Saturday, August 16, 2014

Less is More - Really

Author:  Belinda G. Silver
              Business Manager and Educator

Being unemployed forces you to step back and take a long look at your life: your finances, your possessions, your relationships, and more. It also gives you ample time to do so, such as at two in the morning, when everyone else in the house is sleeping, except you. That was how I stumbled across a new movement that’s been sweeping the globe, called “minimalism.” Minimalism means making a conscious effort to reduce the number of possessions you own in order to gain more control of your life. The premise is, the fewer material things you have in your house and the fewer commitments you make with your time, the more you will begin to experience life more freely – hence the expression Less is More.

I, for one, am a typical American. I’ve spent a large part of my adult life working long hours, spending my hard-earned money on various items, and then working even longer hours to care for and maintain those items, I’ve accumulated over the years. So when I learned about minimalism, I decided to give it a shot, and lo and behold, those who tout it were right. As I began to see empty spaces in my house, I found that I no longer felt as chained down to the house as I had previously and it took less time to clean on a weekly basis. That meant, I could spend more time with my family.

This led me to wondering whether I could apply the same concept to my job search. So one day, I pulled out the tracking sheets that I have received in my first Job Search Basics workshop and began to analyze how much time I was spending on various activities. My findings surprised me, because, as chair of the Training Committee, I was supposed to “know better.” This is what I discovered about myself:

Resumes: I found that I had been spending an inordinate amount of time tweaking my resume. I was spending so much time adjusting it that I often missed application deadlines. I’ve since learned that my resume does not have to be perfect. It’s simply a tool for getting the interview. In addition, some fellow PSG members have told me they spent their early days, in transition, sending out resumes by the dozen, only to discover later that they were spending so much time on that process that they failed to use other job search strategies, such as networking, knocking on doors, and cold calling.

Job boards: Have your friends confided in you that they spend anywhere from two to six hours a day searching job boards? According to Richard N. Boles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?, looking for employers’ job postings are, “one of the five worst ways to look for a job.” A better use of your time would be to check postings maybe once or twice a week and then take time to physically follow up on some of those job leads. This will give you time to go out and actually visit the job sites. You might get an opportunity to speak with people who are currently working and who could give you a better idea of what’s actually available.

Surfing the Web: I have a confession to make. I always prided myself on the fact that I was great at multitasking and would sometimes have up to 10 windows open in my Web browser at the same time. However, to my surprise, that habit cost me hours of time that I could have used in other areas of my job search. The same is true of instant messaging. I had to force myself to turn it off when I was in active job search mode. I found it to be very distracting because I was constantly checking my e-mail or saying “hi” to friends who happen to be online, the same time I was.

Television: I told everyone “I only watch one or two programs a week,” which was true; however, what I usually neglected to mention was that I might watch the same program two or three times a week. That might not sound like a lot, but if a program is an hour long and you are watching it several times a week, those hours really add up. Nowadays, I am more aware of the amount of time I actually spend in front of the television. This has freed up several hours that I now use to work on other things.

Focus: My first three months in transition left me feeling completely overwhelmed. I had no idea how to organize my time as I went from project to project without a clear-cut road map. As time went on, I realized I had to prioritize my projects. Therefore, rather than work on them all at the same time, I learned to work steadily on one or two. Then as I completed one, I would move on to the next one. This simple act helped me accomplish more and left me feeling fulfilled, rather than stressed.

Maybe it’s time for you to look at your life and schedule. You might agree with me that sometimes “less is more.” Also, please remember that Mercer County PSG offers a phenomenal training program. Even if you’ve attended the job-training workshops in the past, take some time to revisit them. Although the basic information provided in the handouts is the same, the lessons learned change each time you attend a meeting, due to your interactions with other members. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue!

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