By Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Fast Company, June 8, 2018 —

Job seekers tend to spin their wheels in similar ways. Here’s how to get your search back on track.

Job searches always take time but don’t have to waste time. As a time management coach, I’ve worked with many job seekers who stick to whatever feels safe and comfortable instead of doing what’s effective, only to find their job searches stretching on for an eternity. But in my experience, making your job search more efficient starts with recognizing these five signs that you’re wasting time.

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If you only try to find a job one way–particularly through online job postings–you’re likely wasting time. Most people find new jobs through various forms of networking. It often feels safer to keep your job search between you and your computer, but you’re missing out if you don’t diversify your strategy.

So definitely invest some time filling out digital applications, including trying out different job sites and going to individual companies’ career pages. But branch out from there. Talk to people you know, reach out to folks from your alma mater, and go to events where you’re likely to meet new people. Considering connecting with recruiters and even temp firms, as well; even if you aren’t interested in the openings they might have available right now, you’ll get some useful insight into the current state of the market in your field.


Some people treat their “job search” like obsessive online shopping: They’ll spend hours and hours looking at postings but never follow through on applying to anything. You can’t (and shouldn’t) apply to every job you come across. But if you never apply, something’s wrong; you might be paralyzed by anxiety or indecision or simple fatigue. Try setting a goal that requires you to apply to a set number of openings each week–perhaps two to five. This ensures that you’re not just wasting time searching without any follow-through.


It can feel super vulnerable applying to a job that you’re really excited about and know you’re qualified for. But only applying to jobs where you’re vastly over- or underqualified is wasting your time. If it’s a mistake to be too selective and only apply to openings that look like perfect fits, then the reverse is also true: Applying indiscriminately to too many opportunities in the hope that something might work out is a poor strategy, too. If you don’t feel any butterflies in your stomach at all after sending out an application, it might be a sign that this job isn’t for you–and was a waste of time applying to.


It takes time to talk to people, whether it’s having a phone chat with a recruiter, catching up with an acquaintance, attending a job fair, or going to a networking event. When someone says they have an idea for someone you should speak with, always follow up to get that introduction. If you find yourself with a stack of business cards or a bunch of verbal promises but nothing to show for it, it’s a sign you’re doing a lot of networking but aren’t receiving the payoff. Don’t hesitate to take the initiative and check in with someone who offered you a referral. Since this is your job search, it’s on you to take action, not on the other person.


When you’re networking, the best use of your time is typically by starting with your existing network–the people who already know you, like you, and want to support you. But if that’s not leading to the results you want, it’s time to widen your focus. Yes, you’ll want to avoid generic networking events that don’t attract people who work in the fields you’re excited about, but sticking to the same old gatherings can be a waste of time, too.

Challenge yourself to go to new places and talk to new people. Personally, I’ve found MeetUp a handy tool for diversifying professional networks, and there are loads of similar apps and platforms like it. You can find everything from hiking groups to business-building groups and everything in between. Putting yourself out there can feel awkward and even pointless. But opening yourself up to new possibilities can allow career magic to happen; you never know when you’ll meet somebody who knows somebody else who’s got just the job lead you’ve been looking for.

Searching for a job, especially if you’ve been searching for a long time, can leave you feeling helpless. But recognizing these five time-wasters and committing to shaking up your approach can speed things up considerably, helping you land the right job in significantly less time.