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Treat Your Job Search Like a Marathon

Robert Half International

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In this recession, you may be surprised how long it's taking to find a job, especially if previous searches have gone fairly quickly. Unfortunately, as the unemployment rate continues to climb, more people are looking for work and the competition only gets tougher. Need advice for making it through a long job search? Take the same approach you would if you were running a marathon. Here are some ways in which the two activities are similar and tips you can use to land a new position:

You have to be patient
If you expect to spend just a few weeks training for a marathon, you'll be in for a rude awakening the day of the race. Competitors often spend months preparing. When it comes to the job search, the same holds true: You must have a realistic expectation of the time involved. Steeling yourself for an extended search can help you ward off frustration and lead to a pleasant surprise if you reach your goal sooner than expected.

You must put in the effort
Training for a marathon means waking up early to train, watching what you eat and enduring countless practice sessions. Finding a job takes a lot of work, too, from scouring the Internet for open positions to creating targeted application materials to networking with others in your field. That's why it's good to have a system in place. Set aside time each day to focus on your search and stick to your routine. For example, you may spend two hours each morning scanning online job boards for leads and the same amount of time in the afternoon reaching out to members of your network and establishing new contacts.

You don't have to go it alone
Some runners train on their own, but many form groups to help keep them motivated and on track. Looking for work doesn't have to be a private pursuit either. Reach out to friends, family and former colleagues to let them know you're on the job hunt; they may be able to provide you with job leads or referrals. In-person contact is important when networking; instead of relying solely on e-mail or Web sites such as LinkedIn, talk to people on the phone, take them to lunch or meet up with them in the evening.

Explore those avenues that allow you to network with others who are searching for employment. For example, you might consider joining a job-search club or attending a "pink-slip party," during which recently laid-off professionals connect with companies that are hiring and recruiting firms. In addition to expanding your base of contacts, you can share success strategies with others in your same situation.

You should set goals
Properly training for a marathon requires you to set regular goals for improving your speed and endurance. You also should set goals during your job hunt. For instance, you may seek to add one new contact to your network each week or complete a training course in a new software application within six months. Having an objective to work toward will help you stay focused and ensure you continue to move forward, improving your chances of finding a job. After reaching your target, treat yourself to a small reward -- like dinner out -- to keep motivation high.

You need the right gear
Wearing the proper shoes and clothing can make the difference in avoiding injuries and being comfortable while training for and running in a marathon. Your job hunt "gear" is your application materials. Your résumé and cover letter should be targeted to each opening you respond to. Ideally, they should also include keywords from the job posting. Many employers use software to search applications for these terms in order to determine which candidates should continue in the hiring process. And make sure your documents are in top-notch shape by carefully proofreading them before submission. Eighty-four percent of executives Robert Half polled said it takes just one or two typographical errors in a résumé to remove a candidate from consideration for a job opening.

Training for a marathon and looking for a job can both take a long time and require a tremendous amount of effort. But keep in mind the feeling you get when you cross the finish line or are offered a job you want; it's clear then that all the hard work has been worth it.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 09/06/2009 - 6:49 PM

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