Last week, we talked about some of the practical concerns if you’ve just lost your job. This week, I want to talk about organizing your job search, and how to stay focused and motivated.
Disclaimer: I have mostly worked in white-collar office jobs, so some of these tips may not be exactly applicable for you if you work in other fields. Hopefully some of them might be transferable or adjustable or give you ideas on how to adapt them to your use. Please share any suggestions for other fields (or any other suggestions in general) in the comments!
Treat looking for a job like it was a job. I know that I sound like your parents here, but momentum really does help you. Try to spend part of every day on your job search. Try to get up early, take a shower, put on clothes (they can be workout clothes!) and engage in activities that are job-search-related. They can be browsing job sites, researching companies, writing cover letters, or applying to actual jobs. If you’re in an industry where you have to show up in person, plan those days.
Yes, you need a professional email address: If you don’t have an email address that uses your first name and your last name, get one now. Also, if you’re on Hotmail or Yahoo mail, please get a Gmail account. It is ridiculously stupid how many people judge applicants who don’t have a Gmail account, but I’ve seen it happen too many times. For older applicants, it dates you. Get a Gmail account.
You need a system: Set up a system to help you keep track of what you applied to. You might think that just using your Gmail sent mailbox is sufficient (and I did), but it’s not. If you are receiving unemployment, you may be required to track all of this anyway. I set up a drive in Google Docs so I have a central location for everything.
Here’s a public example that you can feel free to borrow, use, change as you like.
I set this up as follows:
ACTIVE tab with headers Company – Title – Link to job description – Date Applied – Notes
This is the sheet for jobs you have applied to. The link to the job description is critical, for when the recruiter calls you and says, “Hi, I’m Bob Jones from Alternative Unicorns, you applied for the Senior Barn Supervisor position?” you can quickly find the job description so you can speak to it and sound competent. To be honest, it’s unrealistic that someone would call and announce themselves and expect you to be immediately able to recall pertinent details of the position, especially if it was a blind ad, or through a recruiter. But you need every advantage you can get.
I highlight the applications that have had any kind of response to help me find them later. (It’s also motivational.)
I use other tabs in the spreadsheet as follows:
NO : this tab is for explicit No’s (as in actual ‘no’ replies you get from companies). I also move entries from the ACTIVE spreadsheet after a month, figuring by then I would have heard something. Keep in mind that most companies no longer send “No” responses so this is helpful from a housekeeping perspective.
TITLES: Maybe you have a job title that could have 15 different variations. Instead of typing them into every job search site, I keep them here so I can just cut and paste.
SITES: This is a list of all the websites that are useful to me in finding open positions. That way I can just click my way down them every day. (I don’t need any more bookmarks, although a bookmarks folder would work just as well.)
DAILY: This is another tab that I use to log job search activities. I started doing this because I didn’t want to have to use the Department of Labor’s forms, which didn’t apply to someone who worked in technology, but found it was motivational to see everything I was doing logged in one place. Here I log everything I did on a daily basis, such as: “Reviewed open positions on the web.”, “Applied to Unicorn World and Fantasy Animals R Us.” “Scheduled interview with Princess Unicorn Farms.” “Had phone interview with Unicorns Plus.”
I am a firm believer in writing a personalized cover letter for every job you apply to. I think it makes a huge difference. It lets you call out parts of your resume that are applicable, it lets you speak to specifics of the job description that you think you are especially qualified for, and it lets you stand out of the hundreds of people who just send a generic cover letter or no cover letter.
You need to keep copies of these cover letters, and I suggest you store them in the same Google Drive you have your job search spreadsheet in. You can also just keep them on your hard drive or a Dropbox that your resume is in. Just keep them, so you know what you said when someone writes or calls.
(I will let you off the hook at insisting you create a personalized resume for every job. Sometimes it makes sense, but I have also heard of too many recruiters that check a resume against LinkedIn so that kind of killed the personalized resume point.)
THE LAST PIECE OF IMPORTANT ADVICE:
This should have actually been #1, but I didn’t want it to overshadow the tactics:
IGNORE ADVICE FROM ANYONE WHO HASN’T LOOKED FOR A JOB IN THIS DECADE. There, I said it. That goes for your mom, my dad, your roommate’s boyfriend, or Grandpa Joe. People who are out of work get a lot of well-meaning advice and a lot of it can be very wrong.
If you need to benchmark a piece of advice that you aren’t sure about—e.g. your dad insists that you email the hiring manager—I recommend the site Ask A Manager. She spends a lot of time debunking bad, outdated advice that’s usually given by college career counselors and relatives reading ancient articles.
Questions? Suggestions? Let’s hear ‘em below.
Do you have a real life problem? Concerned about adulting? Need some help? The Crabby Old Punk Rock Advice Lady is here to help! Email her at COPRAL@bitterempire.com
[Post image via Shutterstock]