7 Ways to Stay Organized While On the Job Hunt

Finding a job is hard no matter how you look at it. Whether you’re applying for a summer job at your favorite store or applying to your first ‘grown-up’ job, applications can get overwhelming. No two applications are going to be the same, and even if you are applying to jobs in the same field chances are that applications will be asking for different information and documents. Staying organized while on the job hunt is crucial, so we talked to Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naïve Job Seeker, to get some great tips on just how you can do so!

1. Be clear on what you're looking for

Work starts before you even begin applying to jobs. Be specific on what kind of job you are looking for. If you just start applying to random jobs that sort of fit your criteria you are going to get confused by what kind of career you want to focus on, convoluting the whole process even more. “Make clear definitions on the types of jobs you want to apply for,” says. Dezell. “Categorize companies you would like to consider working at, and identify people you know, or have friends who know them, in the fields or companies you want to work in.” If you have no idea what you want to do, start big and narrow down your choices with questions. Do you want to work in an office or be more mobile? Do you want to work in the business world, in the creative world, in the science world? Where do you want to be located? Talk to role models in your life and find out about their careers so that you can start looking for jobs that are right for you.

2. Don't only focus on job boards 

According to Dezell, job boards and site only list about 20 percent of jobs currently available, and you face the largest competition when you apply through them. Instead, he says you should “find ways to connect to companies on your wish list through LinkedIn. Another developing trend is for companies to have community pages for interested potential employees. Find and participate in those.”

Keep track of what you use to apply to a job; if it’s a job site, make sure you pay attention to emails from that site. If it’s through a different server, keep track of the different ones you are using by writing them down somewhere.

3. Be smart about using job sites 

Job sites can be a great resource if you are trying to figure out what kind of job you are looking for, but there are thousands of job listings posted there that may not apply to you or to what you want, so be careful when using them.

“Create very specific, detailed criteria for the jobs you want shown to you when you set up any job site to send you job alerts,” says Dezell. “Too often, job seekers begin such a string with a few general job titles with little detail on location, skills and the like. Limited filters result in one’s inbox becoming deluged with high volumes of jobs to sort through. The more specific your details on the types of jobs you want to see, not only will that shorten the list of jobs you’ll be sent, but also make what you receive better matches.”

As soon as you sign up for a job site you’ll start getting emails with job listings that you may be interested in. If these listings don’t match your criteria, stop using that site. Receiving hundreds of listings that you won’t bother with will only clutter your inbox, making it harder to find the jobs you are actually interested in.

4. Label everything

This may seem self-explanatory but it is so important! The worst thing you can do when applying for a job is send in a cover letter addressed to a different company, or a resume that is tailored to another field. Label your documents with clear and specific names. When you’re writing a cover letter, put the name of the company that it is for in the title of the document. If you need writing samples or a portfolio, attach your last name to every document in it. If you have more than one resume, be crystal clear about what is different between them so that you don’t have to scramble to figure out which one you need for a particular job. This will save you time and the humiliation of having to email a company and tell them you attached the wrong file.

5. Keep everything in the same place

Much like labeling correctly, keeping all of your documents and information in the same place will save you so much time and stress. Whether you use Google Drive, Microsoft Word, or some other word processor, keep all your documents in corresponding folders so that you’re not desperately combing through your desktop trying to find what you need. Keep a physical folder ready for when you receive a business card or a paper application as well as a place to keep hard copies of your resume. If you’re the type of person that prefers hard copies all around you can also keep a separate folders or print-outs and copies of completed job applications. Dezell suggested using the website jibberjobber.com, which will track your contacts and follow up dates. Write down dates and deadlines in a planner or calendar so you know when to submit an application, send a thank-you note, or inquire about a follow-up.

Spreadsheets are good for everything, especially keeping track of job applications. “I use a Google Excel sheet to keep track of all the jobs I apply to,” says Ebony Joseuph, an alumna of the University of Florida. “I make a note of when I applied, the original job posting, who I know there (if I have any contacts), when to follow up, etc… It’s really helpful to have it all in one place!” Spreadsheets are super easy to follow, and you can add categories that you feel are important for you to remember.

Related: 6 Antiquated Job Search Rules 

6. Create a master resume 

This is a great tip given by Dezell. “Complete a giant master resume that lists ALL activities at each job and school. This allows you to select the most appropriate parts of this to send targeted resumes out to each specific job.”

This is especially useful if you are qualified for several different fields and are applying to different kinds of jobs. Listing out everything you have done allows you to quickly pick and choose what you want to highlight for each job. It will save you a ton of time and ensure that you aren’t blanking on something important that you should include.

7. Always triple-check

Again, this might sound like common sense but takes so little time and will save your life while applying. Triple-check everything before you send it in, even if you’re sure that it’s a resume or cover letter you’ve used before. Typos and incorrect information are a sign to hiring managers that you don’t pay attention to detail or care that much about your job search. Make sure you are sending along the right attachments and files and that you are sending them to the right place. Taking thirty seconds to re-check your work is better than the anxiety that comes with knowing you messed something up in the application.

Nonetheless, don’t let the pressure of applying to jobs take its toll on you! Making a few small changes in organization will make your life so much easier and make the job search so much more manageable, leaving you better prepared to kick some butt out in the real world.

Meghan is a sophomore English major at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She hopes to one day write a novel and is constantly on the search for her next cup of a coffee, a good book, and a dog that she can pet.

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