by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
You’ve decided to look for a new job, but life just feels too chaotic, and you don’t know where to begin. Here are some tips to get you going:
1. Don’t use your need to organize as a tool to procrastinate your job search.
This point is key. It’s easy to tell yourself day after day that you’ll look for a job as soon as you get organized. Set a time limit — just a few days or perhaps a week at the most — to get your ducks in a row.
2. Designate a headquarters site in your home from which you’ll launch your job search.
Whether you use the kitchen table or you already have a home office, you’ll be more productive if you have a specific place to execute the work of a job search.
3. Eliminate chaos and clutter.
I know I have difficulty working when my workspace is piled with books, papers, bills, mail, and junk. Taming your clutter will help clear your mind. Spend a day ruthlessly throwing away things you don’t need and finding logical places to store the things you do.
4. Assemble basic equipment.
Determine and gather materials and equipment that you will need for your job search. A computer with Internet access and a printer are highly desirable. You’ll need pens and paper, sticky notes, a calendar and/or planner, a phone with answering machine or voicemail, and a file box or filing-cabinet drawer in which to store information you collect during the job search. Directed at this concept of a wrokplace from which to conduct job-hunting, Brian Krueger offers Job Search Central, an online chapter in his book College Grad Jobhunter.
5. Develop a system to track your job search.
You’ll need a way to monitor which companies and positions you’ve applied to and the status of each application. Tracking is especially important for followup. If you’ve applied and heard nothing from an employer or interviewed with an employer, you’ll need to track that information so you can make a followup phone call or send an e-mail. See our articles The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews, Job Interview Follow-Up Do’s and Don’ts, Follow Up All Job Leads: Don’t Wait by the Phone (or Computer) and Critical Job-Hunting Tips: Key Follow-Up Advice. Many systems are possible; find the one that works best for you. You could print out our Job Lead Follow-Up Log or replicate it on your computer or by hand. You could use a columnar pad, legal pad, or spiral notebook. You could use index cards or spreadsheet (e.g., Excel) or database (e.g., Access) software applications.
6. Make a schedule.
Commit to a block of time every day to work on your job search. The amount of time you allot will correspond with whether you are currently employed, as well as other demands on your time. It’s often said that successful job-hunting is a full-time job, so consider putting in as close to eight hours a day as you can (if you’re employed, you may put in only a fraction of that time). More importantly, think of the job search as a job that you must report to each day, and begin your job-search day in your designated workplace. Don’t spend your entire job-hunting “shift” sitting in your work station, however, because any aspect of your search that keeps you from getting out and networking with people will ultimately slow your search and delay your results (see No. 9).
7. Update and optimize your resume.
You’ll need to have the best resume possible ready to go when you start applying for jobs. You can find tons of advice for crafting an effective resume. Consider having your resume critiqued and perhaps revamped by a professional resume writer. Sadly, when I was in the resume business,the vast majority of resumes I saw prepared by job-seekers were weak.
8. List and research organizations you want to target in your job search.
Where do you want to work? Start with a list of 20-25 organizations that you consider ideal to work for (see, for example, our article, Uncovering a Company’s Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers). While you may respond to ads and Internet job postings that don’t represent organizations on this list, you’ll find your job search is most effective when you have specific organizations to target. Once you’ve begun your list, research each organization (see our Guide to Researching Companies, Industries, and Countries) and consider conducting informational interviews (see our Informational Interviewing Tutorial to learn more). Use the information you gather to tailor your resume, cover letters, and interview responses to each targeted organization.
9. Start or build your network.
Most people get their jobs through networking, so commit yourself to get out there and meet people. Request advice, their business cards, and their suggestion for who else you should be talking to. Start with your list of targeted organizations: Whom do you know in the organization that you could network with? Or do you know other people who know organizational insiders? Then move on to friends, professional organizations, alumni of your college, and the many network contacts that you can learn more about in our wealth of networking resources on Quint Careers.
10. Gentlemen and Ladies, start your engines!
Once you’ve reached No. 7 above, you’ve really begun your search; yet, until you’ve done that initial organizational legwork, you’re not not totally out of the starting gate. Do that foundational work as quickly and efficiently as you can and then respond to ads and build your network and job leads. See our article, 10 Ways to Develop Job Leads.
Final Thoughts on Organziing a Successful Job-Search
It’s time to transcend inertia. Convince yourself that getting organized isn’t that hard, and then do it quickly and efficiently. You’ll feel much better once you clear away mental and physical clutter and build you job-search momentum.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.