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People who work from home and job seekers have something in common. They must have disciplined routines if they hope to be successful.
Those who are successful almost always construct routines and back them up with the discipline to do them every work day. John Cheever put on a jacket and tie to go down to the basement office where he kept a desk near the boiler room to write. Poet John Keats reportedly put on a clean white shirt to write in after work. They had a routine to do the work they felt was important to their livelihood and happiness. Their discipline and routines were as if they had a “regular” job and were simply going to the office.
People who work at home, especially those who migrated to self-employment, or those who periodically telecommute from a traditional office setting, say the biggest challenge was getting started — building the routine and then having the discipline to get friends and family members to respect their space.
People looking for a new job after a layoff or termination face the same challenge. There is absolutely no difference. When you are looking for a new job you, in effect, have a full-time job. In our new economy, the demands and challenges of a job search will only intensify.
Writers, poets, work-from-home professionals all say virtually the same thing — you must be disciplined to avoid the distractions that a home office can produce, everything from the inevitable disruptions to the honey-do lists.
Here is what I recommend:
- Take the first two weeks to decompress. During that time, get as many of the honey-do jobs done as you can because once you move into the job search mode you should keep normal office hours. People with year-long, or longer, severance agreements may not feel the immediate pressure to get back into the game. While they may have a financial cushion if they have a generous severance, the clock is still running. The longer you are out of work the more questions you will face, some asked, some not, regarding why it is taking so long for you to land another job.
- Dress for success. Get up as if you had to be in the office at 8 AM. Dress and then go to your new office. You do not have to wear a coat and tie — that is not what I am suggesting. But you do need to feel professional. The “where” — down the hall, or out in a garage study — does not matter as long as you have access to a telephone or a reliable cell phone service, a computer, a printer, and an internet connection. If you do not discipline yourself to shower and dress, you are crafting a bad routine that will inevitably come back to haunt you. Yes, there are advantages to the informality of a home-based office, but make those exceptions to your regular routine few and far between. Since video interviews are increasing in popularity, you should always be ready in terms of your attire. Moreover, your home office should take into account what will be visible in the background. Windows which produce backlight conditions that cast a shadow over your face, or your personal laundry items dangling from an indoor clothes line, are two things you want to avoid. I mention these examples because they are not that uncommon.
- Establish some boundaries. You cannot be effective in a home office if you have barking dogs, screaming kids, or, God forbid, an unhappy spouse trying to get your attention in the background. No one would tolerate those types of personal interruptions in a regular office. You must set out some common-sense rules to give you the space and professional atmosphere for you to be effective.