Lighten Your Schedule To Free Up Energy For Your Job Search

In a previous blog post, I described some of the challenges that job seekers face when they are already working full-time in roles they dislike. I provided some tips for scheduling job search activities outside of daytime working hours and I explained how goal-setting was essential to that scheduling process.


But what if you don’t have any energy to spare outside normal working hours? What if you are too drained by your day job to accomplish anything else, let alone search for new work?[1] Maybe you’ve already tried taking some time off here and there to look for new leads, but you still find it hard to search consistently, rather than in fits and starts. If this describes you, then be encouraged… there are better ways to find new employment even if you feel overwhelmed right now. But it will require a short-term sacrifice on your part.



What kind of sacrifice am I talking about? It is the decision to earn less income by temporarily reducing your weekly paid hours. Yes, sometimes the only way to free up energy for consistent job search activities is to ask your boss for a schedule change. This could mean an afternoon off every other week, dropping to part-time status for a short period of time, or taking an extended leave – whatever works for you.


IMMEDIATE BENEFITS


Now, I know what you’re thinking. The prospect of reducing your hours is scary. It can also be hard on the pocket book. But focus for a moment on the benefits of doing this:


First, it will bring you an immediate sense of relief. You will feel less trapped in a job you dislike because you are actively working toward your career goals and taking charge of your situation, which makes the day-to-day grind of your current job a little more tolerable.


Second, you will be well positioned to conduct your job search. A day-time slot is ideal for attending informational meetings, networking events, and interviews – especially with hiring managers who aren’t available outside regular hours. Daytime availability also frees you up to conduct job shadows in other companies or attend courses in the fields you are interested in. Of course, you’ll need to do all of this discretely so that news of your actions does not circle back to your current employer, but needless to say, daytime job searching will open up many new opportunities for you!


RISKS AND REWARDS


With that said, I do understand that a schedule change is not a realistic option for everyone. I get that. You have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But consider the consequences of maintaining the status quo: you risk your physical and mental health by staying in a draining job. You risk the cumulative strain on your friends and family who bear the brunt of the stress you bring home with you. And you risk missing out on a fulfilling career future that is more than likely to offset the short-term pain of temporary income loss. Those are serious consequences


If you don’t find these reasons convincing, then I respect that. You know your situation much better than I do and you are in charge of your career journey. There is definitely no judgment on my end.


But for those of you who would benefit from a temporary reduction in work hours, I have two recommendations for you to consider.


First, be tactful with your boss when you request a schedule change. Allison Doyle provides some great advice on her blog about this, so I will only summarize a few of her points here. Generally speaking, she suggests that you

  • Avoid asking during peak business season. Instead, try asking when operations are slow and your boss doesn’t need all hands on deck.

  • See if you can use vacation time or family leave to cover your absence.

  • Create a plan for how your workload will be covered while you are away, before talking to your boss. Asking your colleagues how they might cover for you is a great way to start planning.

  • Document your request in an email or on paper to avoid any future misunderstandings with your boss or other staff.

In addition to these four suggestions, I would also recommend discretion about the reasons for your request. To put it bluntly, don’t disclose that you are looking elsewhere for a job! It will suffice to tell your boss that pressing concerns in your family require more of your attention. Resist the urge to go into a lot of detail and focus instead on assuring your boss that the quality of your work will not suffer as a result of this change. If your boss is ok with it, then great! If not, then at least you tried! The only way to find out is by asking.


My second piece of advice is to offset the financial cost of reducing your unpaid hours. There are several ways to do this:


You can (1) streamline your budget so that you can live on less; (2) invest in a career change fund now so that you have a financial cushion talking to your boss; (3) free up extra cash by selling off some old storage items on Kijiji; or (4) start a “side-gig” one evening per week to shore up your income – e.g. by babysitting, Uber driving, or doing freelance work.[2] The options here are numerous, but again, only do what is life-giving and not too draining for you.


CONCLUSION


Offsetting your financial costs and speaking tactfully with your boss are just two ways to navigate a temporary schedule reduction for job search purposes. It will require some planning on your part, but I find that employers are often open and flexible about these things if you have a transition plan ready. So my encouragement to you is this: be brave, plan well, and ask your boss directly for what you want. Your future career will be better for it!


FOOTNOTES

[1] I do understand that non-job related reasons can also account for why people might feel drained after their work day. Various factors like emotional health, diet, and physical exercise are often at play, but job dissatisfaction can also be a major drain on a person’s resources. If you suspect that it’s your job that’s sapping your strength, despite your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, then this blog post is for you!


[2] One of the benefits of a side-gig is that it brings variety into your life and can potentially be transformed into a “bridge job” if your current employment becomes intolerable and you need to leave. But be careful here. Transforming your bridge job into a full-time gig can put you right back where you started – i.e. trapped in a role that isn’t your passion but sucks up all your job search time. You don’t want to get caught in that cycle again!

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