Everyone’s heard the expression: Job hunting is a full time job. It takes time and effort to find the right position. And yes, it’s a lot of work. But like anything, there are things you can do to make it a little easier.
Organizing and having an effective system in place to track and follow up on your communications, research and networking efforts is key to your job search success. Whether you use a notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, or a more comprehensive content management solution, get the most out of your efforts by creating a streamlined system. A colleague in my industry once told me that what sets people apart at work today is their ability to manage information. Avoid the mistake of a haphazardly and messy search, and that alone will put you ahead of your competition.
There are many excellent resources available in regards to networking, conversation tracking and information gathering processes. I always advise my clients to use tools that they are already familiar with or that they could benefit from learning in other areas of life than just job searching. When setting yourself up for a job hunt, making the effort to simplify your search will pay off. Just as important as keeping track of all your activity is that you focus on quality: make each application count, personalize each cover letter and update and proofread your resume.
Below are a few tips to help you organize your search better and get the most out of your networking conversations, follow ups, and outreach.
Here’s my absolute favourite. I strongly advise you to check it out. Google Drive gives you free online storage so that you can organize and work on e.g. your cover letter or resume wherever you are. You can access Google Drive from your web browser, you do not need to backup your files and you can share files with other users. From Google Drive, you can upload files directly from your computer or create spreadsheets, documents and presentations using Google Docs, which is also free. Google Docs is similar to Microsoft Office (Words, Excel, Powerpoint) and you can easily switch between the formats. For example, Google Docs will automatically read a resume in Microsoft Word so that you can keep working on it in Google Docs. You can later choose to export it back to Microsoft Word. Before sharing your resume with others, you would want to export it as a PDF file.
Google alerts is a great tool to monitor news or job postings from your target employer, or other mentions of positions you are looking to apply for online. Using quotations (“) around the words will help you to receive information that is more relevant. Getting this information automatically sent to your inbox is much more time-efficient than conducting manual searches. It’s like having a virtual assistant do it for you!
Evernote is an excellent cloud-based application for organizing and keeping track of notes, articles and other research material. What’s great for job seekers is the ability to create dedicated “notebooks” or folders for your major prospects, whether based on specific companies, industries, or levels of outreach.
You can for example use the Evernote Web Clipper browser extension to clip and save information from web pages that you would like to easily access later. Then you can organize the notes created from clipping pages by using some main categories, such as a notebook entitled “Job Search” which holds things like career search articles that you would like to reference later and jobs that you’re not qualified for yet but are further along in your intended career trajectory. It’s pretty slick, has an easy sharing functionality and you can tag each of your notes with keywords, so it’s easier to search for them than to find that old Post-It you scribbled on three months ago.
When job hunting, the most important priority is doing research and making sure you are prepared for interviews, not trying to remember which companies or positions you applied to. In a spreadsheet you can keep all that information in one place so you can focus on the things that really matter in your job search.
You can for example compile a contact list of everyone and anyone who could possibly help you in your job search. Think old employers, that person you met at a networking event last year, a previous colleague who just moved to a new company, friends. Everyone. Reach out to your network about any openings you might not be aware of.
Research industry sites and scour the career pages of your target prospects. Make a list of every job you want to apply to in your spreadsheet. With each company in a different row, you can add columns for “Outreach activity,” “Company,” “Contacts,” “Notes” and other important information in the job search.
Once you have built your spreadsheet, it will prove itself as a very useful tool to tie every piece of the job search together. Here is a free template for you to build upon:Download: Network Tracking Spreadsheet (.xlsx)