Getting Organized

Desktop OrganizerThe Beatles may have been singing of an average day in the life of a typical British worker during the 1960s when they wrote these words:

"Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, found my way downstairs and drank a cup ..."

But if you're a job seeker take heed: You, too, need to get out of bed, have a cup and hit the computer and the phone to continue your search. A successful job search requires organization, effort and self-discipline.

If you are used to having someone else organize your activities, you will be mastering new skills that will require you to stay focused, avoid distractions and stay the course, despite potentially rough waters on the voyage to employment.

Start with a few good habits and practices right away to avoid getting caught in a cycle where you fritter away time without any attempt to keep yourself focused and accountable to the goal of finding a job.

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.

Take a look at this sample job-search schedule. Now, download and print this blank planner sheet and get start setting up your own schedule.

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 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 or notebooks. 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.

Try this useful job lead form. It's great for keeping track of who you call, job titles, phone numbers, e-mail and mailing addresses, and other important information you glean from your daily job-search contacts.

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.

In the best-selling Knock em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide, 2010, author Martin Yate writes: "As you get your job search up to speed, the number of baited hooks you have in the water will grow dramatically."

The resumes you send out will require follow-up calls, and the networking and research calls you make to potential employees will create the need to mail out resumes, which in return will generate more follow-up calls.

"Without tracking mechanisms in place this can quickly get out of hand. It would be crazy to make this effort to get your job search and career management plan functioning and then let important opportunities fall through the cracks for lack of attention to detail."

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