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Job Search Preparation

Planning and Organizing Your Job Search

Be Prepared

As a student, your professors have helped you manage time by using syllabi to organize your approach to college classes. But there are no syllabi for job searches, so you need to set goals and find a way to organize your hunt for employment. A planned and organized job search will help you use your time effectively and will bring other benefits.

Here are a few job search scenarios:

You’ve applied for six jobs ... They vary a lot, so you tailored your resume and cover letter for each opportunity. One employer calls to ask a few questions before inviting you to a face-to-face interview. Your organization system for your job applications lets you quickly grab the right job posting, resume and cover letter. You respond to the questions with confidence!

It’s been weeks and you haven’t gotten one offer ... but your records show:

  • You’ve found six possible positions and made a strong case for your qualifications for each opportunity with a tailored cover letter and resume.
  • You’ve met all application deadlines.
  • You’ve followed-up as planned every time.
  • You’ve had two interviews.
  • You scheduled a practice interview at your career services office to get better at this stage of the process.

So, you’re active, you feel OK about your progress, and that’s shoring up your ego.

  • You’ve found a seventh opening that’s perfect ... and, in fact, it’s similar to a previous job you applied for. Using your well-organized system, you easily find the materials you sent to the other employer, tweak them for the new position, and quickly get the application out. Your well-organized job search file provided a “database” of self-promotion materials you drew from to quickly respond to a fresh opportunity.

Sound appealing? But how can you get to this point of preparedness and confidence in your own job search?


 Setting Job Search Goals

First, you need to commit time to the job search and identify what you plan to accomplish by writing out (and tracking) job search goals. Like any valid goals, these need to be specific, time-limited, action-oriented, measurable, reasonable yet challenging, and useful. These can be daily or weekly goals.

Here are some examples:


  Weekly Goals

  • Send targeted applications to at least one new organization.
  • Meet three persons involved in local sales organizations and discuss the market for entry-level sales professionals.
  • Identify top sales organizations in northern Massachusetts.

  Daily Goals

  • Monday, 7-9 a.m.: Check two job boards for new sales postings; print at least one appealing opportunity for which I’m basically qualified. Read company website.
  • Tuesday, 6-9 p.m.: Edit resume/target cover letter for newly identified positions. Print, proofread; e-mail to Career Center for feedback.
  • Wednesday, 2-4 p.m.: Attend job fair, discuss professional goals and give resume to at least three sales recruiters. Get business cards.
  • Thursday, 1-3 p.m.: Revise resume/cover letter for new opportunities based on Career Center feedback.
  • Thursday, 7-9 p.m.: Follow-up with job fair contacts. Finalize resumes and cover letters for new opportunities. Send them.
  • Friday, 9-11 a.m.: Use online databases at your library or Career Services office to gain contact information on sales organizations. Get contacts for five top companies.

By writing them down, you can look back on your job search goals and activities and motivate and reward yourself for good work. If you don't meet your goals, try to figure out why, and fix the problem.


  Making Job Search Goals

Potential job search goals include the following:

  • Identifying target companies.
  • Researching salaries.
  • Preparing for interviews.
  • Developing networking lists.
  • Contacting references.
  • Identifying industry recruiters.
  • Obtaining career counseling.
  • Reviewing your college’s online job postings.
  • Targeting/sending resumes and cover letters.
  • Calling new contacts.
  • Scheduling face-to-face meetings.
  • Attending job fairs and networking events.
  • Joining networking organizations and professional associations.
  • Sending follow-up letters and thank you notes.
  • Creating and maintaining a professional presence on LinkedIn.com or other online professional networking sites.

  Managing Your Job Search

Second, because job searching involves lots of information, communications, and activities that need to be tracked and referred back to, you’ll need a system to record and retrieve everything. Don’t assume you’ll remember these details or where you put them. There’s simply too much in a typical job search to keep track of in your head.

Your system will depend on your own style and skills. It can include anything from alphabetized three-ring binders, small pocket calendars, notebooks, index cards, databases, and so on. Here are a couple of different approaches:


  Paper-Based System

Some people just like the tactile nature of manila folders. If that sounds like you, you may want to label one folder for each job opportunity. In each folder, include a printed job posting, the letter/resume you sent in for the job, printed research about the organization, and a chronological record of activity regarding that opportunity, which you can staple inside the front cover of the folder. For example:

  • 10/14/09 - Read Policymakers Inc.’s “Legislative Aide” posting on Boston.com/Monster.
  • 10/16/09 - Tailored cover letter and resume for position. Sent to career counselor for critique.
  • 10/18/09 - Incorporated counselor’s suggestions.
  • 10/19/09 – E-mailed letter/resume to John X. Doe, Recruiting Manager, Policymakers Inc. (john.x.doe@policymakersinc.com).
  • 10/21/09 - Received e-mail acknowledgment of receipt.
  • 10/22/09 - Called John Doe (617-555-5555) to follow up. Scheduled interview for 10/31/09 11 AM (12345 Elm St., Boston) - hurray!

 Electronic System

If you’re more comfortable with technology, you might want to set up a Microsoft Access database or Excel spreadsheet that serves a similar purpose as the paper system. Basically, every record includes the same information as files in the paper system. Databases can easily provide a means to log activity and contact information regarding each job opportunity or employer. To organize your documents, you can set up a file system on your desktop. For example, set up a folder called “Job Search.” Within that folder, name sub-folders for each job opportunity. In each sub-folder, store the respective cover letter and resume. You could even include a job-specific activity log written and spell checked in Word.


  Organizing Web Information

To keep track of online job search information, website “bookmarks” or “favorites” are key. Set up a favorites folder for “Job Search” and consider the following sub-folders:

  • “Job Boards” for sites like indeed.com and Monster.com
  • “Preferred Organizations” for sites of companies to which you’ve sent applications and company job sites that you check regularly. You can also include URLs of online articles about companies or industries of interest.
  • “Advice” for sites offering job search information (interviewing advice, how to dress for success, etc.). Your campus Career Center’s site should be here!

Obviously, your own style will dictate how you plan and organize your job search. Job searchers who get into trouble are those whose style is not being organized. If that sounds like you, ask for suggestions and encouragement from colleagues, friends, or your career services office. Just get organized in a way that works for you. Your job search success may depend on it.