MIAMI — The lazy days of summer are here and almost gone, but for people who are job hunting, taking the afternoon off to soak up some sun may feel like a luxury they just can't afford.
Just as work-life balance is a struggle for those with jobs, the challenges of time management can be equally complex for those looking for work.
As companies tip-toe back into hiring, unemployment still hovers near 10 percent nationally, and the average length of a job search remains at about 26 weeks. With competition fierce for every opening, candidates walk a fine line between conducting an aggressive search and becoming frustrated, desperate and worn out.
One job seeker I spoke with wondered: "If I have sent out dozens of resumes, called recruiters and attended a few networking events this week and there's still no sign of a job, is it okay to call Friday a half day and head outdoors?"
Recruiters advise job seekers to treat a search like a full-time job. Matthew Beck, managing director of the Mergis Group's Miami office, also advocates stepping back and taking a mental break every now and then. Just don't drop out of the search for more than a week, he says. "I don't think summer is a good time to completely shut down your search. You never know when you might miss the right opportunity."
More often these days, the right opportunity comes from connections. Lauryn Franzoni, vice president of ExecuNet.com, says that her recruiting firm's research shows only 20 percent of jobs available are advertised. The best places to learn about hiring, she says, are the golf course, basketball court, a book club or church meeting.
"Get involved in something you love and wish you had time for, and use it as a way to meet others who can help you," Franzoni says.
Clint White, a Florida pilot, has been laid off three times in the past two years. He has wrestled with taking time off from the search. "I know it's good to be active, but there's always this nervousness in the back of your mind."
During his earlier bout of unemployment, White started a blog — helpclintfindajob.wordpress.com — where he chronicled experiences on the hunt and his views of the aviation industry. Writing, he says, has given him some balance, a break from pounding the pavement and trolling job boards. It also helped White get attention in his industry and land a job. Unemployed again, he now has a network. "I can go out with my wife for a drive, and my network is working for me."
The intensity of your search may depend on your personal circumstances — whether you've depleted savings, run through unemployment benefits, how long you've been out of work. Another factor may be whether you have another household income.
The more you need the job, the more the search can become stressful. Have a plan and avoid time wasters such as applying blindly for online postings, says Carlos Gil, founder of JobsDirectUSA, a national job search organization. "You don't want to get to the point you are so overwhelmed that it takes away from energy needed to stay focused."
Joe Hurwitz has plenty going for him in his job search. He's young, creative and wants a job in marketing or sales. He has been searching for a position for six months while working toward his MBA on the weekends. Taking "me time" every morning helps him stay positive. He rides his bicycle to the gym, exercises and then goes home to line up interviews or mine his social network for leads. Recently, he did the unthinkable for an unemployed professional. He took a vacation to the Florida Keys. "I felt like it was okay because I've been working hard. I don't want to look worn out in front of a potential employer."
Job hunters who are married say there's another component to their time management — the pressure from a spouse. Michelle DeLeon spends her days and nights searching job boards and building a network. She says her husband questioned her recently when she wanted to spend an afternoon with her nieces. "He's old-fashioned and doesn't understand why everything I'm doing is not producing results."
DeLeon since has formed a support group in North Florida for job seekers to chat over lunch and take a break from their intense hunt.
Meanwhile, Krisia Zulueta-James, an architect and construction administrator, has been out of work more than a year and says she is trying to make the best of her unemployment, spending her summer days enjoying free outings to the park or library with her children and using evenings to scour job boards. "I feel guilty and frustrated, but the search continues."
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life.