When people walk into my office, they’re always surprised (and sometimes, horrified!). For some reason, everyone thinks my office will be neat, clean, and well-organized. Well, that’s hardly the case! I live in a world of piles on the floor all around me, Post-It notes and scraps of paper everywhere, two large paper recycling bins that are always overflowing, and other miscellaneous items strewn everywhere. Yet, I know where everything is and the system works perfectly for me!
Managing your job search is just like managing any other project and business. You must create an administrative infrastructure that will allow you to operate efficiently, productively, and with some order to it all. Helter skelter doesn’t work for anything you do, and particularly not your job search.
Following are some strategies you might consider as you create a system to manage the flow of contacts, resumes, follow-ups, interviews, and more that you’ll need to “administer” throughout your search campaign.
Technology is NOT the answer to everything, albeit an essential and tremendously valuable tool in your job search. In fact, conducting a job search without technology is virtually impossible in today’s virtual market. However, not everything has to be automated. One big joke between one of my techie buddies and me is my old-fashioned Rolodex that sits proudly on my desk. He hates it! I love it! Takes me two seconds to find a phone number. Instead, he wants to automate it, so every time I want to look up a number, I have to go to my PC, click on whatever program, type in the name and two minutes (NOT seconds) later I’ll have the phone number. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem too efficient to me!
Create two working spaces within the same room. I use two desks - one’s my PC desk for all my writing, email, Internet research, etc. The other desk is where I talk on the phone, write notes, keep important files and do administrative tasks. The desks are side-by-side, so I can easily reach from one to the other, but they are separate and distinct workstations. It allows me to keep all the “stuff” I need to do on my PC separate from the “stuff” I need to do at my desk. Each desk has a priority pile of items that must be addressed immediately (along with lots of other to-do piles that are not as time-sensitive).
Establish a schedule. Here’s what works for me. I write early in the mornings and handle whatever projects I have in the works. I then save the afternoons for phone calls and administrative tasks. I know other people who do the exact opposite and it works great for them. It is so difficult to be sitting at your PC, trying to write a cover letter and email a resume in response to a ChiefMonster job posting, when you promised three people you’d follow-up first thing in the morning or scheduled an appointment with your career coach for 9 am. Attempt to set aside quiet times each day to attend to whatever writing tasks you may have. I guarantee that your productivity will increase dramatically. However, remember that flexibility is vital. If you’ve established 3 pm-5 pm as your designated writing time, yet you’re invited for an interview at 4 pm, I recommend you accept the invitation!
Prioritize your incoming email into three categories. I receive a great deal of email, probably an average of 75-100 messages each day. Each time I receive my incoming email, I go through it in three steps. First, I immediately delete all the unsolicited emails and Viagra advertisements(!), I then respond to those messages that will take under a minute or two to handle, and then work my way through the balance that require more than a quick thought. I figure for every 25 messages I receive, I handle better than 70% of them within less than 10 minutes.
Touch it only once. Whether we’re talking about each day’s snail mail, your email, or folders on your desk, do something with it NOW and be done with it. When the mail arrives each day, I immediately sort it, throw useless information into the recycling bin, put bills in the “to pay” folder, and put everything else into its respective place or to-do pile. The less frequently you touch each piece of paper, or the less time you procrastinate about something you don’t want to complete but will only take 30 minutes, the more efficiently you will be managing your entire campaign.
You probably have already developed some job search management strategies that work best for you. Try integrating some of the above into what you’ve already created and you’ll find that your search campaign will proceed even more efficiently. And, the faster you move forward, the faster and easier you’ll find your next opportunity.