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How to Get Your Job Search Organized
What was the name of the manager you met at last month’s business mixer? Did you ever follow up on the application you mailed two weeks ago? Which version of your résumé is the most recent one — without the typos? If you’re asking yourself questions like these, your job search could benefit from some organization.
The typical job search can generate a daunting stack of paper and a backlog of communications from many channels at once. If you are actively looking for work, you may quickly find yourself buried in multiple versions of your résumé, copies of cover letters, clippings and printouts of job listings, business cards from people you have met, e-mails sent and received, bookmarked web pages, phone messages, flyers for networking events, and much more.
To keep all these essential job search components organized, here’s what you will need:
1. Calendar – You’ll need to keep track of appointments, when you sent out résumés or placed phone calls, and what date you should be following up with people you speak to. Use whatever system works best for your personal style: a pocket datebook, a PDA (e.g. Palm Pilot), or task management software on your computer (e.g. Outlook) are all appropriate choices.
2. Contact Manager – To take full advantage of your personal connections, you will want to maintain a list of everyone you speak with about your job search, along with their complete contact information, when you last spoke, and what you discussed. Contact management software such as Outlook or ACT! is one option, but you can also use a card file, notebook, or large address book.
3. Filing System – On your computer, set up a special folder to hold all your job search materials, and create sub-folders to help you find items quickly. Be sure to give all your documents distinct names. Instead of simply “Resume,” for example, you might use names like “Resume updated with feedback from Ken” or “Resume sent to Marshall Co” to identify different versions.
For your e-mail, use the same idea to save copies of e-mails you send or receive in separate folders in your e-mail system. You might create one folder for all your job search correspondence, or if you are a heavy e-mail user, add sub-folders for each prospective employer or opportunity. Also use a folder to organize bookmarked web pages, such as job postings you check regularly.
With paper documents and clippings, the type of system you choose should depend on whether your job search needs to be mobile. File folders in a drawer or standing file work well if you will always be conducting your job search in the same location. If your job search needs to travel, a better solution might be a three-ring binder with dividers or an accordion file with several pockets.
4. Task List – You’ll need a way to keep track of what may seem like an endless list of things to do. Appointments and notes to follow up on a certain date can be put in your calendar, but you’ll also need a way to track tasks with no date assigned as well as daily or weekly activities. Some PDA’s and contact or task management software offer this feature, or you can keep your master task list in a document on your computer, in a notebook, or on a bulletin board or whiteboard.
Once you have set up a system to organize your job search, you’ll need to remember to use it. Get in the habit of making entries in your calendar or contact manager immediately, rather than saving them up for later. When you print documents, open postal mail, or receive e-mails, file them right away, making a note of any action you need to take on your task list. Don’t try to use a pile of paper as your reminder.
One technique that can help to keep your job search visibly organized is creating a “job wall.” Dedicate some wall space or the back of a door to your job search and post a large calendar, list of job postings to check regularly, events to attend, people to talk to, and important tasks you want to keep in mind. Use sticky notes to highlight important deadlines or projects. You could also keep the same material in a three-ring binder prominently displayed on your desk.
Whatever organization system you choose, find a way to keep your job search activities constantly in front of you and check your to-do list often. If everything you need is buried in a drawer, a pile, or your briefcase, your job search won’t get as much attention.