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Job Search Marathon or Sprint?

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux 

Seattle skyline with marathoners racing across road (viaduct)

These are unprecedented times. Chances are all of us on the job market were not alive during the last pandemic. Some of us (barely or vividly) remember the Great Recession (2008-2010). What’s different about job searching now than was true in 2019 is the focus on customizing materials and not sending out one-size-fits-all applications because we don’t want one-size-fits-all jobs. That said, here are some things I think will help provide context for the journey ahead:

  • Pre-pandemic the average job search was 3-4 months.
  • My research indicates that recession-era job searches are ~4 months.
  • I have also seen research stating the average pre-pandemic hiring time is < 30 days.
  • Anecdotally, I have also witnessed tech startups change their hiring process mid-stream while enterprise-level companies incrementally move through a meticulous game plan.
Ethnic woman in uniform sprints along race track.

While you know you are ready, one thing you cannot account for is the free will of the employer and the timing of the right role in the right company. For some, I see the job search experience as a sprint, and for others, it is a marathon. Take these stories for example:

  • I know a VR innovator that always plans for his job searches to be 6 months and spends the first 3 networking and researching the market.
  • I saw someone get a job 2 weeks after a bootcamp graduation and turned it down because it wasn’t a right fit. Nothing fit for more than 12 months and it darn near drove him crazy.
  • I witnessed someone else get a job 4 months after graduation. It felt like too soon. She still wanted to look.
  • Another woman found her job even after pausing her search to give birth. She leveraged holiday party networking and her past skillset to negotiate a role that fit her situation.
  • I even supported someone who ran through the same hiring process as his friends at an enterprise-level company, but he wasn’t getting the same interview logistics information as his peers. He kept an adaptable attitude and continued to follow up, allowing the company to fix the mistakes. In the end, everyone chosen got an email offer and he got a personal call with the offer and gratitude for his patience.

Just as every story is different and you have a particular set of skills, no one way to hunt for a job works for everyone. Instead, I recommend devising a job search strategy that leans into your strengths. An introvert is not going to attack the job search the same way an extrovert might.

A large group of people running in a marathon in the middle of a street in Brussels. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

It is the resume and/or cover letter and/or networking that gets you the interview, the ability to articulate your business value, and demonstrate the required skills to move you through the rounds to the offer stage. If you need help pinpointing or articulating your value work with a trained coach.

Man in bike helmet and wheel chair along a road.

Whether you anticipate your job search to be a sprint or a marathon the key is to be agile and adapt to the circumstances. Debug your job search each month rather than waiting and hoping for the best. And, when you realize things aren’t what you expected (the marathon is becoming a sprint or the sprint is stretching to become a marathon), it is important to recognize the signs and adjust your approach for the short/long haul.

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