The phone rings. It’s Bob at XYZ Enterprises inviting you to come for a job interview tomorrow. That’s great news, right? The only problem is you can’t remember who Bob is, what XYZ Enterprises does, or which position you applied for.
Bob, unimpressed by your scattered response, quickly says his goodbyes and—just like that—the opportunity is lost.
That depressing scenario is just one of the hazards of being disorganized in your job search. Whether you’re sending multiple resumes to the same person for the same position, losing a valuable networking contact or forgetting about an interview, the price of your chaos may be the very job you want and need.
On the flip side, though, getting your act together can make you shine in the eyes of prospective employers. “How well you manage your job search in many ways indicates to the employer how well you can manage the job,” explains Wendy Enelow, executive career consultant and co-author of Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job: Expert Advice from America’s Top Employers and Recruiters. In short, if you’re trying to find a job, you have to get organized.
“People need to realize that everything, including a job search, must have a plan and process,” stresses Enelow. While it’s essential to have a system in place to manage all of the details involved in your job search, you first need to organize your plan of attack for finding that job.
“The most important thing is that you engage in enough activity that you need a tracking system,” says Martin Yate, career coach and author of more than a dozen books in the Knock ’em Dead series, including Knock ’em Dead Secrets and Strategies for First time Job Hunters.
According to Yate, you should consider the following big return actions when you’re searching for a job: researching and responding to job postings, posting your resume and social media profile in places where they will be seen by hiring managers, contacting headhunters, building your professional network and directly approaching potential employers with your resume. Then, organize your week around them.
“Take these five activities and do them twice a week each,” he advises, for optimal impact. At the end of the week, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and create your schedule for the next seven days. Yate says that this well-planned and integrated approach will help yield the greatest results.
Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and author of Promote Yourself: The New Art of Getting Ahead, agrees. “If you do your homework and then organize the work you have done, you’ll be much more prepared.”
Once you’ve organized the way you’ll spend your time looking for a job, it’s time to manage all the data that comes along with it: company contact information, job descriptions, a log of your activities related to specific job postings, networking connections and any other useful information you find along the way.
Whether you want to go low-tech or high-tech with your job search management system is your choice. “You have to find what is the easiest and most efficient way for you,” says Enelow. “This will differ from person to person.”
For those inclined to use technology to keep it together, websites like JibberJobber.com and Huntsy.com will help you consolidate all of your job search and networking data in one place for a fee. Other people might prefer to use a combination of electronic tools they already have to stay organized, such as an Excel spreadsheet to track where you stand with submitted resumes and job interviews, LinkedIn to manage professional contacts, and Outlook or any other electronic calendar—with automatic reminders—to keep your schedule in order.
“I use the iPhone calendar,” says Schawbel, who also recommends trying the mobile app Evernote, which captures names, numbers and other information you encounter while you’re on the move and makes them available on all your computers and devices. He likes LinkedIn’s CardMunch app, too, which enables iPhone users to automatically turn a picture of a business card into a contact.
Enelow swears by good old-fashioned index cards, filed by the name of the company or the recruiter. She includes the company name, contact information, job title and description, when you sent your resume and any follow-up action you took or impressions you had. “Index cards are really old school, but they are tangible,” she says. “They are right there.” Hers live in a box on her desk.
Regardless of which tools you use to organize your job hunt, have them handy so you’re prepared when opportunities present themselves—and the phone rings. Then, “Push everything aside on the desktop and pull up the job posting,” says Yate, so you can respond with the confidence and capability you want to convey to prospective employers.
Whatever your preferences are, find a method that works for you—and use it. “If you put a plan and process in place, the rest of your job search will be about forward momentum instead of trying to remember the who, what, when, where and why,” says Enelow.