Stumbling Blocks to Success: Disorganization

Several months ago (February & March of this year), I wrote a series of posts about different stumbling blocks to success. Those posts discussed

  • Procrastination
  • Uncertainty about What You Want to Do
  • Attitude
  • Personal Decisions
  • Worry and Regret
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Distractions
  • Location

In conversation with some students last week, several more potential stumbling blocks arose, so for the next few posts I’ll address some of those additional issues that can get in the way of successfully starting a career. A lack of organization in managing your job search can impede your progress, so today I will give some advice on how NOT to be disorganized!

In my book, I handle this topic in Tip 49. After you graduate, treat your job search like a job. That tip outlines several ways to make the best use of your time and stay on track with your job search, but most college career counselors suggest that you start looking for a job no later than the beginning of your final semester of college. So what can you do to get started on an organized job search while you’re still attending class, writing papers, studying for and taking exams, and enjoying your last semester of academic life?

There are two ways you can handle this:
1. Set aside a specific block of time each week when you will focus on your job search, and don’t allow anything to distract you from using that time productively. Treat it like a dentist appointment that you can’t cancel!
2. Create a list of tasks related to the job search and give yourself an assignment to complete certain tasks each week—and no tv or movies or going out with your friends until the assignment has been completed.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to ensure that you focus on your job search, you need to create a list of tasks that you will either attack during your specified time or check off as you complete them as part of your weekly assignment. Here are some suggestions for tasks your list might include:

Create a list of specific companies or organizations where you would like to work.

  • Find and bookmark their job listing sites.
  • Check them once a week.
  • If possible, find a local contact at each one, call that person up, and arrange for an information interview. (See TIP 6. Conduct information interviews and Appendix A: Formulating questions for the information interview.)

Create a set of factsheets about different jobs/job titles that interest you. (See Tip 13. Consider creating career fact sheets to help you organize the information you gather about the careers that are most interesting to you and Appendix C: Template and models for career fact sheet.)

  • Research online for keywords that can help you locate job descriptions.
  • Check to see that you meet the basic requirements for the type of work you’re considering.
  • Learn as much as you can about possible entry-level salaries and compare that to cost-of-living rates in different places where you might want to live (see Tip 9. Consider the cost of living in any potential geographic areas).
  • Find out what professional associations are available for people in this career. Check to see if there is a local or campus chapter of that association. Join it and become an active member to increase your network and learn about job openings.

Visit your school’s career center.

  • Learn how to use the career center’s online or other resources.
  • Get assistance with creating, revising, or updating your resume.
  • Ask one of the counselors to review cover letters and resumes for specific jobs before you send them out. Take the job description with you so they can make sure you have met the requirements.
  • Ask if they provide a mock interview service, and take advantage of it if they do!

Keep track of everything you do!

  • Develop a system for organizing all the information you find about different jobs, different companies, different careers. You may want to create a spreadsheet that you can continually modify and expand.
  • Keep track of names of contacts, suggested contacts, alumni, and anyone else you talk to about your career goals. Include contact information for each of them.
  • Create a system for tracking actual applications as you submit them. (see Appendix M: Keeping track of applications for a template to get you started.)