Don’t Procrastinate in your Job Search

Don’t Procrastinate in your Job Search

  • Posted by Stephen White
  • On September 1, 2018
  • avoiding procrastination in your job search, conducting a successful job search, don't procrastinate in your job search, job search, overcoming procrastination, procrastination


Over the course of my coaching I’ve had numerous opportunities to view the successes and failures different clients experience during their job search.   While every client is unique, there is one factor that clearly differentiates those who are successful from those who are just “going through the motions”.  It isn’t intelligence.  It isn’t technical skill.  It isn’t interpersonal skills or communication skills.  And it isn’t even luck.  The one thing I’ve noticed is that really successful job searchers don’t procrastinate.


Ed:  A Champion of the Art of Procrastination

I coached a client two years ago.  This gentleman, who I will call Ed, had everything going for him.  He was bright, well-educated, personable, well-spoken, and very talented.  Unfortunately, he possessed one quality that totally undermined his job search.  He was the world’s biggest procrastinator.

During our weekly coaching sessions we would explore a number of issues, and then arrive at a set of action items that Ed agreed to complete prior to our next coaching session.  Needless to say, they were never done.  It wasn’t that Ed only partially completed some of his “To Do” items.  Fact is, he never got started.  Every week there was a different excuse.  Sometimes he was sick.  Other times his wife was sick.  Or there were work issues.  Or his computer broke.  Or the dog was ill.  Etc., etc.

Each time I called Ed out on these incomplete tasks he would promise me faithfully that he would do them by the time of our next coaching session. He never did.  I met Ed recently, and he’s still with the same employer, he still doesn’t like his job, and he is still bemoaning the lack of career opportunities.  When I ask him how many jobs he has applied to in the last three months invariably the response is “None”.


A Useful Hockey Metaphor

With some clients I often use a hockey metaphor to convey a critical point.   Here it is:

“You can’t score goals unless you shoot.  You can’t shoot unless you get the puck.  And you don’t get the puck unless someone passes to you, you check another player, or you dig it out of the corners.  And you can’t do any of those things unless you dress to play and play to win”.

Let me be clear:  job search isn’t about luck, and it isn’t always about talent or ability.  It is about self-discipline and executing your game plan.  If you have no game plan you are just spinning your wheels aimlessly.


Get a Game Plan…and follow it!

Is procrastinating hold you back from realizing success in your job search?  If it is, here are some practical steps to overcome it:

1. Make a job search plan and stick to it.  Take a sheet of paper or make a spreadsheet.  Design a chart comprising eight columns and four rows.  Across the top label columns two to eight according to the days of the week.  Label the first column “Time of Day”, and then label the rows Morning, Afternoon and Evening.   You now have 21 boxes.

Assign a job search activity to each box in your chart. Perhaps Monday morning you will search for jobs, and Monday afternoon you will apply online.  Maybe Tuesday afternoon you will devote to networking.  Perhaps Thursday morning you will reserve for following up with search firms.  However you design it, when you structure your plan make sure at least three to five boxes out of your 21 are devoted to family and leisure activities.

2. Print five copies of your job search plan.  Post one in your office.  Post one on your fridge.  Give one to your spouse or significant other. Give two to close friends.

Why give your job search plan to your spouse and two friends?  Because they are going to take partial responsibility for following up with you and keeping you accountable.  When you give them your job search plan ask them to follow up with you at least once a week to monitor your progress and keep you on track.

3. Get rid of distractions.  Now that you have a plan and people who will keep you accountable you also need to get rid of distractions.  If Monday is going to be your day for searching and applying for job then don’t schedule a lunch meeting on that day.  Defer it to another day when you are focusing on networking or a leisure pursuit.  Ensure your family knows your schedule.  Don’t give into temptations.

4. Work the Plan.  Now that you have a plan, work it!  If Monday morning is your day to search for jobs online then do precisely that….search for jobs online!  Make sure you track how many jobs you have identified, and subsequently, applied for.

5. Reward yourself.  If you managed to get through the entire week and meet your job search objectives then reward yourself.  However, this only occurs if you met your targets and didn’t procrastinate.

6. Stop making excuses.  If you failed to meet any of your targets during the week then admit it.  Don’t make excuses.  Accept responsibility, and commit to not doing it again.



Cartoon depicting a procrastinator.

Procrastinators are often very good at rationalizing their behaviour, however unproductive it may be.



Job search can be equally parts challenging, frustrating and depressing.  It can also be an opportunity to explore new things, re-connect with work colleagues, make important business connections, and stretch the limits of your character and potential.  What you derive from it is a function of what you put into it. 

Most of my clients who have been successful don’t experience fulfillment as a result of sporadic or varying levels of intensity.  Rather, they do a little bit every day while continually monitoring their progress to ensure they are staying on track and always keeping in mind their end goal.  They also don’t focus entirely on doing one thing.  Success in job search is doing a little bit across several areas, not sitting at a desk for fifty hours a week endlessly trolling job boards and applying repeatedly for positions.  Most importantly, successful clients take ownership for their circumstances, and resolve to do better.  In short, they don’t procrastinate!



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