How to organize your job search

To stay focused and land your dream job, you’ll need to learn how to organize your job search. Get started with just a few basic steps.

An individual sits at their desk with a desktop computer, laptop, phone, notebook, and cup of coffee, during their job search

If you’ve ever embarked on a job search, you know things can get really chaotic, really quickly. Between mastering the art of the cover letter, rigorously spell-checking every email, and reading all kinds of conflicting advice online, the whole process can take a toll on the sanity and self-esteem of even the most experienced job seeker.

1. Manage your time wisely.

Time is of the essence, and you definitely don’t want to drag your feet and risk losing out on a great opportunity. But knowing what time of day you’re most productive – and planning your days accordingly – is a strategic way to make significant gains in your job search. 

Do you tend to be more productive in the morning and lose steam toward the end of the day? Block off some time every night to peruse job boards and bookmark job postings that interest you. Then, block off two hours every morning to write cover letters and fill out applications for the jobs you found the night before. Finally, schedule an hour in the middle of the day to respond to emails from recruiters and hiring managers, so you can set up interviews and get the ball rolling on each opportunity.

Searching for a job is basically a full-time job in and of itself, so it’s important that you establish a routine and stick to it. An organized approach will also improve the quality of your cover letters and interviews.

2. Track your applications on a spreadsheet.

This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often candidates accidentally apply to the same job twice. The fact is, companies and recruiters post jobs all over social media and on dozens of job boards. And with multiple people writing descriptions for the same job posting, the verbiage may look different. But if you lose track of your submitted applications and accidentally apply to the same job twice, you might be perceived as disorganized by whoever screens the applications.

Use a spreadsheet to keep track of all your job applications and avoid embarrassing blunders like this. Your spreadsheet should have the following columns, which you fill in for every single application you submit:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Contact name
  • Location
  • Link to posting
  • Date you applied
  • Date you followed up
  • Date of interview
  • Application status (waiting to hear back, application was rejected, etc.). 

Even if you’re a meticulous person who pays strict attention to detail, maintaining a spreadsheet will make you feel super organized and (somewhat) in control of your job search.

3. Set daily goals for yourself.

In order to improve any aspect of your life, you need to set goals. When it comes to your career, you should have one, big, long-term goal that represents your destination. Ask yourself: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you want your career to take you? Answer these questions to identify your “big” goal.

You should then identify smaller goals that will act like a roadmap to get you to the big goal.

Whether you’re working, in school, or unemployed, the goals you set for your job search will vary. For example, someone who is working full-time while job searching might set the following daily goals:

  • Apply to at least one job per day
  • Spend 30 minutes researching a prospective employer per day
  • Spend 30 minutes researching job tips or career advice per day

4. Use caution when applying to two jobs in the same company.

If you’re just starting out in your career, it’s okay if you’re not 100% sure what type of job you’re looking for. There are many jobs out there that you don’t even know about, and perhaps the perfect job for you is something you’ve never even thought of doing!

Or maybe you just really want to work for Company X because you’ve heard great things about their culture and they’re well known in your community. For these reasons, it’s not unlikely that two or more job postings on their website might appeal to you. It’s okay to apply to multiple jobs, but you’ll want to be strategic about how you position yourself. You may be up against other candidates who are set on landing that Marketing Coordinator position, and their cover letters will show it.

When you craft your cover letter, make it clear that while you don’t have experience in that particular field, you’ve done enough research to know you’re interested in it, you believe you could be successful, and the particular role you’re applying to seems like a great opportunity to make a name for yourself. Just keep in mind that the same hiring manager or corporate recruiter may read both or all of your cover letters, so don’t contradict yourself! And don’t make it seem like you’re haphazardly applying to any and every job opening out there: Be specific about why you’re interested in each position and what you bring to the table.

Now you’re ready to start tackling the job search in the most methodical, smart way possible. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you expected – sometimes the best opportunity is the one you didn’t even see coming. But by organizing your job search and sticking to a routine, you’ll be earning a paycheck in no time.  

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