One question I received from so many teachers who are struggling to make a career transition is, how am I supposed to make time for all of this? Grading, lesson planning, communication with parents, all the meetings, the never ending to do list for teachers easily creates 60 to 70 hour work weeks sometimes before you even realize it, you are exhausted and burned out and potentially struggling mentally, and it is really hard to stay productive in a career search during this time. That is why in this episode I am going to lay out my top five tips to staying productive during your job search.
Staying Productive in Your Job Search
I want to start by just acknowledging you do not have probably full days to dedicate to applying to jobs unless you are listening to this and unemployed right now. Ahead to balancing life and teaching, many of you also have children or other additional factors that limit even more of your spare time. I am not someone who likes to preach that, we all have the same 24 hours in the day.
Someone with children or other responsibilities or single parents are going to have less time to dedicate to their hunts, that is just a fact, and these are all such valid concerns and valid problems that you are facing right now. But every single one of you listening, regardless of the other things that are on your plate right now, all have the exact same goal. So now the focus is how? How can you make this work in your schedule and your own unique situation?
You can acknowledge the additional factors and I think that you should think about what is making this difficult for you because that’s actually going to help you plan when they inevitably get in the way. But I want you to think of those factors and fight the instinct to use these as an excuse to not move forward. We have at this point helped so many former teachers in really unique circumstances and after helping thousands of them make this exact transition, I can say it is truly not impossible for anyone.
It is never going to be easy. It is going to take a lot of work and determination and focus, but if it is what you truly want, it is not impossible. But you are going to need some dedication and help streamlining your workflow just in order to get there, especially with all the other stuff going on in your life.
Essential Tool for Your Job Search: Planner
And because so many teachers struggle with this exact goal, in addition to this episode of the podcast, our team has actually created a Career Pivot Planner specifically for you to use during your job search. I’m going to share more about the planner at the very end of this episode, but if you are dying to check it out because you want to put all of your thoughts and goals on a piece of paper, it is at teachercareercoach.com/planner.
Productivity Tip #1: Focus on the Process & Your Progress
Now getting in to my five tips, my very first tip to staying productive is to focus on your process and your progress and not the end goal. Your end goal is to land a new job, but you’re going to have to break this down into all of the steps to get there in order to help you stay productive and focused and motivated through the entire journey. Because big goals like changing careers are really dependent on so many factors and many of those are outside of your control.
Yes, that is overall what you’re planning to achieve, but you’re going to start feeling really low if that is the only thing that you mark as what makes you successful in this journey. Dealing with rejection, disappointment, and failure is going to also be part of the process.
So you want to mark anytime you got an interview as a win, you want to write down goals like asking for feedback after you did get an interview and anytime you actually receive that type of feedback, marking that down as a win of your goal. And way before that, you want to start writing down trying your first cover letter or actually identifying the job that you want as an item on your to-do list, and that way you can see yourself moving forward through the process, seeing your progress as you are actually working on all of these goals. And if you haven’t gotten a new job within one month, that’s not the only thing that was your to-do list. You’re able to actually see what you’re doing, what you can control, and even focusing on what you can do to improve.
Now in the corporate world, you are going to probably be asked to set goals at KPIs and those are your key performance indicators, the steps that you’re going to take on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to meet these goals. Think of the goals that you set for your students. Maybe it’s your regular classroom or maybe you have tier two or tier three kids. What kinds of goals do you set when you want them to improve their reading fluency? You might take a methodical approach, giving them specific help to help them with their phonic skills, improve site wording, and you’re just tracking their progress on that specific area to help them see the bigger picture of what they are doing and where they are improving.
Focusing on What You Can Control
So you want to give yourself goals that you can focus on with factors that you can actually control, like how many jobs will you apply to each week or how much time will you dedicate each week to either taking a bootcamp or going through a course to helping you learn new skills or helping you even with all of the steps of the job hunting process.
After the week is over, reflect on your progress and if you were actually able to meet that specific goal, those are the things that you are able to actually control and that’s going to help you with your productivity because you’re going to have motivation that you are making progress and that you are making it through these steps because they take a really long time to get through and so you’re going to need to really just reflect on the little bite size pieces because you’re absolutely making progress.
Productivity Tip #2: Time Management
My second tip for productivity is just really focusing on improving your own personal time management skills. Teaching is really structured. Usually you have this very strict schedule that tells you exactly how much time you have for each class, how much time you have for planning, how much time you have for lunch, if you even get time to yourself during that time, and you’re restricted to managing time within these really tight timeframes. However, with other roles and even with these really large projects, you are going to have this very different loose schedule that you’re not used to having autonomy over your own time management.
This is especially true if you find yourself working in a remote role or a freelancing role outside of the classroom. You are going to have to develop a structure over time in a way that works best for you and everyone’s really unique here. At Team Teacher Career Coach, we work on what’s called our ideal work week, and we try to sort out all of the tasks and meetings that we have first and see how we best utilize our time. And one of those ways is working with your energy level.
