By Catherine Burns
When on the hunt for a job, it’s not uncommon to be applying for multiple opportunities at once. This is especially true for those of us just starting out in our careers. But multiple applications mean different resume versions, various cover letters and many, many different deadlines to keep track of. With so many moving parts at once, it’s easy to become disorganized.
But a disorderly job search process can lead to embarrassing mistakes, such as lost phone numbers, confused deadlines, and missed interviews. To help you avoid these downfalls, we’ve put together a few tips to help you keep your job search organized.
Step 1: Start with Your Career Goals
It’s easy to want to jump right in and begin filling out job applications. But before you do, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Your career journey should start with a look at the direction in which you’re headed.
Though it may seem trivial to set aside time to organize your thoughts to clearly think through the career path you’d like to pursue, this is one of the most important steps to take. How are you supposed to start going anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go?
Reflect on what you’d like to do and why you feel that’s the right path for you. You might feel a little lost and be unsure about where you’re going, but at this stage in your life, that’s ok. Start by thinking about your long-term goals, as those don’t need to be overly specific. Where do you want to be ten years from now?
Then work backward from there down to five years, one year, and six months from now. Think through your personal goals in addition to your career and finances. Take your family, education, and anything else you value into consideration.
Step 2: Create a Schedule
After you’ve spent some time finding your direction and clearly thinking through your goals, it’s time to start building out a schedule. After all, to achieve the goals you now have in mind, you’ll need to set aside time to go after them.
The first step in this stage is to identify time you can set aside that’s dedicated to job searching. Find blocks of time within your schedule between classes, work, and any other responsibilities. Job searching is a time-consuming process and requires regular attention. So, aim to set aside at least two hours every day to fully focus on it.
Next, start building a schedule to complete certain tasks you know you need to get done. For instance, devote one hour to cleaning up your professional online profiles like LinkedIn. Devote another hour or two to preparing your resume. You should be able to fill up at least the first few days of your schedule, if not your first week, with tasks to complete.
Perhaps even more important than actually setting up this schedule is sticking to it. Let’s be honest here—activities like resume building and email sending are less than thrilling tasks. It can be easy to let these fall by the wayside and choose something a little more exciting to occupy your time. However, this will only put you behind and lead you down a path of disorganized job searching. Make sure you leave the time you set aside for job hunting devoid of any other activities.
Step 3: Minimize Your Job Applications
Looking for a job is more often than not a high-pressure situation, so you might be tempted to begin aimlessly applying for any open position you find. But even though applying for more jobs can make it feel like you’re increasing your chances, this is actually just a waste of your time—not to mention an easy way to become disorganized.
Remember that time you dedicated at the beginning of this process to think through your short-term and long-term goals? Here’s where that comes in handy. Start off by narrowing your search to only the jobs that align with those goals. Look out for the opportunities that will help you get to where you want to be.
Next, narrow your search down to only the openings that match the level of skill you have. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your qualifications need to match up with those listed on the job description exactly. In fact, this will likely never be the case. Job descriptions should be more of a directional tool for whether or not you’re a potential fit for a role, so look for those where you match around 80 percent of the qualifications listed.
Step 4: Track Each Position You Apply For
Here’s where things can get especially messy. Applying for multiple positions at once leaves you with a lot of different things to manage. Make sure you’re keeping track of all of the different details as you go along.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a spreadsheet. This is an easy and effective way to help you keep track. Don’t worry about making anything too fancy. Just include basic information, such as:
- Company name
- Contact details: include the name, email, and phone number of your contact at the company. In most cases, this will be a hiring manager.
- Date applied
- Deadlines and interviews: deadlines for upcoming information the company asks for and scheduled interviews
- Date followed up: date you followed up after an application submission or interview
- Status of application: whether you’ve been rejected, are waiting to hear back, or have an interview scheduled
JibberJobber is an online job search organization tool that helps you keep track of what you’re working on. If you prefer working off of your phone or tablet, then there are tons of great apps available. Keep in mind, though, that setting up a system for tracking alone is not enough. You need to be diligent in updating your system each time you take a new action or receive an update from a potential employer.