Organizing your search will keep your head above water and increase your chances of success. After all, wouldn’t you feel more confident and prepared having all of your ducks in a row?
Unsure of how to get started? Here are some tips on getting and staying organized.
1. Get Clear on What You Are Looking For
With seemingly endless listings posted on-line, it’s easy to spend hours just sifting through. And with so many job search boards that scream for your attention, you can easily get sucked in to doing research that ultimately leads nowhere.
This is why it is so important to get clear on what you are looking for before you get started. While networking, not applying on-line, should always remain your primary focus, you will save valuable time with each type of outreach if you can pinpoint the types of organizations and roles you would like to work in.
Having in mind a job description can help with creating a strong elevator pitch and will be invaluable when searching on-line, narrowing your focus to what’s important. Just remember: you don’t have to fit the requirements of the job description 100% in order to apply. 70-80% fit is perfectly acceptable.
2. Create a Plan and a Schedule
Would you like to have a new job in 6 months or less? Or do you have another timeline in mind? While you can’t be sure exactly when you will land a job, it is in your power to keep a confident attitude, hope for the best and establish a system that will help you achieve a positive outcome.
Your step-by-step efforts will depend on the amount of time you dedicate to the search.
If you are working full-time and have other responsibilities, it may be harder to find chunks of time to focus on networking, researching and applying for jobs. But whether you are currently employed or have more available hours in the day, you will benefit from setting and sticking to a job search schedule.
You may want to start by thinking of the days and times that you are most productive and break up those days into specific tasks you’d like to tackle.
For example, you may block off mornings to update your LinkedIn profile, resume or draft cover letters, send e-mails and do outreach mid-day, and meet for lunch-time informational interviews. Alternatively, perhaps you prefer to do the on-line research in the morning, write and prepare documents in the afternoon and network in the evenings.
Whatever your preferred schedule, lay it out and then stick to it, setting weekly goals to keep you moving forward.
3. Organize Your Documents
The time has gone when you could comfortably submit one version of your resume to multiple positions. Today, you are expected to customize your resume, preparing different versions that fit the description of each role. Cover letters, of course, must be thought out and customized as well.
With all of these documents to keep track of, it is easy to displace parts of your application packet. Yes, it’s true -- virtually all of the communication with the company contact or recruiting manager is now electronic, and a messy disorganized desk may be a thing of the past.
But keeping your electronic files in order is just as much of an art form, and certainly no less necessary if you want to keep a cool head for when the phone rings and the hiring manager is on the other end.
To keep accurate track of each application, create separate folders on your computer for each company and role you have applied for, keeping appropriate versions of your resume, cover letter, and related materials in relevant subfolders.
4. Build a Spreadsheet
Now that you’ve applied to multiple positions, things can get messy. Even if you have a grasp on all your files, you’ll need a system for keeping track of all the details so that you can appropriately follow up.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to the create a spreadsheet in Excel or a simple multi-column table in Word. You’ll want to include basic information such as:
- Company name
- Brief description of position applied for
- Contact details (name, e-mail, phone number)
- Date applied
- Deadlines (for any follow up information requested)
- Interviews (details of where to go and with whom to meet)
- Date(s) followed up
- Status of the application (if you’ve been rejected, waiting to hear back etc.)
5. Use A Job Search Management Tool
If you are struggling to get organized and need more help, you are in luck. There are a number of job search management tools available on-line, many of them free, that will help you keep track of all your important data.
Perhaps the most well-known of them is JibberJobber.com. With JibberJobber you can keep track of the jobs you applied for, keep a tab on companies of interest, and manage relationships and follow-up opportunities, all in one place.
JibberJobber is free with an option to upgrade to premium features for a nominal annual fee.
Ultimately, whether you use an off-the-shelf system, or create your own, you’ll feel more in control of the job search process if you stay organized. As everyone knows, preparation breeds confidence and a confident job candidate is always in demand.
So what are you waiting for? Set your schedule, manage your files, and pretty soon you won’t need to update the Job Status field anymore!