Knowing that some of the hardest tasks or the most creative tasks that I have are best done early in the day. I don’t set any meetings during that early block of time. Now with you, if you’re working on something and it’s a Saturday morning, you may want to push back writing your resume until 4:00 PM but realize that if you did actually work on it at 8:00 AM, you may do it quicker and feel more efficient and be able to go on for the rest of the day.
So one thing that personally happens with me is if I put a really big and daunting task that I am dreading doing later on in the day, it usually throws me in a mental funk. I spend the first four hours dreading that task and the more I procrastinate and the more I think about how much I don’t want to do that task, the more I find myself talking negatively about myself, calling me unproductive or not capable of accomplishing it.
The cycle of shame may get me to procrastinate other goals and ultimately push that daunting task to the very next day or the very next day, but getting that really big daunting task off of my plate as quickly as possible just feels good and it also sets the tone of the rest of the day for productivity and me being able to accomplish everything. This can also feel very true about working out or physical activity.
If you know that you need to schedule in a workout before you even start working on your goals, do that. It can help set you up properly for the whole rest of the day. Another thing that you need to really focus on is avoid multitasking. It always feels counterintuitive because multitasking is what we’re taught is what is productive and efficient, but it is not efficient.
Your brain takes some time to get in the flow of working on this specific goal. So if you are trying to find jobs on LinkedIn, but then switching back and forth as you’re kind of writing a cover letter and then switching back and forth to maybe you’re going to write a post on LinkedIn and then you switch over to actually writing a couple new bullet points on your resume, you’re not going to do any of those as quickly and as efficiently as you would’ve done if you would’ve just sat and worked and worked on that one specific goal during that one specific time.
Productivity Tip #3: Batch Working
You want to also do what’s called batch working. So let’s say you have 30 minutes that you are just going to look at a list of all the jobs that you want to apply for and search for them instead of just scrolling LinkedIn for that 30 minute time and helping one or two job posts pops up. Batch working and doing things in batches can help you be really efficient.
That might be writing two different templates of your resume at the exact same time as well. There are many different ways that you can batch work throughout this process. For your time management goals, you want to really sit down and make a plan, that is whether you do it on your online calendar or if you use something like the Career Pivot Planner, but actually writing down what you plan to do during that day can help you focus and save you time in the long run.
Take this time to estimate how long the tasks are going to take you and use longer focus periods for those bigger projects like rewriting your resume and always make sure that you identify any of the smaller tasks that can also distract you along the way and dedicate a time for these.
So if you do want to get on LinkedIn, maybe that’s only for 15 minutes on a specific day of the week, and that is when you go and you look for jobs, but you’re not going to be scrolling non-stop and looking at all the different posts or instead of checking your emails all day long for anyone who may have responded for an interview that you went on, you want to check it three times a day, in the morning, lunch, and at the end of the day. And that way you can focus the rest of your time to actually moving forward on your projects.
Productivity Tip #4: Limiting Distractions
The next tip for staying productive is to limit your distractions. And distractions are something that’s often outside of our control, but what we can do is understand our distractions, anticipate our distractions, and start to prepare on what we’re going to do when those distractions pop up. Personally, one of my biggest distractions is just the available amount of information that I can find on the internet and a short attention span from just constantly scrolling social media.
I can be focused on learning about one subject or marking one to-do list off of my task, and then I find myself going down this rabbit hole of something that’s totally not related and I catch myself 20 minutes into it realizing I wasn’t moving forward on the goal that I had set for myself. I have a couple of different strategies that have helped me with this. First, I actually do set a timer and I look at the timer and I look at the goal to remind myself that that is what I’m working on.
And then I’ll glance at the timer every once in a while and if I notice I’m working on what I’m not supposed to be or if I’m looking at my phone, it helps keep me on track. But then the second is I actually found this app that has been really truly helpful for me where I’m able to block off timeframes for dedicated work. So it might only allow me to work in a Word document for 30 minutes, or it will remove social media sites for hours of time.
I can actually link that app at teachercareercoach.com/focus if this is something that you think would be helpful for you and you just download it on your computer and block yourself from other outside resources. I really want to make sure that you realize that life is not your distraction. Going for a bike ride, spending time with your family, those are not distractions.
You do not have to sacrifice that things that you love in order to reach your goals. So how do you really tell what is a distraction? Well, one strategy that I loved is to put a monetary value on the hour that you spent on something. I got this strategy from the book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, because spending too much time on my phone is a distraction of mine.
You know, I do those text message threads that take 45 minutes, but could have been a five minute phone call. I open my app without paying a lot of attention and I wanted to make sure that my days were spent well and I was enjoying life. So putting monetary value on something, would you pay $10 to go back on the bike ride with your family like you did last weekend or would you pay $10 to actually open up your Instagram app?
