According to a Zimbio quiz I took recently, the Star Wars character I resemble most is R2D2. In addition to being loyal and skilled, I am apparently the “hardest working droid in the galaxy.” I can think of several Star Wars characters whose personalities stand out more prominently than R2D2’s: Han Solo, Princess Leia, Yoda, Darth Vader, even Chewie. Of course, this is the charm of George Lucas’s favorite character and nearly everyone’s favorite droid: he may not be ostentatious, but he is effective.

I am not bringing up R2D2 because I am a Star Wars geek. I enjoy the original trilogy, and malign the prequels, as much as any child of the eighties. However, I don’t spend any free time editing Lando Calrissian’s entry on Wookiepedia. I simply found it interesting that I was matched with a robot because the repetitious, persistent, ostensibly aloof qualities attributed to robots are exactly the traits some people expect job seekers to adopt during their search for employment. That is, we should spend every spare moment scouring the ends of the internet and classifieds for any type of employment, fire off a cover letter and resume and then repeat. Of course, this is in addition to shoving our Visaprint business cards into the hands of anyone who can potentially assist us in this search.

If the aforementioned approach sounds ideal to you, I must enigmatically wave my hand and inform you that I am not the droid you’re looking for.

I think many of us who have been unemployed or underemployed for long periods of time go through our robot phases, where most of the day is spent searching for suitable positions (and sometimes Hail Mary ones), applying for them, emailing alums and suggested contacts and/or discussing our goals in informational interviews. The job search consumes us and leaves little room for much else. However, I personally find that method limiting and draining. It is also discouraging and demoralizing when nothing fruitful occurs as a result.

I just don’t possess the single-minded determination and stamina required to search for a job eight hours a day. Instead, I’ve adopted an approach that I believe is more productive for me. It consists of:

Legwork. I spend a substantial amount of time searching for jobs, applying to jobs and networking. I look for jobs pretty much every day, including weekends. I’m on several listserves. Friends and family frequently send me job listings. I don’t like to set quotas, but I do try to end every day by either applying to a position, earmarking a position for further consideration or reaching out to someone with whom I can network.

Volunteering. I believe I mentioned in a previous blog that I was raised by two MSWs (Masters in Social Work) who are profoundly committed to public service. As a result, volunteering is ingrained in me and searching for volunteer opportunities is automatic. This is not a humble brag, but a fact. Volunteering has always been a significant aspect of my life. As immigration, health disparities, human rights and education are the topics closest to my heart, I tend to search for volunteer activities in this area. Right now, I volunteer twice a week: once a week with an after school tutoring and mentoring program and once a week, in house, with Catholic Charities. In addition to the pleasant distraction volunteering offers (its not all altruistic), it can also help you to develop and sharpen new schools. Moreover, volunteering may provide networking and job opportunities. I began working for Catholic Charities in Portland after volunteering with them for several months.

Sometimes obtaining a volunteer position takes persistence, especially in this economy. It took several months before I was able to volunteer in house with Catholic Charities in Washington DC and the attorney with whom I am a teamed works with three other volunteer attorneys/paralegals.

Self Care. I think it is essential to continue doing the things I enjoy while I am unemployed. I do guard my money fairly carefully, which certainly keeps me from social activities I enjoy like eating out, occasional drinks with friends and concerts. Thankfully, I don’t have expensive hobbies. Running is possibly the most economic exercise available and I’ve been a devotee for nearly two decades. I’m also a huge reader and liberally take advantage of the library system wherever I live (Portland has been the best, FYI). Finally, I am fortunate to live in Washington DC, home to an affordable public transportation system that ferries me to free museums and embassies that host complimentary events like lectures, concerts, book talks and movies.

I don’t endeavor to be the woman sweating in the R2 model. So, getting away from my resumes and cover letters enables me to better focus on the job application process without getting burned out.

How do you approach, or how have you approached, your job search? How are you taking care of yourself?

Photo by Dan Gangeri