The Out-of-Work Workout

bob

You never did very much work when you had a job so I really don’t see why anyone should expect you to start working now! But that’s exactly what jobs columnist Phyllis Korkki of The New York Times expects, and you sure as heck don’t want to disappoint Phyllis.
“How to Turn Downtime into Job Offers” is Ms. Korkki’s catchy headline du jour, and while I’m sure she doesn’t want to appear judgmental, she sure is. “If there is one thing that most unemployed job seekers have in abundance, it is time,” she writes. “And yet many of them misuse it.”
Personally, I’m not sure I agree with the premise. You’ve always been busy during the times you’ve been unemployed. There are bill collectors to dodge, dumpsters to dive, and if you weren’t busy chopping up the kids’ bedroom furniture, how would you ever heat the house?
Yet Korkki has a different idea of the unemployed life style. “When you get up in the morning, it can seem as if a long lean carpet of time is ahead of you, but then you may decide to go to the gym, have a leisurely lunch, check out ‘Dr. Phil’ on TV followed by ‘Judge Judy,’ and then you’re ready to make dinner.”
This is a ridiculous view of the laid-off lifestyle. There’s no chance you’d decide to go to the gym, not unless they replace the treadmills with soft-serve ice cream machines. And everyone knows you don’t watch “Dr. Phil” and “Judge Judy.” How would you ever have time with your commitment to “Cheaters,” and “Bad Girls Club” and “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
No matter how you spend days when you have no money to spend, productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern has a better idea. “Having no structure is the biggest enemy to being organized and being focused,” she suggests. Instead, you are to treat job hunting like a full-time job. That means no more free styling through your day; the productivity maven wants you to “create specific work hours and a time map with mini deadlines.”
There’s nothing wrong with treating your job-hunt as a job, but if you use the same work skills that cost you your real job in the first place, the outcome is not likely to be positive. In fact, you will probably be the first person to fire yourself from your own job search.
Kimberly Bishop, chief executive of a career management and leadership services firm, goes a step further to break it down for you. By the numbers:
1. “Set aside a physical space for job hunting and devote several hours a week solely to laying the groundwork for your search,” says Ms. Bishop. I suggest you pick a place that reminds you of your former workspace. Some unemployed individuals build themselves a mock cubical out of empty refrigerator boxes. Others simply try to recreate the grim atmosphere of their former position by doing their job hunting from under the bed, or from inside an abandoned fallout shelter.
2. Once you have your space, “compile an inventory of your skills, accomplishments and honors,” Bishop further counsels. This, she calls your “success folder.” Considering your work history, why not write your skills, accomplishments and honors on the head of a pin. You’ll still have room for your resume.
3. Armed and ready to start your job search, divide your day into three compartments: “preparation and research, meetings, and follow-up.” If you don’t have a meeting with a hiring manager, schedule a meeting with a former colleague. This socializing will “keep you from becoming complacent or depressed.” It will also give you an opportunity to borrow money, or blackmail your former colleague with night-vision photography from last year’s Christmas party.
“Mixing it up” is the recommended way to “stop you from obsessing about things and from being paralyzed by perfectionism.” Good thinking! Why not “mix it up” by sending your follow-through thank-you note before you ever have the appointment! Or regretfully turn down a job that has never been offered to you. It will keep the HR drones on their toes, and, who knows, could result in a salaried position when the hiring manager refuses to admit they never met you in the first place.
If all this work sounds exhausting, remember that you can always retire from your search and settle down in a dull, poorly paying real job. If you ask me, it sounds a lot easier and a lot more fun.

 

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