone they know. But you might be pleasantly surprised. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of clients who found great opportunities through friends and family members—even spouses—who had much bigger and more useful networks than the job seeker realized.

Q. What is reframing, and why is it important to know how to do it in an interview?

A. This is a technique borrowed from cognitive therapy that salespeople and politicians use all the time. “Reframing” means taking control of a discussion by redefining the situation into something that’s more to your advantage.

For example, interviewers often say, “Tell me about your greatest weakness.” Reframing means that you start talking about a weakness you used to have—let’s say you used to be shy about speaking up in meetings, even when you had great ideas to contribute. Then, you tell how you overcame that, and how you contributed a suggestion that helped your department operate 20% more efficiently. Now, you’ve taken a former weakness and turned it into a strength.

With a bit of practice, you can use reframing to imply that what you’re good at is what really matters. If you’re older, for instance, you can emphasize what you’ve learned from long experience. Or, if you’re very young, and you suspect that might be a problem, talk up your energy and enthusiasm.

Q. Many job seekers wonder how often to follow up after an interview before giving up. You’re in favor of persistence and a charm offensive. Why?

A. The more charming you are, the more persistent you can be. As long as you ask very politely, you can keep asking over and over until you get a definite answer. People often get this wrong, however, because they don’t realize how they’re coming across.

I had one client who got so frustrated by a long job search that he was seething with resentment. After all, he had done everything “right” and still wasn’t hearing back from employers or networking contacts. He was angry, and he was making angry phone calls, which, naturally, no one was returning. I insisted he had to calm down and use a mirror to make sure he was smiling every time he picked up the phone. He hated me for it, but he managed to do it, and a few weeks later, he had a terrific new job.

Q. Your book punctures a number of job search myths, like the notion that it will take one month per $10,000 of salary to find a new position. Why is that wrong?

A. Well, I spoke with the original source of that statistic, who was the CEO of a major outplacement firm, and he told me he had made it up! The fact is, there’s no simple formula for how long anyone’s search will take. It depends on what the economy’s like, how focused you are, how much effort you put in, and of course, a little bit of luck. In general, though, well-prepared people seem to be luckier.

Start your job search now

OK, put down the paint brush and step away from the garage. It’s time to stop procrastinating and get your job search off the ground. Want some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you not only get job alerts emailed right to your inbox, which cuts down on the amount of time you’d spend combing through ads, but you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to different types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. See how your job search can get easier when you have Monster here to help.

 

Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1996. She is a columnist for Fortune.com and the author of If My Career’s On the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?