Confession: As I’m sitting here at Starbucks in the company of a venti iced white chocolate mocha and a bagel with about two bites left, I’m lowkey freaking out over the fact that in the coming months, my job search game is about to be upped ten-fold. Hell, maybe even one-hundred-fold. The point is that the job search, internship search, whatever-professional-position search is gonna get crazy for every graduating senior. And with a 20-credit schedule, club e-board meetings, and a part-time job, you may not even have time to think about how stressed you already are with the job hunt.
In the past, I’ve given tips on landing an internship—also pretty stressful. So this time I want to focus on keeping yourself organized when on the prowl because, not gonna lie, if an unpolished resume or typo-filled cover letter doesn’t screw you over, an unorganized mind will.
Yep, it’s true and it’s just as painful as it sounds. Maybe you’re not going to get the position at one of your favorite companies even though you’re uber qualified because you missed the deadline in the heat of preparing for other things. Or maybe you just couldn’t remember if you submitted the cover letter but decided to give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Or perhaps you’re bound to accidentally submit an incomplete application with all the pressure from class you’ve been under lately. It can happen and you don’t want it to happen to you.
I’m still working toward gaining complete control over my organization for jobs and internships, but I really want to share what I’m going to do. So if you’re pretty much in the same boat and want to finally get your shit together, read on.
1. Make a list of all of the companies you want to work for.
List out all of your dream companies and companies you admire. It’s important to have an idea of the environment you’d like to see yourself in so you know where to start and you’re not just blindly throwing cover letters left and right. Even if you don’t think you’re experienced enough to work at your dream company, 1) don’t sell yourself short, and 2) you never know. Put this list into a spreadsheet if you really want to up your organization game. I actually keep a folder on Google Drive specifically for organizing all things jobs and internships, so consider keeping your list here.
2. Find out the deadline for every single company.
Sometimes, you’ll find a job listing that explicitly states the deadline. Other times, you’ll have to do some digging. You can find out deadlines by reaching out directly to the hiring manager, tweeting to the company, or even just searching for the same company and position on another job search site to see if they included additional information elsewhere. Deadlines help you set goals. If you know an application is due in three weeks, you’ll budget your time so you work on your resume one week, your cover letter the other week, and still have time to polish it off during the final week. That’s just an example, but work on your applications the way you want to. Just don’t put yourself in a position where you couldn’t make a submission because you missed the deadline.
3. Think about location—can you narrow down a specific geographic area you’re looking to work in?
It really helps if you already know which state or country you’d like to work in, especially if it’s not in your home state or country. Now, actually packing up your life and moving there is a whole other process, but we’re not worrying about that right now. Personally, I’d like to apply to places in L.A., San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan. This helps you narrow your search so you’re not as overwhelmed.
4. Be aware that you may have to submit more than just a cover letter and resume.
if you thought writing cover letters for internships were annoying (me!), wait until you have to submit references, and create additional content specifically for the application process. You’re gonna wish it were as simple as resume and cover letter. If this is the case, make sure you’re aware of the application materials ahead of time to allow yourself enough of an opportunity to get them all together. Don’t take a chance on saving any part of your application for the last minute because of course this is when everything that could go wrong will.
5. Gather a list of references.
Create a separate document or spreadsheet where you can keep track of any references you may need. Know who you’re going to reach out to, and record the date you reached out to them, whether or not they responded, and if they have already sent your recommendation letter to the company that requested one. Look to former bosses, professors, and anyone else who knows your work well for recommendation letters. Reach out and ask if you could list them as a reference. And if you haven’t spoken to them in a while, now’s a good time to reach out and say hi, or invite them out to coffee. I actually wrote a post on what it was like to go on a coffee date with an editorial assistant so I could pick her brain about the industry, so if the idea of getting coffee with a professional seems daunting, check out my post for advice.
6. Keep all your work samples in one place.
This is one of those things that I have yet to get around to doing but I know is a must! Make sure you keep all of your professional work wrapped up in a neat little bow so you’re not scrambling to submit clips the night before the application is due. Since I want a job at online magazines and media sites, I’m going to have to put together a professional portfolio website with all of my best samples of published work. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep a list of links to articles I’d want to use as samples, so I have them ready. Pro tip: save any online work as a PDF file, because links can get broken and for whatever reason, a post might get taken down, so you want to make sure you have evidence of the work you did.
7. Create a color code system.
Whoa, what??? I know, this sounds super hardcore, but it doesn’t have to be! I love using different colors to show progress. So if I get rejected from a position, I’ll highlight that entire row in my spreadsheet in light red, or simply write ‘rejected’ in red next to it. It’s easier on the eyes and you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at with just a quick glance.
8. Mark off the positions you finished applying to.
Use your color coding system for this too! As soon as you hit ‘submit’ go back to your spreadsheet and put a check next to the position, do the strikethrough line, highlight it in green—whatever you need to do to show that you successfully completed your application and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. This way, you won’t have to second guess yourself on whether or not you did indeed make a submission.
I hope these tips help during such a stressful, chaotic time!
How do you stay organized for the job search? What’s your dream job like? Let me know in the comments!