Q. I’ve been out of work for over four months. I’ve never been a very organized person, and I suspect that might be hampering my job search effectiveness. Do you have any organizing tips for job seekers?
A. Yes, I do. In this challenging job market, you need to do everything you can to give yourself a leg up on your competition, and being organized is one way to do that.
Here are some tips for making sure you stand out:
- Keep track of your resumes. We’ve all heard that it’s a best practice to tailor your resume to each job you apply for, but after you’ve applied for a few jobs, it can get confusing to remember which resume you sent to which potential employer. I recommend keeping an electronic folder on your computer titled “Resumes Sent” and putting in it a copy of each resume you’ve sent, incorporating the potential employer name, month, and year in the file name (e.g., “John Doe resume ABC Co Oct 2012”).
- Create folders. I recommend to my clients that they keep one large folder (e.g., labeled “Job Search 2012”) for printouts of job descriptions they’ve applied to (which should have the date of application handwritten on each page) and a copy of any accompanying cover letter they sent. Create separate folders for each job that you actually interview for (e.g., “ABC Company”). Include in these folders a printout of the job description, any notes you’ve taken from preliminary calls with recruiters or HR people at the firm, directions for where to go (and whom to ask for) on the interview, bios on the people you’ll be meeting, your research on the organization, etc. Bring this with you to the interview, and later add your interview notes to it. This has the additional benefit of sending a subtle message to the interviewer(s) that you’re interviewing at more than just their organization, thus making you seem more in demand. In addition, if you do not get the job but are contacted at a later date by the same employer, you’ll have your notes in one place for easy memory refreshing.
- Corral your references well in advance. Although it’s generally frowned upon to include a list of references in your resume, you should still have three to five people (not related to you, of course) lined up who can serve as references. On a document similar in formatting to your resume, create a “References List,” listing each person’s name, title, contact information, and how they know you (e.g., “Jane Smith, Vice President of Marketing, XYZ Corporation, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203.555.1234. Ms. Smith was my supervisor from 2008-2011”). Store this on your computer. That way, if a potential employer wants to contact your references, you can quickly e-mail or fax that document to them (after alerting your references to the impending call, of course).
- Mimic a Boy Scout and be prepared. The night before your interview, make sure you have the following in your briefcase: Extra copies of your resume (because you’ve saved each tailored version with the name of the organization, this will be easy to find on your computer and print out); the position-specific folder; directions/parking information; your portfolio of work samples, if applicable; two pens; breath mints; and an extra pair of pantyhose in case of last-minute snags/runs.
- Be grabby when it comes to business cards. During your interview(s), be sure to ask each person with whom you meet for his or her business card. When you get home, tape or staple the cards to the inside of your position-specific folder, so that you’ll remember the names of everyone you have met and as well as have their e-mail addresses for sending thank you notes afterward.
If you would like the help of a professional organizer, consider contacting New Leaf Organizing Service at www.newleaforganizingservice.com or at (203) 450-1099. We organize things big and small — once and for all.
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Coming next time: What tips do you have to make holiday gift shopping less stressful?
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