When looking for your next job or career opportunity, do you know how to play what I call the “odds game”?
What is the odds game, you ask? The odds game is when you pursue multiple job opportunities at a time to get results faster. Results come in many different flavors, such as more high-quality applications, networking, phone interviews, second interviews and offers.
In my years of coaching job seekers, I’ve observed that many job seekers or career-changers only pursue one job opportunity at a time, sometimes two. This goes for all generations, in my experience, ranging from seasoned senior executives to recent college graduates. This one-at-a-time approach slows down your job search and puts you in limbo while you wait to hear from potential employers. More importantly, it triggers candidate frustration while the clock is ticking ever so slowly. The secret to playing and winning the odds game is to be working on multiple opportunities at the same time.
I’ve found this principle is one of the hardest things to convince candidates to do. But I believe the biggest mistake people make is not playing the odds game. Sometimes you find a job you think you are perfect for and wholeheartedly believe you’ll get. You might even get through the interview stage thinking everything is looking good and still not get the offer. This process can take weeks or months, and now you have to start over again. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had other active job opportunities to focus on?
By playing the odds game, you are doing away with wasted time and getting ahead of the game. The top three reasons to play the odds game are:
- Simply put, waiting is frustrating and can leave you feeling hopeless.
- It speeds up the time to results. It can be the difference in having a job in six weeks or six months. The best way to accelerate this is to multiply your opportunities.
- You will have more energy behind your job search and be more prepared to drive the job search steps forward. Wake up every morning with multiple tasks to do for each position you are pursuing.
Get busy taking action on multiple opportunities.
The most important rule to playing the odds game is to have a job search tracker with a minimum of 10 active job possibilities at a time. That’s right, 10. Not all 10 are going to be in the interview stage, but you need to have 10 active positions going in various stages at all times. And every time you cross one off your list, you get to shop for a new opportunity.
An active job opportunity is defined as a position you are going to apply to within the next week, thus triggering more follow-up activity. Most job seekers are missing a job search “system” and are only taking a handful of steps, often in the wrong order. Some of the follow-up steps for each position include:
- Research and prepare your customized application to submit.
- Network strategically to find at least three people (per position) to help you connect with the hiring manager and/or recruiter for that role.
- Prepare for your interview well in advance.
- Follow up three times, spaced out once per week.
Your mission is to drive each one of your job opportunities to closure, whether it is a yes or a no.
Track each job for which you are applying.
Another mistake is not tracking your opportunities adequately. Get organized with a job tracking spreadsheet to help save you time and keep your active job opportunities organized. You can create this spreadsheet yourself, or some consulting companies, my own included, might provide one to you.
When you are tracking your opportunities on your spreadsheet, go beyond just listing the jobs to which you are applying. Document every activity on each job, the job title, the job posting link, who referred you, and any other pertinent information. For example, when you send an e-mail to a recruiter, write it down. When you network, apply, interview and follow up, every one of these steps needs to be documented. That way, when you wake up each day, you will have clear next steps to keep all opportunities moving forward.
To use your job tracker:
- Look over your job tracker and be sure there are 10 real job opportunities.
- As you move across each row, challenge yourself to do more on each job. For example, you might challenge yourself to network with three people to secure an interview, to prepare for an interview coming up and so much more.
- Create a section for “closed” opportunities. Once a job prospect has closure, move it to this section and add another job to the list.
Don’t make excuses.
Avoid making excuses for why you cannot pursue multiple job opportunities during your search. For example, avoid thinking to yourself, “I can’t juggle 10 at a time.” The reality is, in life, we all must do a bit of juggling every now and then, so use the tools above to help you stay organized. With that, avoid the excuse, “I believe I’ll get this job. I’m perfect for it, so I’m going to play it out.” You might be an ideal fit, but there’s no guarantee of how things will work out. The position still might be given to another candidate, which is why it is important to have equally strong positions listed on your job tracker.
Stay motivated by focusing relentlessly on what is in your control to do. You can aim high for positions, you can follow up multiple times, you can ace interviews and you can negotiate a higher compensation once you receive an offer.
It is time to change your game and drive toward results. The job market is strong, so build your list of 10 job opportunities, get organized, learn how to juggle — and start winning.
This article originally appeared here on Forbes.com.