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Top Ten Secrets for Getting Organized for Your Job Search


Ed is an engineer. After graduation he started working for an engineering consulting firm where he has been for the past three years. He is now looking for a new opportunity outside of his present company. Karen is also an engineer, but she was laid off after 17 years with the same employer. The challenge is that they are both looking for new jobs, but they are frustrated because they don’t feel they are as organized in their job searches as they would like to be. Does this sound familiar? Do you feel like you are as organized as you would like to be? If not, these top ten secrets will help you get from where you are today to where you want to be.

Step #1-Complete a self-assessment
The first step in getting organized involves self-assessment. Know what you’re looking for and what you have to offer in relationship to the type of work you are seeking. Assess your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Identify the specific skills, work experience, education, certifications, abilities and interests that make you attractive to a prospective employer. This step is critical to the success of every job search. To some job seekers, the first step is the easiest because they know exactly what they want and what they have to offer potential employers. Others struggle with this step because they really don’t know what they want and/or what employers need. Getting organized in this area may require the help of a career coach if you can’t work through this step alone. It’s worth the investment if you’re unsure about what you want to do. The right coach could easily help you cut your job search time in half.

Step #2-Find out what you are worth
Organize your effort to find out exactly what you’re worth in the marketplace in terms of compensation. One of the best sources for this kind of information is the salary survey that is available to you at no cost through this web site. If you don’t know your value to a prospective employer, you run the risk of either under or over pricing yourself. You will also need this information when you enter salary negotiations. Don’t sell yourself short and lose an opportunity because you didn’t do your homework. And, if you are working with a recruiter, he or she should also be able to provide salary information.

Step #3-Update your resume
As you embark on finding a job, it’s essential that you take an organized approach to updating your resume. If you’re not starting from scratch, you will need to make changes to your resume to include your most recent work experience, special training, certifications, patents and education that you’ve added to your credentials since the last resume revision. The purpose of your resume is to get a job interview. You will need to customize every resume you send out. Yes, it takes time, but it’s a great investment because doing so will help you catch the eye of the reader, whether electronic or human. It’s your chance to outsmart the competition that may not know enough to customize or are not willing to take the time to do so.

Step #4-Measure your progress
Measure your progress against your marketing plan. For example, if one action item on your plan is to make fifty phone calls or face to face contacts each week, how will you know if you’ve succeeded? Use a calendar, Excel spread sheet, palm pilot, or any method that feels comfortable to you as long as you have a way to log what you are doing. Document the results of your work for later reference and follow up. As your network expands and you meet more people, it’s easy to get mixed up regarding whom you have spoken to, what the results were, and when you need to follow up. In addition, confusing one interviewer with another could be an embarrassing and costly mistake that could be avoided with good organization.

Step #5-Keep track of resumes
Keep your resumes in a folder for easy access in either a hard copy format or electronically on your computer. In addition, you may need folders for emails, copies of cover letters, thank you letters and your list of references with their contact information. There are a variety of folders and binders that every office supply center carries. You may decide to keep most of these items in a computer file, but there are occasions when you may want to have a portable file of hard copy material.

Step #6-Organize your office
If you are conducting your job search from home, you will need space that you can call your own. You will need a computer and a laser quality printer as well as a telephone with your voice on a professional message. Gather supplies such as quality paper and envelopes for hard copy resumes and cover letters, a desk and chair, telephone and sundry office supplies. If you can’t work at home because of distractions or not enough room, a public library is a good place for a temporary office and you can take your own computer or use theirs.

Step #7-organize your wardrobe
Organize your wardrobe and decide ahead of time what you plan to wear for first, second and third interviews. Wash or have dry-cleaned anything that isn’t clean or that would benefit from a freshening up. Purchase what you need to supplement if needed. You might want to use 3x5 cards to record what you wore to each interview with the same company. You don’t want a prospective employer to think that you only have one outfit of clothing. Your appearance is as important as anything you could say during the interview. First impressions are lasting impressions.

Step #8-Plan your research effort
Be prepared to research employers with whom you are interviewing. Know in advance the approach you plan to take. Will you rely on the Internet for current information, or will you gather most of your data from speaking with people whom you know who either work there or have worked there in the past? Keep what you’ve gathered organized and easy to access. Haphazardly dealing with research material could be a problem when you can’t retrieve it when you need it. Regardless of how you plan to gather and file information, you need an organized system so that you can quickly conduct research on the company and then present yourself as an informed candidate when the caller says: “We would like to interview you. Can you be here Wednesday at 10 a.m.?”

Step #9-Manage your time
Keep a daily “To Do” list so that you don’t forget appointments, phone calls, follow up contacts, etc. Some job seekers have gotten into the habit of updating their lists at the end of each day so that they are ready to start first thing the next morning. Cross off items that you have accomplished and give yourself the satisfying feeling of having achieved your daily and/or weekly goals. Some candidates prefer to keep their list on a white board, bulletin board or on post it notes. Organize in a manner that works for you.

Step #10-Develop a two-minute “commercial”
Develop a two-minute “commercial.” Prepare yourself so that when someone asks you to tell him or her about yourself or what you are looking for, your thoughts are organized and you can clearly articulate exactly what you want to say. Many job seekers fail to think ahead about how they will answer these questions which inevitably come up. Although your answer may vary slightly depending upon the job you are applying for, you need to be ready. You might even want to write down your answer, memorize it and practice until it becomes second nature.

In conclusion, get organized for your job search and you will avoid a lot of non-productive time that could be used more constructively to help you find a job. Investing your time in a plan before you start your search can pay dividends throughout the time during which you are engage in your job search and beyond.

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