Job Search Game: Squirrels and Shiny Things

Tell me about your week, what kinds of things did you do to find work? The response I get from this question sometimes is fascinating…truly. I often wonder how people get anything done with so many “squirrels and shiny things” causing distractions. One of my favourite answers to this question was, “reading a book about why I procrastinate.” My response to this was, “Can you explain how reading this book is helping you find a job?” Of course there was no explanation, but it did reveal something important; I was told that employer rejection and fear of returning to the workforce after a long time away is a big factor in the procrastination.

There are many reasons people choose squirrels and shiny things over searching for work but in the big picture, those squirrels and shiny things are hindering success! While it’s true that looking at cat videos, providing status updates in Facebook, viewing sports scores and researching the latest fashion, autos or audio equipment is far more exciting than job searching, it is also true that the time you spend with things unrelated to your job search will only increase the time it takes to find a job. This all boils down to time management, focus and determination to achieve the outcome you want.

Does this mean no more squirrels and shiny things? No, it just means that the more exciting things need a time out in order to focus on the important things and once the important things have been accomplished, the exciting things become the reward for a job well done. Think of it like a game and challenge yourself to obtain those exciting squirrels and shiny things by keeping score and upping the ante to earn more points for more time. However, the time spent on your fun activities or distractions should never exceed more than one hour in duration, so a timer for your activities may be needed. Remember, this game is for people who are treating their job search as a full-time job…meaning, spending 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week participating in job search activities.)

Here are some examples of job search tasks with time and points associated with them; (Note: The intent is to use the rewards AFTER you complete a job search task(s) and the time spent on the rewards should not hinder your next task.

Job Search Task Points Time Allotted
Attend Career Workshop 30 2 hours
Register with ALIS or O*NET & Take Assessment(s) 10 * 20 minutes
Research Occupations & Wage info on ALIS or O*NET 50 2 hours
Register with online job boards 10 1 hour
Set-up Job board agents 15 20 minutes
Update/Create Resume 20 1 hour
Update/Create Cover Letter 30 1 hour
Target Specific Employers for Applications 40 1 hours
Research Targeted Employers 25 2 hours
Contact Previous Employers/Co-Workers for References 10 * 30 minutes
Apply for _______ Jobs 5 * 2 hours
Contact ______ Employers by phone 10 1 hour
Contact _______ Employers in person 30 4 hours
Set-Up Informational Interview(s) with Employer 20 * 15 minutes
Join/Participate in Networking Groups/Events 25 2 hours
Attend Job Fairs/Employer Information Sessions 40 3 hours
Practice Interview Skills 20 1 hour
Conduct Employer Follow-Up 15* 1 hour
Attend Employer Interview (Informational or regular) 50 2 hours
Send or Drop off Interview Thank you Cards 20 * 15 minutes

* Indicates points for each one you do, for instance; if you apply for 4 jobs online, you earned 20 points, as they are 5 points each. ALIS is Alberta Learning and Information Service and you can find the assessments at O*NET is the United States version of ALIS where you can find occupational information and assessments at

Here are a few examples of squirrels and shiny things…How do you earn these activities? Complete job search tasks that add up to the points needed. Keep in mind, the more fun, relaxing or distracting the activity is, the higher the points become. Also, to get more time with these activities, you will need to double the points from your job search tasks to get double the time with these activities.

Squirrels and Shiny Things Points Time Allowed
Playing Computer or Video Games 85 20 minutes
Text Use, Tablet Use, Skype Use, App Use, Online Chat 75 15 minutes
Surfing the Internet 50 15 minutes
Phoning friends/family 30 10 minutes
Meeting a friend for lunch/coffee 90 1 hour
Reading (Reviews, Online Articles, Newspaper or books) 35 15 minutes
Facebook and Other Social Networking 60 20 minutes

A major reason and benefit of doing this, is to maintain your job search as your first priority. However, it also helps to take breaks from job searching and do the things you enjoy, so you don’t start feeling overwhelmed, isolated, depressed and bored. Often times, challenging yourself and having a reward to look forward to can keep you motivated and help you achieve success.

For more about tracking your time and activities see my last blog post “Time in the Big Picture-An Action Plan for Job Search Results”

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