“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~ Thomas Edison
So, you are searching for a new job? Perhaps you are making a voluntary career transition. Maybe you have been laid off, or worse, fired. Regardless of the reason for your job search, one fact remains true: if you are conducting a job search, it is vital that you take an organized approach. Managing your job search is just like managing any other major project. You must create an infrastructure that allows you to operate in an efficient and productive manner. A successful job search requires forethought and action. Here are some tips for conducting an organized job search.
1. Declutter and Pre-Purge – If you are embarking on a job search, it will be difficult to do so if your physical space is covered in clutter with piles of papers everywhere. Take some time to declutter. Purge any unnecessary items, file papers that you need to keep, recycle junk mail, and get some order back into that space! It will be easier for you to concentrate on your job search without all of that chaos and clutter around you. Just be careful that you don’t spend too much time decluttering that you start using it as an excuse to procrastinate with regard to your job search. A few days should suffice.
2. Create a Job Search Schedule – Let’s face it – searching for a job is hard work! If you are still employed while you are conducting your new job search, be prepared to have an extremely busy schedule. If you are currently unemployed, realize that you do, indeed, have a job – conducting a job search! Create a job search schedule that gives you ample time for all of the activities you need to focus on in order to succeed: resume and cover letter preparation, surfing the web for jobs, networking, interviewing, follow-up, etc. Block out time in your calendar for job search activities and treat that time as you would any traditional work commitment. Be consistent in the amount of time you spend each day and week on job search activities so that you keep your momentum going, and don’t lose focus and miss valuable opportunities.
3. Get Your Gear in Order – Update your resume, cover letter, references, and writing sample (if applicable). Ask for letters of recommendation and testimonials from previous or current supervisors, co-workers, and professional colleagues. Get some nice new stationery, and stock up on print cartridges for your printer. If you want to use an outside source for printing, some local printing shops will copy resumes for free during an economic downturn, so ask around! Be sure to have a computer with high-speed Internet access. An all-in-one machine for printing, copying, faxing and scanning will also come in handy during a job search.
4. Create a Job Search Center – Set aside space at home (or wherever you will be conducting your job search activities) and make it job search central. Keep all of your job-search related supplies in that location, which will make it easy for you to find them when you need them. This will also help you to get into job search mode when you are in that space.
5. Create a Job Search Paper Management System – You may be acquiring a lot of paper in your job search: resources, articles, sample resumes and cover letters, business cards of networking contacts, contact-us-later or rejection letters, etc. To the extent that you can maintain these items in a paperless fashion, go for it. But if you have to maintain hard copy paper, be sure to create a job search paper management or filing system, to be stored in your job search center. Keep it simple and use whatever system makes the most sense to you for ease of use (binder, portable filing bin, traditional filing cabinet, etc).
6. Plan Job Search Activities – Plan out job search activities on a daily basis, such as phone calls to make, resumes to send, online applications to fill out, informational interviews to conduct, etc. Write down your job search activities as calendar items, to-do’s, or tasks so that you take them seriously and treat them as measurable goals. Be realistic with regard to what you can reasonably accomplish in one day, but also challenge yourself!
7. Track Job Search Activities – Organizing your job search involves keeping track of all information and communications. Keep a record of where you sent your resume and when, whom you have spoken to, when interviews took place, etc. This information will prove vital when deciding when to follow-up with leads. You can track all of this information using a calendar such as Outlook or Google, or an online tool such as JobFiler.com. Whatever tools you use, it is important that you be able to track the status of your job search.
8. Manage Job Search Email – In today’s world, much of your job search will likely be conducted by email. Therefore, before you even start your search, whittle down the amount of email in your inbox so that you can hyper-focus on your job search emails, which will add up quickly. Create folders within your email system using categories that make sense to you, such as Companies Applied To, Contacts Submitted Resumes To, etc.
9. Polish Your Online Profiles – If you are conducting a job search in today’s market, you would be remiss not to develop an online presence on social media sites, especially LinkedIn, which is the most “professional” of the social media sites and can essentially serve as your online resume. But also consider other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The opportunities are endless for employers and contacts to find you online. You may even have your own website, e-zine, or blog. Maybe you post articles on various article-marketing sites, or serve as a guest blogger on other blogs. If you maintain profiles on any of social media sites, or have any type of online presence, be sure to polish your profiles so that they promote the image you want potential employers and contacts to see.
10. Change Your Greetings – Change the message that greets callers for any phone number that you plan to use for your job search so that it sounds professional, and conveys the information you want callers to hear. Be prepared, not embarrassed!
11. Stay Positive – The longer a job search takes, the more chance you have of becoming negative about it. Try to maintain a positive attitude to the extent you can by monitoring your progress and staying active in your search. When the going gets rough during a job search, many people take a back seat and give up, which is counter-productive. Try to stay focused and make valuable contacts that are likely to lead to a job. However, don’t be all consumed by your search for a job! Maintaining some balance in your life at this time will serve you well. Get adequate sleep, eat well, see family and friends for pleasure, and make time for exercise.
Organization is one of the single most important things you can do to keep your job search manageable. Just like being organized helps you improve any other area of your life, home, or work, it will also help move along your job search in quick and efficient fashion and with less stress. It may even wind up being the key to finding that dream job you always wanted.