Getting Organized

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A successful job search requires effort. That means getting organized, scheduling time for tasks and keeping a record of your achievements or mileposts (“made seven cold calls today,” “had an informational interview”).

Managing a Schedule

Successful job seekers have mastered the art of managing their schedules and establishing measurable goals. For example, commit a block of hours every day for searching and identifying companies you want to contact and jobs you want to apply for. Consider a schedule in which every Monday morning you conduct Internet searches that at minimum result in the names of 10 new employers. Tuesday’s goal could be contacting the 10 employers you identified Monday. Tuesday morning might be a good time to reach employers, from 9 to 11 a.m., for example.

You should set some goals for your search. The toughest thing about being unemployed is the lack of accountability to anyone but yourself. That’s why joining a networking group or reporting progress to a friend, spouse or partner makes certain sense. It’s relatively easy to get sidetracked during a job search by spending valuable hours surfing the Internet. Strange curiosities and searches that take you into informational netherworlds can consume endless hours. Filling an eight-hour work day without a job can be remarkably easy. Remember the sports proverb: Keep your eye on the ball.

Of course, all work and no play will make for irritability. If you have reached out to 20 employers during a week and had a few networking events and interviews, offer yourself a reward involving your passions or interests. A movie. A walk in the park. An afternoon at a museum. And then start the search anew.

Keeping Records

During the job-search process you may make hundreds of contacts and generate new opportunities for part-time and full-time work. You need to maintain a filing system to organize your progress. A variety of systems are available including computer filing systems, alphabetized three-ring binders, notebooks or mobile devices. Choose the system that makes the most sense to you.

A “contact tracker,” as some job experts call it, will assist in creating a database of people and companies you have called, emailed and sent your resume and cover letter during a search. Keep records of when you make contacts, who you called, their emails, addresses and websites. Just because a company turned you down doesn’t mean it won’t become a prospect in the future. A general rule in sales is that it takes at least three contacts to turn a prospect into a client. That may not be true when seeking a position with a company: Hitting them half a dozen times with phone calls and letters may not work at all. Or, you may be working for that company someday soon.

The resumes you send out will require follow-up calls and the networking and informational calls you make to potential employers will create the need to send out resumes, which in turn, will generate more follow-up calls. Without using career management tracking mechanisms it would be very easy to get lost in the details and inadvertently let important opportunities fall through the cracks. Here’s a list of tools to help you track your progress online.

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