Organizing your job search is critical to your job search success. Failing to do so could lead to missed deadlines, or worse, missed interviews! A good job search demands many applications, multiple resume revisions, custom cover letters, and timely follow-up. So how do you keep up with all of of this? Here are the 4 steps you need to take to launch your career search and keep it running smoothly.
1. Reflect on your Career Goals
Before diving head first into organizing your job search, it is important to take some time and think about your career goals. By being thoughtful about your career goals, you will be able to be confident in choosing companies and positions that best align with your vision of your future.
One favorite method for outlining goals is to begin with the question “Where do you want to be 10 years from now?” After answering this question, it becomes easier to outline a plan for 5 years, 1 year, and 6 months from now.
A key piece of advice for this process is to write down everything! Writing down your goals makes them real and gives you something to go back to and evaluate. If you are struggling to define your 10 year goals, start by answering the questions in Step 1 of this article.
As you complete this process, you can even develop some questions for your future interviews. For example, your long term goal may include becoming a manager. During your job search and interviews, be sure to ask about the career path and opportunities that will be available by succeeding in the position at hand. Another example may be about becoming more proficient at a certain skill. Again, take the opportunity to ask about training and continuing education opportunities available with your prospective company.
This exercise may seem trivial to some, but I urge you to consider completing it. Keep everything you wrote down and if you become lost in your job search, you’ll have something to remind you of why the hard work you do now will pay dividends in your future.
2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
This step is crucial to a successful job search. Job seeking is a time consuming process with many steps along the way. A carefully crafted and realistic schedule will help you stay diligent during what is often a stressful endeavor.
Begin by identifying how much time you would like to dedicate to your job search on a weekly basis. Follow this up by identifying blocks of time that work with your current schedule. How much time to dedicate to a job search will vary depending on if you already have a position and are looking for a change or if you are searching for a job full-time. Either way, aim to dedicate at least 2 hours a day or 10 hours a week to your job search. Block out those times and avoid deviating from your schedule. Remember the goals you have set and how important your job search will be to achieving them.
Now that you have your blocks of time set aside, start to think of the tasks you need to complete first. For example, you may want to dedicate the first few days or week toward preparing your resume and creating a template cover letter. You can also spend this time setting up or updating your online presence such as your LinkedIn profile.
3. Manage your Job Search Documents
When applying to multiple jobs, expect to create a multitude of documents. First off, you should have a general resume prepared and ready to go. However, you’ll likely want to customize your resume for each position you apply to. In order to keep track of your different resume versions, cover letters, and job descriptions, you need to implement a file storage system.
You can store your files wherever you like, either directly to your computer or in a cloud storage system like Google Drive. Whichever you choose, stay organized. A good suggestion is to create a folder titled “Job Search.” Within that folder you can save everything related to your job search. Items such as thank you email templates, your career goal worksheets, and interview preparations all belong in this folder. Within this folder, create a folder for each company you apply to. In the company folder, include your cover letter, customized resume, and the job description. It is important to save the job description as it could be removed from the website where you found it! If you apply to more than one position at a company, create a folder within the company folder for the specifics to that position.
When it comes to naming convention, use something that enables you to easily distinguish each version from others. A good method is to use [firstname lastname jobtitle.doc]. This does not help just you; it is added convenience for the person who eventually views your resume!
4. Use an Organization Tool to Track your Job Search
With a schedule in place and your file organization structure set, it’s time to get started finding your dream job. As you probably know, there will be countless job posts, tasks, and meetings to keep track of.
To make sure nothing gets lost, you’ll want to set up a document, spreadsheet, or management tool to keep track of everything important. Some of the key pieces of information you’ll likely want to track are company names, job posts, contact details, application and close dates, deadlines, interviews, and application status.
So how do you keep track of all of this? You may choose the classic notebook method, but in this digital world you may be better of utilizing a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets. Alternatively, there are tools like Trello which are highly flexible and customizable.
Track using a Spreadsheet
Using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, setting up a spreadsheet gives you an effective method for organizing your job search and tracking your job applications. Some people will want a simple version and others will want to list every single detail.
Here is a list of columns you might include in your spreadsheet:
- Job Title / URL
- Company Name
- Point of Contact / Contact Information
- Application Deadline / Close Date
- Date Applied
- Application Summary – how did you apply, what was sent
- Interview date
- Status – could be “Offer Pending”, “Rejected”, “Interview Scheduled”, “waiting to hear back”
Track using Trello
Trello is a favorite tool here at Good.Jobs for its flexibility and customization. For those who do not know, Trello is a digital kan-ban board. It is composed of lists which each contain cards. Cards can be moved from list to list as they move through a process or change status. While there may be a learning curve, Trello offers so much flexibility that you’ll be able to track nearly every part of your job search!
We hope you see the value in organizing your job search with these 4 steps. Starting with goals and ending with a full fledged job search tracking tool allows you to stay on top of all that’s happening in your job search.