According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average length of unemployment is about 18 weeks. But this statistic accounts for all industries, sectors, and professional levels. While you may be one of the lucky few, other statistics indicate that the average job search for a professional or mid-manager can take six months (25-26 weeks) or more. Of course, if you are changing careers, your job search may be even longer. And if you are currently employed, your search will often take longer simply because you have less time to devote to it.
Clearly, for most professionals, the days of just going through the Sunday paper and sending out a few resumes is over. Today, conducting a multi-pronged search is critical. While the individual techniques and tactics of job searching are relatively simple, there are multiple steps you have to take, often simultaneously, and you will be dealing with massive amounts of information. Unless you find a way to keep this information organized in an easily maintained and managed system, you can quickly become overwhelmed, bogged down, and confused. If you let yourself get caught up in the details, you can easily lose sight of the big picture and lose momentum. An organized plan and system will help keep you motivated, moving forward, and focused on achieving the ultimate goal.
In this excerpt from “Secrets of a Successful Job Search: 7 Simple Steps to Land the Job You Want in Half the Time,” I will describe a simple, easy-to-maintain system that you can begin using today to immediately improve the efficiency and productivity of your job search.
The 4 Major Job Search Phases
In the overall job search process, there are essentially four key phases:
1) Option evaluation, goal setting & campaign planning
2) Job search & follow-up campaign
3) Job offers & negotiations
4) Accept and begin new job
At the start of your search, it is essential to create a system to schedule, track, and log all of your activities for the first three phases. At the very least, you need a calendaring system, a system of logging inter-related and follow-up activities, a contact management system, and a filing system. Create the Ultimate Job Search Filing System The foundation of your organizational system will be your filing system. It is possible to do this on your computer, to use a traditional filing method, or to use a large three-ring binder. Because it allows you to physically pick it up and carry it with you anywhere, I actually prefer the three-ring binder method, so that is what I will describe in this article. But if you prefer one of the other methods, just adapt these suggestions accordingly. Before you go any further, I suggest going out and buying a large three-ring binder right now. A large-capacity one like a 4 or 5 inch will be easiest. You will also need some tab sheets to label the sections. Some hole-punched pocket sheets that allow you to store loose sheets of paper and computer disks would also be really helpful. Now you will want to use the tabs to create 9 categories:
1) Career Vision & Job Target
Begin your filing system by including a very clear written statement of your current job target in a divided section named “Career Vision & Job Target.” You should also include a written copy of your Personal Branding Statement. In this same binder, you can keep copies of any assessments you may have completed recently or in the past, to help you in setting your career goals. This is also the place where you will want to keep references, printouts, or copies of any industry or profession-related articles or research related to your job target.
2) Career Marketing Documents
In this section, store clean master copies of your resume, biography, all job search letters and correspondence, a list of references, a salary history, and any other documents that you might use in your search. This is also a good place to keep letters of reference written for you by others, copies of awards, educational transcripts, training certificates, and any other documents supporting and proving your qualifications.
3) Company & Industry Research
This section is a great place keep printouts or copies of any articles or other research that you have collected on companies that interest you and that you have targeted or plan to target during your search. This is also a good place to store research on industry trends and competitive data of relevance to these companies.
4) Job Advertisements
While you should keep more detailed activity logs elsewhere, in the Job Advertisements section of your filing binder, you should keep a copy of every ad you have answered along with some basic notes about the date you responded and the documents that you sent.
5) Internet Job Searching
The Internet Job Searching section is a perfect place to keep records of the websites you are using in your job search, places where you have posted your resume, and any passwords and user names associated with the sites.
6) Networking & Referrals
Again, you should keep more thorough records and logs elsewhere, but the Networking and Referrals section is a good place to keep a hard-copy printout of your networking address book along with any notes of information you want to remember in relation to particular individuals.
7) Recruiters & Agencies
In the recruiters and agencies section, you should keep detailed notes about every headhunter firm or job search agency you have worked with or contacted.
8) Interview Preparation
The interview preparation section can be used to keep all of the notes you will accumulate as you prepare for interviews. This is also a good place to keep notes on questions you want to ask during interviews and notes about interviews you have been on.
9) Salary Research
In the Salary Research section, you can keep data and research you have collected to help you define your own market value and to prepare for salary negotiations once you have been offered a job.
In short, this binder gives you the ability to store all of the documentation related to your job search in one central place. Keeping accurate, up-to-date records of your job search activities, logs of contacts you have made, and step-by-step, calendared plans of the activities you must complete in order to reach your job search goals will pay you back for your effort multiple times over through a faster and more successful job search. By creating a plan and system for your job search, you will always know where to focus your attention and what you should be doing next.
But remember, while this step of getting organized and creating your job search system is a critically important one, you must remember to NOT get bogged down. It is important to be organized but it is also critical that you get started on your search. Don’t let not having a perfect system prevent you from moving forward. At the most, spend just a couple of days establishing your organizational system.