Get Your Job Search Organized
by C.J. Hayden, MCC
What was the name of the manager you met at last month’s business mixer? Did
you ever follow up on the application you mailed two weeks ago? Which version of
your résumé is the most recent one -- without the typos? If you ’re asking
yourself questions like these, your job search could benefit from some
The typical job search can generate a daunting stack of paper and a backlog
of communications from many channels at once. If you are actively looking for
work, you may quickly find yourself buried in multiple versions of your résumé,
copies of cover letters, clippings and printouts of job listings, business cards
from people you have met, e-mails sent and received, bookmarked web pages, phone
messages, flyers for networking events, and much more.
To keep all these essential job search components organized, here’s what you
1. Calendar – You’ll need to keep track of appointments, when you sent out
résumés or placed phone calls, and what date you should be following up with
people you speak to. Use whatever system works best for your personal
style: a pocket datebook, a PDA (e.g. Palm Pilot), or task management software
on your computer (e.g. Outlook) are all appropriate choices.
2. Contact Manager – To take full advantage of your personal connections, you
will want to maintain a list of everyone you speak with about your job search,
along with their complete contact information, when you last spoke, and what you
discussed. Contact management software such as Outlook or ACT! is one option,
but you can also use a card file, notebook, or large address book.
3. Filing System – On your computer, set up a special folder to hold all your
job search materials, and create sub-folders to help you find items quickly. Be
sure to give all your documents distinct names. Instead of simply “Resume,” for
example, you might use names like “Resume updated with feedback from Ken” or
“Resume sent to Marshall Co” to identify different versions.
For your e-mail, use the same idea to save copies of e-mails you send or
receive in separate folders in your e-mail system. You might create one folder
for all your job search correspondence, or if you are a heavy e-mail user, add
sub-folders for each prospective employer or opportunity. Also use a folder to
organize bookmarked web pages, such as job postings you check regularly.
With paper documents and clippings, the type of system you choose should
depend on whether your job search needs to be mobile. File folders in a drawer
or standing file work well if you will always be conducting your job search in
the same location. If your job search needs to travel, a better solution might
be a three-ring binder with dividers or an accordion file with several pockets.
4. Task List – You’ll need a way to keep track of what may seem like an
endless list of things to do. Appointments and notes to follow up on a certain
date can be put in your calendar, but you’ll also need a way to track tasks with
no date assigned as well as daily or weekly activities. Some PDA’s and contact
or task management software offer this feature, or you can keep your master task
list in a document on your computer, in a notebook, or on a bulletin board or
Once you have set up a system to organize your job search, you’ll need to
remember to use it. Get in the habit of making entries in your calendar or
contact manager immediately, rather than saving them up for later. When you
print documents, open postal mail, or receive e-mails, file them right away,
making a note of any action you need to take on your task list. Don’ t try to
use a pile of paper as your reminder.
One technique that can help to keep your job search visibly organized is
creating a “job wall.” Dedicate some wall space or the back of a door to your
job search and post a large calendar, list of job postings to check regularly,
events to attend, people to talk to, and important tasks you want to keep in
mind. Use sticky notes to highlight important deadlines or projects. You could
also keep the same material in a three-ring binder prominently displayed on your
Whatever organization system you choose, find a way to keep your job search
activities constantly in front of you and check your to-do list often. If
everything you need is buried in a drawer, a pile, or your briefcase, your job
search won’t get as much attention.
C.J. Hayden is the author of
Get Clients NOW! She is a Master Certified Coach and leads workshops
internationally. She can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the web site at