AJO Blog

How Long Will My Job Search Take?


October 29th, 2015
This is typically one of the first questions we are asked by employees who are eligible for career transition or outplacement services with A.J. O’Connor Associates (AJO). To provide some background, most individuals who call to initiate services:
  • Have already left, or about to leave their organizations.
  • Will be in a position to devote all their time to their career transition. Job search becomes the new job, or so we advise.
  • Have not maintained strong networks outside of their current employer.
  • Need to strengthen their online presence (72% of AJO program participants report post program that they made moderate to significant improvements in their online profiles and social media presence and only 5% reported making minor improvements).
how long will my job search take?
The short answer to this question can be found in the overall average job search duration statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes several reports monthly which are a good starting point (see references below). The good news is that as unemployment rates have fallen, so too has the average duration of unemployment.
In 2015 to date, AJO program participants (mostly comprised of professionals and executives) are taking 22 weeks to land new positions on average, beating the average for management, professional, and related occupations (as reported by the BLS) by more than 7 weeks - we had to get that plug in!

The real answer, however, is
“it depends”....

There are several factors to take into account regarding the likely time to find your next role, if you are facing a job search. In the rest of this post and two follow up posts, we’ll explore six key factors that can play a role (beyond sheer luck that is) in how long before you land your next opportunity.
job search time factors

What’s Next?

This is an important question and refers to what career changes, if any, you are considering. The number of starting points are numerous and each will factor differently into the time it will take. The common theme in the following scenarios is how clear you are about what’s next. Examples include:
  • Acknowledging it’s time to change direction, with no clear idea of what might be next.
  • Buying a business or franchise, or a business from scratch with no firm idea to some idea of what that will look like beyond wanting to be self-employed.
  • Turning an existing hobby or outside work interest into a career with some idea of following your passion.
  • Consulting/contracting as an independent with one or more organizations with some idea of what the possibilities are.
  • Acquiring new skills/re-tooling, training and/or certifications to increase marketability or prepare for a change with some idea of the direction.
  • Pursuing one’s current career in the same or possibly new industry or setting (E.g., not-for-profit) with a clear idea of what you will be doing next.
  • Having a clear idea that you want a similar role, but not certain of the industry segments, organizations or precise roles that will enable you to optimize your talents and opportunities.
career option possibilities
If you are thinking about changing careers, starting or buying a business, or retraining, anticipate more time, depending on the clarity of your thinking and decisions made so far. Career planning adds a step to the transition process and it might be a big one that those who are clear about their career path can side step. It can involve personal assessment and reflection; occupational research and market assessment; informational interviewing; and retraining, certification and/or returning to school.
In her study of 39 people who changed, or were in the process of trying to change careers, Insead professor Herminia Ibarra turned the “think then act” approach to career change on its head, advocating for ”test and learn” instead. Her article “How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career” and book, “Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career” are recommended reading for anyone considering a career change with no firm idea of what’s next.
Ibarra concluded,
“Nearly everyone who tries to figure out a next career takes a long time to find the one that is truly right. Most career transitions take about three years. It is rarely a linear path: We take two steps forward and one step back, and where we end up often surprises us.”
Of course, factors such as time and money may limit the extent to which unemployment can last. Career Coaches will recommend reviewing finances to determine how long before you experience adverse financial impact and this will clearly play a role in the “what’s next” and “how long will it take” equation.   
In summary, the first of six factors that address the “how long will it take” question comes down to how clear you are about what’s next. If you are fortunate enough to work with a professional Career Coach, give him or her some idea of how satisfied you are with your current career field and what changes, if any, you are thinking of making, whether minor or significant. In this situation, many individuals for whom time is of the essence will pursue more than one goal, exploring a new option while pursuing an existing career path.