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8 min read

How to make the job search less of a full-time job

By Krystina Martinez · February 24, 2020
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You've likely heard that job hunting is a full-time job. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's true: from resurrecting your dusty LinkedIn profile and updating your resume or website to scouring job sites and writing cover letters, job hunting is a time suck.

When I suddenly found myself out of a job eight months ago, I thought job hunting would be easy since I suddenly had all the time in the world. Unfortunately, post-layoff depression is real and I found it difficult to function.

While I can't write your cover letter or revive your LinkedIn account for you, thankfully there are automations out there that make the job-hunting process easier, whether you've been laid off or are trying to find a better gig.

Figure out what you want in your next job

There is no automation for this. Taking a few minutes to think about what you want in your next job will save you tons of time and potentially awkward interactions with recruiters and hiring managers. Are there aspects of your current gig you don't want in a potential new role? Do you want to switch to a new industry after experiencing a job loss? What questions will you need answered from recruiters as you embark on the job hunt? Figuring out these answers will help you operationalize how you hunt for jobs.

For example, let's say you want to switch careers and you have a target industry in mind. You'll have to market your resumes and cover letters as a career-switcher and learn how to talk up your transferable skills in interviews. Or maybe you want to stay in your industry, but there's a job duty you'd never want to do again. Filter out job postings that contain that dreaded task.

What if you're feeling stuck and you don't know what you want? I attended a conference session where we went through several exercises from a book called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. (The session was appropriately called "Are You Having a Journalism Mid-life Crisis?") No matter your industry, it may be helpful to try a few design-thinking approaches to plot your next career move.

Start with a spreadsheet

You know what you'd like out of your next role, but before you dive into filling out applications, you need a plan to stay organized. If you're currently receiving unemployment benefits, it's also required that you keep a log of all active job searches.

Even if you're currently employed, it's a good idea to track your progress with a spreadsheet—how awkward would it be if you received a call from a company you couldn't remember applying to? I use Airtable to track my applications, but templates exist for Trello, Google Sheets, and many other programs.

A spreadsheet set up for job hunting

Tip: Don't forget to upload your resume to LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Uploading a resume to LinkedIn will allow you to Easy Apply with the tap or click of a button. Glassdoor also offers one free resume review through TopResume.

Wrangle your to-do list at each stage of a job application

When you have a number of job applications out there, it's easy to forget the next step you need to take. And sometimes skipping a step can lead to uncomfortable situations.

One time I applied for a position but forgot to research news stories about the company for any red flags. After I sent in my application, I went back to check and lo and behold, I found something that made me uncomfortable. Luckily, that opportunity didn't work out so I didn't have to face a moral conflict, but I could've avoided that blunder with an automated checklist.

A checklist like this would
A checklist like this would

My job tracker lives in Airtable but with the free version, I can't create the kind of auto-generated checklists I need at that moment. So I use a Zap to send opportunities out to a kanban tool like Trello. A Trello Power-Up like Butler lets me add a repeating checklist so I can stay on top of what I need to do next.

Note: For this article, I'm focusing on the features in free plans. For Trello, that means you're limited to one Butler command of each type, and in Airtable, that means you don't have access to more advanced functions.

Create Trello cards from new or updated Google Sheets rows

Create Trello cards from new or updated Google Sheets rows
  • Google Sheets logo
  • Trello logo
Google Sheets + Trello

As a job application progresses, you can also create an automation to track these updates in your tracking spreadsheet. It's especially useful if you need to keep detailed records for unemployment benefits.

A kanban tool like Trello lets you move applications through different stages.

Break down your to-do list

Job-search depression is real. And let me tell you, I faced a period of a few months where I was so depressed, I could barely bring myself to eat or shower, much less apply to another job. I once had a call with a leadership coach—which was part of my severance package—and she suggested I try limiting the time frame I was planning.

I used to make a to-do list for the week, which sounded reasonable on a good day but was impossible on a bad day. Instead, my coach suggested making a plan for one day, and only one day. It made room for those bad days.

You'll have bad days for sure. Maybe you're trying to get out of a job that isn't fulfilling. Maybe you're a fresh graduate and you're worried that you're falling behind your classmates, who seem to already have jobs. Or maybe you're like me and you've been unemployed for a while.

Make room for those bad days by using a few helpful Zaps to break down your to-do list for each application into even smaller chunks.

For example, maybe you assign a date in your Trello board to finish researching a company before your recruiter interview. Once you set a date, use a Zap to connect to a to-do list app like ToDoist to create your one-day plan.

You can also time-block your one-day plan for time-intensive tasks such as writing cover letters or completing a take-home test for a job application.

Tip: Save time in your job search by creating email templates for different scenarios, such as following up with a recruiter or juggling between two offers. Outlook, Gmail, and SparkMail offer template functionality.

Learn something new

I like to stay busy, so unemployment was a real shock to me at first.

Sure, job searching can be a full-time job, but the feeling of sending applications out to the ether and having no control of the outcome is a tough pill to swallow. Faced with an open calendar, I set aside time for things I needed—and wanted—to learn.