If you would not spend money on what you are actually doing? If you would not spend a single dollar on something that is pulling you away from your work goals, that’s most likely a distraction. Now, if it is something that you would pay money to do like that $10 bike ride with your family, you want to prioritize those things as well and put them in your planner and make sure that you have time and space and energy for them because it’s something that makes your life truly meaningful as well.
Productivity Tip #5: Automating and Outsourcing
The next tip is automating and outsourcing. Now, when I was in teaching, I did not have a lot of opportunities to delegate or outsource or even automate tasks because when you’re working with kids, it is a big no-no to just throw automation software at them. But this is a big part of efficient productivity outside of the classroom. Many times, working more effectively means automating some of the little tasks that you give yourself and takes more time so that you have more space to focus on more meaningful work or creative work or things that are going to take more time for you to do really well. So other times outside of the classroom, you have to ask for help within your company or delegate to your team or outsource.
What can you do within your job hunt that could be automated or outsourced? And even outside of your job hunt, you can outsource tasks as well.
If you have a significant other and they are really supportive of this journey, ask them if they can take something off of your plate to give you an extra hour every week to work on your goal. Those are really small asks that really make a big difference over the course of a 12-week or 16-week job search.
And if you’re job hunting and done of the big things that’s tripping you up is actually writing your resume, that can also be outsourced. You can hire someone to write your resume or you can join us at the Teacher Career Coach course where you get resume templates and everything already done for you so that you can move on to your very next step. The last goal is focusing on what is important and just leaving the rest behind. Working efficiently is one of the biggest ways to stay productive.
Every small action that you take is not going to have an equal impact. Every 30 minutes that you can cut out a busy work or procrastination is going to move you closer to your goals. So if you put 30 minutes down on your planner, but you realize that 30 minutes was just spent scrolling LinkedIn posts, you didn’t use that time as efficiently as if you put it down and you knew exactly what companies you were going to look for and you were going to submit five different resumes in that 30 minutes span of time.
When you go to LinkedIn, I think that is one of the biggest unfortunate time sucks that teachers are having right now, and I just have to share that because what I’m seeing people encouraging teachers to do is to post every day on LinkedIn, but very likely that is most of what you can put on your to-do list for the day and it’s not the most efficient use of your time.
So what should you be sharing as far as posts and articles go on LinkedIn? Honestly, if you do not have the time to ever create a single post or a single article on LinkedIn, you’ll still be fine in your job hunt most likely. The likeliness that a hiring manager is going to find you from one post or one article is very slim.
I don’t want you to feel bogged down by this task or to listen to voices that are telling you to post day after day, after day. You are just getting started on LinkedIn and you want to hear more of a deep-dive of what you should be posting or what you should be doing on LinkedIn or how to best utilize it efficiently, I would go back to episode 63 of this podcast where I go a deep-dive on just like getting started on LinkedIn and why I’m giving this feedback.
So what can you do right now that is going to have the biggest impact? And that just depends on where you are within the timeline of leaving a career. So if you have not figured out what job you want, there are going to be different types of tasks that you may want to work on to help you find career clarity.
If you are actually in the interviewing phase, there are going to be completely different tasks that you should be working on. What you can do is build whittle by whittle. If you have all of your to-do list written out, you’ll also be able to see if you have 10 minutes here or 15 minutes there, what can you check off really quickly off of your to-do list? And always looking back at that to-do list to make sure that what you are working on is working smarter and not harder.
Career Pivot Planner
So if you find yourself mass applying to 500 jobs, but you have sent out the exact same resume to basically all of them, your time would be better spent if you really focused on a smaller handful of jobs every week. Learned about the company, learned about the role, really took time to read the job description so that your resume is going to be revised to stand out for that specific role. We covered a lot of ground today, but how are you going to stay organized with all of the to-dos and not to-dos that you’ve decided on while you’ve listened to this episode?
That is where our new Career Pivot Planner will come in. It has got all of the pages to help you set up your long term goals, keep track of all of your career accomplishments, and even an application log to help keep you organized.
The weekly pages and daily pages are built specifically to help you write down your priorities and mark your three biggest goal items and reflect at the end of every week to help you really grow and see what you can do while focusing on the process and the progress. We’ve been working on the Career Pivot Planner for a while and we are so excited to finally share it with you. You can order yours at teachercareercoach.com/planner.
Now, the goal of our planner is to help you stay organized and productive on your career hunt. This is the tool where you can write it down and keep everything to hold yourself accountable, but it’s not going to walk you through the entire process of a career change.
The Teacher Career Coach Course is where we actually help walk you through the steps of rewriting your resume, and this new planner is just an additional tool that you can use for your job hunt.
So if you need help creating that plan, you need support with the career clarity, the resumes, or the interviews, that is all inside the Teacher Career Coach Course. Thank you so much for being a listener of the Teacher Career Coach podcast. We’ll see you on the very next episode.