The Organized Job Search
Many people, under financial or other pressures to find work
quickly, feel they can't afford to take the time to get
organized. On the other hand, conducting your job search in an
organized manner will reduce the amount of time you spend
looking for information, following inappropriate leads, or
waiting for your dream job to fall into your lap. It generally
takes at least a month to find an entry-level job, and as much
as nine months for one requiring a high level of skill and
experience. Getting organized before you begin your job search
can ultimately save you a lot of time and frustration.
You should take several preliminary steps before you even begin
your active job search. You should start by identifying your
skills, interests, target market, and any child care,
transportation, or other issues that you will need to keep in
mind. A career or employment counselor can be very helpful in
this area, as well as with the preparation of your resume, cover
letters, and any other job search materials you will need.
Once you're ready to face the job market, there are three areas
where you'll find it beneficial to be well organized: your
schedule, your workspace, and your contacts.
First, you must decide how much time you can realistically
commit to your job search on a weekly basis, and then create a
weekly schedule of activities. Keep in mind that looking for a
full-time job is in itself a full-time job! Some of your time
will be devoted to reading and applying for advertised
positions, but be sure to allow plenty of time for other job
search activities such as making telephone calls, generating and
researching new leads, reviewing old leads for follow up,
writing thank you notes or other correspondence, and visiting
placement offices, employment agencies, or other service
providers. The percentage of time you dedicate to each activity
depends on what is most effective for your field of work or
geographical area, so it may be worthwhile for you to ask others
what has worked for them.
Most people perform different activities more effectively at
different times of day. Take your natural energy flow, as well
as the availability of quiet time for conducting research and
telephone calls, into consideration when planning your schedule.
If quiet time is not available at home during the daytime or
evening, an employment resource center can be an invaluable
Keep your personal preferences in mind when planning your
activities. For example, if you dislike talking on the
telephone, it may be less stressful for you to get your calls
out of the way before beginning your other activities, or to
intersperse your phone calls between other activities so you
don't become overwhelmed. If you're planning to drop off
unsolicited resumes, map out a route of targeted businesses that
are in a particular area, and plan to cover the entire area in
one day. This will cut down on your travel time and expenses as
well as the number of times you need to dress up.
Keeping a log of the actual time you spend on each activity will
allow you to see whether you are on track and to identify any
problem areas. It's not uncommon to become frustrated and
depressed when you're out of work, so be sure to schedule
regular time for self-care and other personal activities like
going to the gym or the hairstylist.
At a minimum, you need a chair and a desk or table with plenty
of space for you to work with your information, make and receive
telephone calls, and plan your job search. All necessary
supplies should be stored close by, including paper, pens, index
cards, paperclips, staples, and your telephone directory. During
your job search, you'll likely accumulate various versions of
your resume and cover letter, job postings, company profiles,
advertisements, and business cards, but they will be of no value
to you if you can't find what you need. A binder or filing
system, sorting the information into topics, will allow you to
refer quickly to both the job posting and that specific
application when you receive a telephone call from a prospective
employer. It will also allow you to find easily any other
information you may have gathered about the organization before
You may find it beneficial to have an alternate "job search
office" such as your local library or employment centre, where
you can research, read, and write without the distractions you
may encounter at home. Many are equipped with computers that you
can use for Internet job search as well as resume and cover
letter preparation, which can be a great benefit if you don't
have a home computer or must share it with other family members.
If you plan to use this type of service on a regular basis,
you'll need some type of portfolio or briefcase to hold your job
search material, including your resume in printed form and on a
diskette, your calendar, and a notebook for jotting down leads
and ideas. Most facilities do not allow you to receive telephone
calls, so be sure that potential employers can reach you by
voice mail, pager or cell phone.
Of course, you'll need a calendar for marking down job
interviews and other important meetings. You'll also need a
system for keeping track of your job applications. This
information may be needed to confirm your eligibility for
unemployment insurance or social assistance, and will help you
to follow up on your applications.
During your job search, you will probably communicate with
hundreds, if not thousands, of people, but in order to make
effective use of the network you develop, you'll need a way to
keep track of all your contacts.
The simplest method is a card file system, with a card for each
contact. Each card should include the contact's name, title,
organization, address, telephone number, fax, and email address,
the source of the lead, and dates and details of any
conversations, correspondence, or interviews. You may find it
helpful to set up a "recipe box" with a set of dividers labeled
with the days of the week and a set numbered 1-31 for the days
of the month. You can file each card under the date you wish to
contact that person. For example, you may speak with someone on
the 10th who suggests that you call him or her in two weeks.
After noting the information on the index card, file it in the
section for the 25th where it will serve as a reminder for you
to follow up.
There are wonderful software programs available that can help
you with organizing your job search contacts. WinWay Resume, for
example, has a section for storing contact information that you
can merge with your cover letter. ACT! allows you to schedule
tasks and reminders as well as perform mail merges. If you don't
wish to buy or learn a new software package, email address books
in Outlook, Outlook Express or in free Web-based email packages
are also an excellent way to keep track of your contacts.
However, unless you have unrestricted access to a computer, or a
portable system such as a Palm Pilot, you won't be always able
to access the information. The key features of any
organizational system are ease of recording and ease of
retrieval. If using an electronic system will make your job
search more complicated and time-consuming, don't use it.
Job searching can be overwhelming, but when you organize your
schedule, workspace, and contacts effectively, you'll be able to
stay on track and find your new job more quickly.