How Long Does It Take to Find a Job? 7 Things That Impact Your Odds
With the quite-possible global recession and the lingering COVID-19 aftershock, the current job market is changing as rapidly as ever and, consequently, is becoming more challenging for job seekers.
As much as you’d want a concrete answer like ‘you are sure to get a job within this time frame because of this and that’, nobody has an all-purpose career approach to help you land a dream job ASAP. When looking for new job opportunities, factor in all aspects—and you’ll know what to expect.
Let’s explore what can affect the duration of your job search, what you can do about it, and how to set reasonable expectations.
How Long Are Job Searches on Average?
Let’s look at the official numbers in a research study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
As of September 2023, it takes the average American 21.5 weeks to get a job offer.
This number doesn’t mean you’ll spend exactly five months trying to find a job, so don’t let it demotivate you. Instead, try to look at it as a certain time record or a deadline you can beat–for instance, by getting a job sooner than that.
To break that deadline, you must be aware of all the ins and outs—that is, everything that affects your chances. It depends on what kind of job board you use, say, general or niche-specific that can raise your chances for success.
It can be your personal qualities (like your qualifications, location, and the overall approach to the job search process) or some matters outside your control (say, the state of the economy or the inside process of your potential employers).
Try and factor this all in, and you’ll get a pretty good estimate of how long it may take you to finally land the right job you’ve been looking for.
What Influences the Job Search Timeline
1. Your Approach, Persistence, and Flexibility
For many job seekers, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep searching as months of unemployment pass by. Having not passed a job interview or two, they begin to feel disappointed and hopeless, always nagged by the fact that the longer they stay unemployed, the harder it is to find a new job.
Don’t let this common problem impact your motivation and attitude: when performed with due diligence and persistence, any job search will be far more efficient and fast.
Key Takeaway: Make finding a job, well… your job! Start each day by setting some minor but realistic goals: scan through the new open positions on the job market, pick one or two jobs, send them your resume and cover letter, follow up on your previous applications, and so on.
2. Your Qualifications and Skill Set
Quite often, it’s the demand for your hard skills that makes all the difference. Job seekers with specialized skills and in-demand qualifications often find it easier to impress hiring managers and pass all job interviews with flying colors. In contrast, if you have less specific talents, you will have fewer opportunities to find work rapidly.
Key Takeaway: If you lack qualifications, consider learning some new skills while you have the time. Also, if your skillset is very common (i.e. there’s a lot of competition), think about what you can do to stand out: write cover letters tailored to the job description, brush up your LinkedIn profile and social media in case there’s a background check, add a cool picture to your resume (say, you can easily get one in an AI professional headshot generator) and so on.
3. Industry and Market Trends
Certain sectors experience rapid growth, creating more job opportunities, while others may be stagnant or shrinking, resulting in fewer openings.
For one, the tech industry has seen substantial growth in recent years, leading to a higher worker demand. As opposed to this, there tend to be fewer job openings in creative fields like 3D art and copywriting, all due to the rise of AI and neural networks.
Key Takeaway: Every job seeker should know and understand the dynamics of the field they’ve chosen. Stay tuned by monitoring the relevant vacancies and reading pertinent media—at some point, it’ll help you make more informed career decisions.
4. Your Location and Willingness to Relocate
As you can imagine, urban areas and major metropolitan centers often have way more job prospects compared to rural ones. To top it off, a much higher cost of living in these areas results in much higher pay grades. But with all that comes increased competition–and longer searches.
In contrast, rural areas usually have fewer job postings available. So, if you’re the only highly-skilled specialist in town, you’re to get that dream job fast. However, it often happens that there’s simply no demand for your skills or the salary is twice as little as it would have been in a city.
Key Takeaway: Decide what is it you want from your new job: a really good paycheck that often comes with a long commute or a more relaxed pace that usually doesn’t pay off that well. As an alternative, consider remote work, which can be a decent compromise.
5. Networking and Connections
As a rule, those having robust networks and strong connections in their field sometimes don’t even need a resume and job boards to find what suits them. Very often, it’s networking that opens doors and provides valuable insights into job openings (that might not even be publicly advertised). Conversely, job hunters with limited professional networks may face a more extended search, as they may not have access to as many job leads or referrals.
Key Takeaway: While you’re in your current position, make the best of it. Make new acquaintances and establish more connections—in the future job search, this will serve as a solid basis. If you’ve already quit your company, it’s not too late to establish a network: freelancing or part-time jobs will also expand the circle of your professional acquaintances and eventually help you land a full-time position.
6. Impact of the Timing
The timing of your job search can be a critical factor as well. Certain times of the year, such as the end of the fiscal year when companies are finalizing budgets or the holiday season when hiring slows down, may result in longer searches. Contrarily, starting your search when companies are actively hiring (like during the first quarter or after summer vacations) can lead to getting a new position quicker.
Additionally, personal timing matters. If you are in a rush to secure employment due to financial constraints, your job search may result in unpleasant compromises. Meanwhile, having enough time and savings allows you to wait for the right opportunity and consider other positions.
Key Takeaway: Before quitting your current job, it might be wiser to wait until a more busy period when hiring managers search for new people more actively (say, at the beginning of each year or after the holiday season).
7. The Meaning of Luck
There’s one other thing you also should come to terms with: an element of luck is present in any job search. Sometimes, the perfect job opportunity aligns with your qualifications and opens up at precisely the right time. Other times, external factors, like company restructurings or behind-the-scenes hiring process changes, can lead to unexpected failure.
Good and bad things alike will always be beyond your control. Say, your hiring manager can allow their bad mood to make the final decision. Or, your current boss can offer you a sudden raise to meet your salary requirements.
Key Takeaway: Obviously, nobody can control their luck. The best you can do is accept this uncertainty: once you do, it will be much simpler for you to handle the tension and worry that come with looking for a job.
Closing Thoughts on Job Search Duration
As you see, the duration of any search will vary based on a combination of multiple factors. While it’s challenging to predict exactly how long it will take to secure a position, understanding these many factors will help you set realistic expectations and try applying for the available jobs with much more confidence.
Ultimately, what’s most important is to stay committed, adaptable, and persistent in your job search process. With time and effort, a new job will come your way, and you’ll be well on your path to achieving your career goals.