ed muses upon

2010/08/23

The Importance of Being Busy

Filed under: branding, job search, networking, volunteering — Tags: , , , , , — edmusesupon @ 10:22 am

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of the end of July, the average bout of unemployment lasted 34.2 weeks, representing 44.9% of all unemployed Americans. This means taxpayers without jobs are spending just over 8 months without a paycheck.

A very popular interview question to ask candidates who are between opportunities is “what have you been doing with your time?” I know of several who are dealing with a gap of one year or more on their résumés. It is only natural that a hiring manager is going to ask such a candidate what they have been doing: in what way have they been keeping busy?

Despite the abundant and oft-repeated aphorism that looking for a job is itself a full-time job, “searching for my next opportunity” simply isn’t an acceptable answer to give in an interview. Job search does not generally help one keep professional skills sharp, and indeed, professional skills might even atrophy from disuse, especially if not exercised regularly.

I don’t consider this a problematic question: I have an answer that works for me. But I would submit that job seekers accustomed to or seeking leadership roles would do well to find avenues to exercise the craft of leadership. Tim Tyrell-Smith, author of the Tim’s Strategy blog, recently posted a relevant entry: 3 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership While Finding a Job. His suggestions of blogging, helping others to network and speaking are all excellent. Certainly, offering one’s expertise and experience through blogging, helping others with networking and speaking to others are absolutely ways to demonstrate leadership while in search. But note that all three of these ideas are also about networking.

In any job search process, there’s going to be a question about how to allocate a job seeker’s time. That aphorism about finding a job being a full-time job is right, even though you can’t say that in an interview.

So how should a job seeker spend his or her time? Well, another statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes to mind: 70% of new jobs are filled through networking.

The evidence behind this number is provided by Kimberly Beatty on the Jobfully blog. In brief, it is inferred through three data elements on the BLS JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report: number of hires, open positions posted and previously opened positions filled by a candidate already known to the employer.

If the majority of jobs are landed through networking—and this conclusion is difficult to avoid—then doesn’t it make sense for a job seeker to spend the majority of his or her time pursuing it?

I think so. How about you?

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4 Comments »

  1. Ed, this is a great topic. As most of us experienced years ago when demand was higher and supply was lower, our job searches were fairly short and the time and effort required was much lighter. I’m sure that most of us can relate to this frequently heard statement: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life just to find a job.”

    Those on the other side of the hiring desk, who may not have been directly affected by the lack of jobs, aren’t necessarily going to appreciate that job-searching is a full-time job in itself, with much overtime. Perhaps it is just a matter of stating more specifically the extent of the activity.

    If one can tie those activities into how they increase your value to the company, that’s helpful. All the relationship building from industry association events and personal meetings, could make someone in a business development role more attractive to an employer.

    I am getting some good feedback from employers since I returned to school at night. I also make an effort to stay current on events, new legislation and technical advances within my industry, so that I may speak to it during the interview. Anything to show that skills and knowledge haven’t eroded during the long search.

    Comment by JB — 2010/08/26 @ 11:30 am

    • Hey, thanks for your substantial & considered comment. I agree, there’s likely a lack of awareness on the part of some which is creating stress for candidates.

      Your suggestion re: connecting the dots in terms of showing relevance or importance is great. And I’m gratified to hear that your continuing your education has resulted in good results as well!

      Many thanks for your comment!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2010/08/26 @ 12:41 pm

  2. Twitter Trackbacks…

    Trackback by Anonymous — 2010/08/26 @ 1:31 pm

  3. […] The Importance of Being Busy August 2010 3 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com, 4 […]

    Pingback by edmusesupon:2010 in review « ed muses upon — 2011/01/03 @ 9:13 am


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