When you start out trying to land a job, it can feel as if you’re climbing a mountain whose summit you can’t even see. Once you start moving, though, you’ll realize that it’s totally doable. Better yet, you’ll discover that there are no big secrets to tackling the job market. You just need a well-organized and structured plan to guide you through the process.
To get you going, we asked several career experts to weigh in on the best ways to organize your job search. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Keep your information in one place
Maintaining a clear overview of the jobs you’ve applied for will go a long way. Since you’ll probably apply for a number of positions, it’s important to store your information somewhere you can review it all at once. Whether that’s in a simple Word document, on a spreadsheet or in some other form is up to you.
“Keep track of the position name, organization name, application deadline, date you applied and a list of the contact points you have had with the company,” says Anna Young, assistant director of career services at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
It’s also useful to jot down reflections about your interviews, which can include the kinds of questions you were asked, what went well and what didn’t.
“Write down any notes about your conversation with the organization or anything you learned about the position,” says Kevin Nall, director of employer relations in the Office of Career and Professional Development at Baylor University in Texas. “This will help you with your follow-up plan and any future conversations with the organization.”
2. Create a schedule (and stick to it)
By now, you’ve probably mastered the art of determining how much time it will take to finish a paper or project. Mapping out a schedule for your job search — and sticking to it without obsessing over it — will be just as helpful.
“While it is essential to keep up with your search, you need to set some boundaries in order to keep it manageable,” Young says. “Just like you plan time to write papers or do your homework, consider scheduling in time to search for opportunities, work on your materials and follow up with applications.”
Setting aside a certain amount of time each week to tackle these tasks means you won’t have to rush the application process at the end of the semester.
3. Pace yourself
Keep your cool by focusing on writing one cover letter at a time. Telling yourself that you absolutely have to secure a job by the end of the month will just leave you overwhelmed and flustered. Instead, set realistic goals you can cross off your list every week. Just like earning your driver’s license and getting into college, landing a job won’t happen overnight. And that’s totally fine.
“Don’t try to tackle the whole job search at once,” says Lori Trahan, associate director of the Career Services Center at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University. “Students often try to ‘binge job search,’ which then leads to inertia because they get overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be done.”
“Rather than thinking about the end goal, think about what you need to accomplish today,” adds John Bradac, director of career services at Ithaca College in New York. “For example, revise your resume, make a list of possible networking contacts, or identify five new opportunities today. The end goal is the same, but it is easier to measure progress along the way.”
Not applying to too many jobs at once will also help you stay on top of things, says Danielle Manning, career advisor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
“Let quality of your job applications trump the quantity,” she says. “Less is truly more. Focus on one to three applications a week, tops.”
4. Take advantage of online tools and apps
“These sites have unnoticed tools that can save you time and ensure that you don’t miss that perfect position,” says Gary Alan Miller, executive director of the Career Center at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island. “The one most overlooked is the email alert system. … Create a search that matches your criteria, and then tell the system to email you the results of the search on a regular basis.”
Miller also recommends project management tools such as Trello and Producteev, which can help you maintain that all-important overview of your job search by reminding you of deadlines for tasks that still need to be completed.
5. Look beyond the Internet
Take your job search offline from time to time. Arranging informational interviews with someone from your school’s career center, or with alumni working in your field of interest, will benefit you in ways a Google search simply can’t.
“The Internet is great for uncovering leads, but to get into the highly coveted internships and full-time offers, students need to have an ally in their network who has a connection to that employer,” Trahan says.
“One of the strongest and most fun parts of your search can be the networking process,” Bradac says. “Reach out to everyone you know and tell them what you are looking for. Ask for contacts and resources that your network may have. Networking is a great way to meet new people and to develop advocates for you as a professional.”
If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, just remember that the people you’re reaching out to were in your shoes once. Getting help is simply part of the job hunt, and you won’t have to do it forever. Soon enough, college juniors and seniors will be seeking your advice.
Diving straight into the job search is the best cure for any career-related anxieties. Those nerves will quickly turn into excitement as you learn more about the job opportunities available to you. Just remember to stay organized, and know that you’re more than capable of taking on the challenge and reaching that summit.
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