From the mind of Sarah...
It's Not All Applications and Interviews: Living Your Life While Job SearchingSeptember 09, 2019
In the middle of a full-time job search, it can be easy to let the job search take over and stop you from living your life (this pattern happens if you're searching while working too, but in that case work does occasionally force you out of job search mode). You write cover letters, send out resumes, network, go on interviews ... and suddenly job searching has taken over your identity.
One of the things that I've known since the beginning of my job search is that I didn't want this to happen to me. I wanted to put my life first as much as I could, and while I knew I needed to spend time on my job search, I didn't want to feel like I wasn't living my life. Over the course of my search I've had mixed success in this realm, but this summer, I found that I was really able to balance the job searching and life.
From the beginning of June through the end of August, I ...
- Attended 15 baseball games (not to mention the three I attended in April/March and the two I have attended so far in September)
- Run over 170 miles
- Taken 19 hour-long barre classes (plus a few shorter online classes through my studio's website)
- Spent three weekends at my parents' house and a weekend at my sister's
... and that's just the things I can think of off the top of my head. I also made sure to take time to clean my apartment, run errands, watch some TV (I'm making decent progress on my Happy Endings rewatch ... not as decent progress on my Parks and Recreation rewatch), and attempt to cook myself some healthy meals (some weeks were more successful than others).
All of these things could potentially have taken time away from my job search, and I'm very okay with that. Job searching is tough. It can be very demoralizing, especially if you get a lot of rejections (as I have) with no or few offers. It's very easy to get down on yourself and think that you have nothing going for you. But that's also why it's important to focus on things you love and accomplishing goals outside of the job search and/or coding. Focusing on reaching personal goals can help you feel a sense of accomplishment that you're not getting from your job search. And even if you don't accomplish all of your personal goals, at least you're spending time doing things you love.
For example, one of my biggest goals for the summer was to attend 15 baseball games. Last summer I attended 13 games and I loved every single one, and I wanted to beat that this year. I attended my first baseball game of the year in April (New York Mets), broke my all-time record with game #14 in early August (Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders), and attended my 15th game, reaching my goal, in mid-August (Brooklyn Cyclones). Reaching that goal made me feel very accomplished (in addition to the sense of joy I always get from attending baseball games), and I was excited to be able to make baseball a priority and go above and beyond that goal.
Just because I've made it a priority to focus on non-job search activities, that doesn't mean I'm neglecting my job search. Over this same three month period, I've applied to approximately 60 jobs, had 23 total interviews (including phone screens, technical interviews, and onsites), attended five events, including meetups and networking events, and taken part in my first tech conference, Codeland. This may not seem like a lot to some people (although to others I'm sure it sounds intense), but this is about the pace that I find is most comfortable for me in my job search.
Balancing life and job search is hard, but I've found that a few things help me be successful in this quest:
- Set Hours - With a few exceptions (including long days and events), I do my job searching Monday through Friday between 9:30 AM and 6:30 PM. Saturdays are for family/religious activities, Sundays are for baseball, early mornings are for running, and nights are for baseball, TV, and just chilling out. Having a defined "work" day makes it easier for me to stop myself from spending all of my time job searching and neglect my personal goals.
- Be Flexible About Hours - Yes, I have set hours, but I'm also flexible about them when it makes sense. Often my barre classes would either start or end (or occasionally both) during "work hours", but I was okay with it because that was what worked best for my schedule. If I really had something that needed to get done, I'd just "work" an extra hour at night. Same with baseball games - if I went to a mid-week baseball game that cut into my working hours, I'd work an extra hour or two the next day to make sure things got done.
- Take Breaks - Every day I made sure to take a break for lunch. Ideally, that break would be an hour (and 1-2 TV shows), but when I was running behind schedule, I tended to cut lunch short. It's easy to get burned out when you're "working" all day on something tough, and taking a break, whether that's to eat, to hit the gym, or just to take a walk, can help refresh you and prepare you for the rest of the day.
- Prioritize - It's important to define what your priorities are and what takes precendence in a case of conflict. For me, my #1 priority for the summer was baseball (which is why I did cut my day short a few times for games), and #2 was job searching (which is why I was willing to cut my lunch short sometimes). Everyone's priorities are different, and it's important to define your priorities and know how you can best resolve a scheduling conflict.
Job searching is very time consuming, but there's no reason to let it take over your entire life. Make sure you're spending the appropriate amount of time on the job search, but also take time to do the things you love and take care of yourself. Doing the things that make you happy and accomplishing your personal goals will help keep you motivated during the job search and make this difficult period much easier to survive.