Maybe there's free training for a program you're trying to master. Or perhaps now will be the time you finally learn how to code. (I took a beginner's course on Google Analytics, finally.) Create a field in your job tracking spreadsheet for skills you need to learn and use a Zap to connect it to a to-do list so you have it in the spot you use to plan your daily tasks.

I also recommend setting aside time to indulge in hobbies like sewing, which can provide a much-needed break from the job search.

Promote yourself on LinkedIn

I'll be honest, my LinkedIn account was an elephant graveyard. It's not my social network of choice. But it does help you put your best foot forward in the job hunt. Recruiters love LinkedIn. It's also where you can find jobs and connect with folks who have an in at your dream company.

LinkedIn is a tool I've come to appreciate in my job search, but I admit I'm more of a lurker. I'm bad at self-promoting, which isn't great if you're in a creative field like I am. If self-promotion makes you gag, these LinkedIn Zaps will help you put your best foot forward.

I love the WordPress to LinkedIn Zap because you can use a WordPress excerpt, which is preview text for a blog post, as text for a LinkedIn update. A well-written excerpt can double as a social network update without making it too obvious that it's an automation.

Some industries are really active on Twitter. Since my background is in media, it's a given that I post more to Twitter than any other network. When you create your Zap, click on Go to Advanced Mode and add a filter step to limit cross-posting based on hashtags so only the most relevant content shows up on LinkedIn. Note: Adding a filter step requires a paid Zapier plan.

Check out more tips on how to make LinkedIn work for you.

Research more effectively

Let's be real: I've done some panicked Googling in my job search when I've found myself in an unfamiliar situation. There are just certain situations you won't know how to handle until it comes up. (Did you know you can actually turn down a job offer? That was news to me.)

Listen: You know how there's always that one friend who won't take your good advice, no matter what? Don't be that person! You can use a Zap to turn the great nuggets of wisdom you find from your panicked Google searches into action items.

Thanks to this automation, I've created personal templates for recruiter questions, interview prep, and other situations that I can turn back to in the future. Future You will be grateful!

Keep up with company blogs and industry trends

You'll need to keep up on industry trends if you're looking for a job in your field. If you're switching careers, you'll have to learn a new industry. Sounds fun, right?

As a former journalist, I have heart eyes for RSS feeds. They helped me keep on top of the news, find stories, and stay on the pulse of latest developments. You can use a service like Feedly to follow news sources and company blogs in your related industry. Learn more about how to use RSS feeds.

My Feedly account is a collection of RSS feeds from sites I regularly read.

You can use specific Zaps to curate company blogs, newsletters, social media, and other sources into a job research superfeed. It requires a few extra steps that this article won't cover, but if you're ready to take the plunge, learn how to create one here.

Don't miss a job-related email (that matters)

The actual "searching" part of job-hunting is the most time-intensive part of the process. There are so many sources for jobs! There are career sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, industry-specific sites, Twitter, LinkedIn, company websites...the list goes on. I don't think artificial intelligence is at a place where your thoughts turn up new open jobs in your inbox...yet.

But no matter where you turn to find opportunities, your inbox will likely get filled with all sorts of notifications, from new open roles to the obligatory "thanks but no thanks" rejection email.

Tip: Use a password manager to keep track of your passwords for job application portals. Passwords, unfortunately, don't sync across two companies using the same HR talent service such as Taleo or Workday.

Luckily, sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor will curate available jobs based on criteria you set, such as desired title, location, and even pay. Check your settings to ensure email preferences are configured to the frequency you like. If you use their mobile app, you can bypass email altogether and get push notifications from your phone.

While email is a perpetual battle you'll fight, you can use Zapier to filter out the critical emails related to your job search.

Here's an entire guide on how to automate your email, from creating a custom inbox for all those job notifications to creating tasks out of emails. Wish you could have someone read your email for you? Try creating an email parser!

If you wish your inbox would die in a fire, you can also try creating an RSS superfeed of your go-to job sources. This may or may not work, depending on if a company has an RSS feed of their careers page. Zapier does! Try this Zap to get alerts of new job postings from Zapier straight to your inbox, or add this RSS feed.

Filter relevant job postings in Slack

Many companies use Slack to manage communications. Industry-specific communities are also gathering on Slack and can be a great place to find jobs.

However, scrolling through a Slack channel daily gets old really fast. I used to scan the job channels in my Slack communities twice a day. I don't advise it. Instead, try this Zap to receive direct messages of only relevant messages from a specific channel so you can save yourself from disappointment. Just add a filter step to filter new messages by criteria, such as "contains text equal to 'remote' or 'location.'"

For you Inbox Zero folks, you can also send new messages in a Slack channel to an RSS feed.

Note: Some Slack communities may require permission from administrators before connecting it with Zapier.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Even with all the automation in the world, it doesn't take away from the fact that job searching can feel demoralizing. It can take months to find a role that is a good fit for you. It can feel like your life is in purgatory while everyone else around you seems to be living it up.

It's okay if you need to mute those people on social media who are a little too #blessedwiththebest for your liking. Follow new accounts that bring you joy. Delete some apps from your phone if you find yourself falling into the comparison trap.

Spending too much time obsessing over your email for that recruiter email? Give yourself permission to take a break. Go outside. Binge watch some television. Read a book.

You can and you will find a new job that will utilize your talents. You've got this!

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'