No matter the point in your career, whether starting out in a new profession or shifting direction in your current field, searching for a new job can be a lengthy and discouraging process. Documenting the details of your search process will help keep you on the path to success.
Why record job search details?
Often we need motivation before spending valuable time to try something new. Here are four reasons to get motivated for tracking your job search.
1. Forgetting to follow up can cost you the job
While juggling multiple job applications, it can be easy to forget to follow up after you have sent them in. Sometimes, a simple email or message to follow up is all it may take to land the job. For example, a potential employer might contact you and express interest by asking a few questions. If more than a week has gone by with no further contact, take the initiative to ask them if you can provide any other helpful information. They may see your initiative and genuine interest and decide to hire you.
Don’t let disorganization keep you from missing such an opportunity. Also, sending thank you notes from companies you have received a reply from is important to keep options open for future opportunities without burning bridges. Be sure to get the timing of vital follow-ups correct by tracking your job search.
2. Record goals to stay active in your search
Many job seekers get discouraged and begin to slack off in their efforts as time goes by. Creating and recording weekly and monthly goals as a part of your job search can help you move forward and stay on target.
Make sure your job search goals are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Results-bound, and Time focused. A weekly goal could be applying for three jobs a week or making five phone calls for networking. Monthly goals could be volunteering for four days (important for networking) or learning a new skill to add to your resume. At the end of each month, evaluate your goals and make some new goals for the next month.
3. Seeing your progress helps to maintain a positive outlook
After a few weeks of sending out applications with little or no response, you may feel as though you have wasted your time and are getting nowhere. However, if you have a specific record of applications sent out and job search goals you have met, you can confidently say that you are doing your best to look for a new job. Maintaining a positive perspective is much easier when you can visibly see you are working toward finding a new job, and you are more likely to continue in your efforts knowing that you are putting your best foot forward.
4. You may be eligible for tax credits
Did you know you might be able to claim some job search expenses in your tax return? Expenses like preparing and mailing your resume, travel, and placement agency fees are deductible on your tax return for job seekers staying in the same type of occupation. Unfortunately, if you are seeking your first-time job, a job in a different field, or have had a long break since your last job, this deduction does not apply.
How can I track my job search?
Now that you have some motivation, here is the nitty-gritty of tracking your search.
Find a job search spreadsheet template online, or make your own in a spreadsheet application. In the far left column, list all the companies you have applied to already or wish to apply to. At the top row should hold titles, such as: “resume prepared”, “cover letter prepared”, “application materials sent”, “date sent”, “follow-up email sent” (date), “thank you note sent” (date). (Each resume and cover letter should be tailored for each specific job, its requirements, and your qualifications.)
Another spreadsheet can be made in the same file by clicking the plus sign on the bottom left corner. On the far left, list each job search goal in the first column, and make a notation next to monthly goals such as (M). Across the tops of the rows, enter weekly milestone dates, and remember that monthly goals will only have one check per month rather than every week. To keep track of networking phone calls, make an additional spreadsheet or just add notes to the bottom the goal sheet.
If you don’t care for spreadsheets, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for using different devices and programs for your records.
If you like to use whiteboards, make a chart similar to the one described above. Manila folders placed in a hanging file folder box may also be used. Each hanging folder could contain copies of documents submitted and received for each prospective company, such as the resume, cover letter, follow up email, etc. Another hanging folder could be used for goals: one list for each goal notating dates that milestones were completed and any important details.
3. Either medium: Job search journal
Personal development shouldn’t stop just because you are looking for a new job. Writing in a job search journal–paper or electronic–provides a place to record advice from mentors/advisors, vent negative thoughts on paper rather than to a person, and track what you’re learning about yourself. For example, write about how you feel about yourself day-to-day, how you feel about certain jobs to discover the best field of work for you, and your plans for the future–not just in your career, but as an individual. Do you know your life’s purpose, no matter the career?
Give it a try by starting with just 5 minutes a day. Free up your mind to be completely available when you are with the people you love by getting your thoughts on paper (or a screen). If you’re still not convinced, take a second to browse this list of 25 benefits of keeping a job search journal.