Feeling Frazzled by Your Job Search? Here’s Why You Need to Get Organized

The snow is finally gone, the flowers are poking out and aside from cleaning out your closet, it may be time to do some spring cleaning in our day-to-day work as well. In honor of the new spring season, we decided to look at how to maximize your job search success by using simple organization systems.

I remember standing in front of one of my job search groups discussing the importance of keeping organized in your job search. In my hand was a restaurant napkin with a note written: Follow-up with Bob Craser about my job interview.

Recently I asked a career coaching client how she keeps organized in her job search – a question I always ask my clients when I work with them. Barbara* replied rather sheepishly that she wrote notes on napkins, post-its and scraps of paper. Sound familiar?

I’ve been known to write on multiple pieces of paper (and even paper napkins!) just like my example above. Yet, I try hard (and recommend to my clients) that this is NOT the way to go.

Why do I need a system?

An organized system that tracks all your job search activity and dates also helps you with your goal of getting your dream job faster and more efficiently.

My cell phone has taken the place of my post-it notes and napkins. Now I enter contact info as soon as I meet someone, along with any meeting information and follow-up dates. And when I’m home I can link my phone to my computer and upload the info into my files.

A tracking system allows you to record when you have sent a resume to ABC Company. You can make a note of when to follow up to ensure they’ve received your resume and to ask for an interview. After that interview? You will know when to send a thank you card out. Phone notifications/alerts can be your guide here. My Secret Sauce article goes into further detail on how to use follow-up as a tool for career success.

What about after that interview? If you don’t follow up – keeping control of your job search – you may miss a great opportunity. Scott* a past client, heard back about a job opportunity TWO MONTHS after he had interviewed with the company. Why so long? Well, the company had hired someone else who didn’t work out and Scott was next on the list. Fortunately Scott had kept records of the previous interview and his follow-up, as well as the company and decision-maker’s contact information, so he was prepared when the company called him. And he got the job!

Keep all your job-search activity in one place

The key to being organized is having all the information in one place. I always tell my clients that the system that is best for them is the one that they are most comfortable using – be it electronic or good old paper. Either is fine, as long as you keep all the information together. That’s the key. Some people prefer a file folder to keep copies of all their applications and job postings. That’s fine too, as long as, in addition to that, you have a way to track your actions.

Other clients use a notebook and record all their job search activities there. And some use an excel spreadsheet. Customize the process to fit your needs.

You will also need a way to track your meetings, interviews and networking. Again, you can go digital/electronic or use a diary/agenda/daytimer. My daughter Leah, who juggles a full-time job, with contract work and her own website business, swears by the Harvard Business Planner to keep her on track. Others like me love their phone calendars and some folks like the old-fashioned big desk calendars. Use what works for you.

Here’s a checklist of the important information to document:

  • Date of contact
  • How you contacted the company (phone call, referral, email, LinkedIn, recruiter, dropped in)
  • Company name
  • Decision-maker name(s)
  • Company contact information (email address, address and phone number)
  • Action taken (sent a resume; attended an interview etc.)
  • Job posting (if applicable)
  • Resume and cover letter version sent (both resumes and cover letters should be customized for every application)
  • Follow-up actions (phone calls, thank you cards)

Dust off your system!

No matter what method you use to keep organized in your job search, now is the time to dust it off and improve it.

1. If you are like Barbara, first gather all your job search notes and materials together into one place

2. Select a system that will work for you (paper or electronic)

3. Go through your files, lists, notebooks, spreadsheets – whatever you use – and archive old applications that are from more than six months ago.

(HINT: Before archiving you might want to reach out to these contacts again – one never knows where opportunities lie.)

4. Look at what needs your attention now – whether it is a follow up call to an employer, or a thank you to a network contact – make it happen.

5. Take action needed based on your information

So now that you have the tools for an organized system, set aside time each day to review your information and take action. Here’s to spring cleaning your job search and becoming more efficient and effective. Your dream job awaits!

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality

(Originally posted on Noomii Career Blog)

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