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 organization.
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
To keep all these essential job search components organized, here's what
you will need:
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
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
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
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 whiteboard.
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 desk.
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 Hired Now! and Get Clients Now! Since
1992, she has helped thousands of professionals make a better living doing
what they love. C.J. is a Master Certified Coach who leads workshops
internationally in person, on the phone, and on the web. Find out more
about C.J. and get a free copy of "How to Find a Job in 28 Days or Less" at