Gamifying the Job Search

I’m about to graduate — only three more weeks of classes and a frightful number of assignments stand between me and the ability to call myself a Master of Information. It’s very exciting, and also kind of daunting, and judging by the stress levels of my colleagues, I am not alone in regarding mid-April with a sense of mild dread.

I need to get a job.

This week, the realization set in that my inaction on the job front was not something I ought to continue. While my part-time jobs will save me from insolvency should the job search stretch out a bit, I definitely needed to kick things into high gear and get going. Like many people, when faced with big tasks, I occasionally (if perhaps unconsciously) attempt to avoid them. Cleaning the kitchen, starting my big assignment, doing my taxes, whatever — if it is something for which I am accountable (mostly) only to me, then I can be very good at finding other things I need to do (More work for morning job! more work for afternoon job! The cat needs to be played with!).

So, I’ve concocted a plan. I’m going to devote every morning from 7:30 – 8:30 (except Sunday, because I want to sleep in) to job search-related activities: blogging, working on my portfolio, actually applying for jobs, finding new networking events, reaching out to contacts, etc. Since applying for jobs can often be unrewarding — like when you apply for twenty jobs, hear back from none of them, and have to keep double-checking that your email was actually working, as one of my friends lamented the other day — I’ve decided to gamify it.

So, there is a wall of post-its behind my desk, the ones on the left are the ‘to do’s, the ones on the rights are the ‘done’s. I’ve created targets for myself such as

  • apply to five jobs per week,
  • blog three times per week,
  • add to my portfolio twice a week

My green 'Apply to 1st job' post-it note

I’ve also set up rewards to reaching my targets / milestones. I have to say, putting up my hideous green post-it with “Apply to 1st Job” and a poorly drawn star on it was super motivating! Whether I hear back from that company (and I hope I do), the effort was acknowledged, and this combats the inherently demotivating aspects of sending out lots of resumes and not getting any replies. I’ve already been rewarded for my efforts; a response will be bonus. Since I share my office, there’s also a sense of accountability: I don’t want Paul thinking that I’ve not been doing anything… so I’d better do stuff.

In the fifth grade, my teacher implemented a group system: each group was allocated points and gold stars and stuff, and the group with the most points at the end of the month  got to have a pizza lunch in the classroom and watch a Disney movie (we had 1.5 hour lunch breaks because almost everyone went home for lunch). It was shockingly motivating, much like my weird post-it reward system is proving to be. I think as things move forward, I’ll add in something bigger, like “First interview! Treat yourself to a manicure” or “A week of meeting all your targets! Empty your amazon cart.” Maybe I’ll even have a pizza lunch and watch a Disney movie one of these days.

Looking for work is a full time job. By making it manageable, breaking down my ‘to do’s and rewarding myself for doing them, I’ve found the whole process shockingly pleasant, and fought back against the lethargy that can threaten to overwhelm. We’ll see how I’m feeling in a week.