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Guest post by Janet Barclay

Many people, under financial or other pressures to find work quickly, feel they can’t afford to take the time to get organized. On the other hand, conducting your job search in an organized manner will reduce the amount of time you spend looking for information, following inappropriate leads, or waiting for your dream job to fall into your lap. It generally takes at least a month to find an entry-level job, and as much as nine months for one requiring a high level of skill and experience. Getting organized before you begin your job search can ultimately save you a lot of time and frustration.

You should take several preliminary steps before you even begin your active job search. You should start by identifying your skills, interests, target market, and any child care, transportation, or other issues that you will need to keep in mind. A career coach or employment counselor can be very helpful in this area, as well as with the preparation of your resume, cover letters, and any other job search materials you’ll need.

Once you’re ready to face the job market, there are three areas where you’ll find it beneficial to be well organized: your schedule, your workspace, and your contacts. Today we’ll look at managing your schedule during your job search.

First, you must decide how much time you can realistically commit to your job search on a weekly basis, and then create a weekly schedule of activities. Keep in mind that looking for a full-time job is in itself a full-time job! Some of your time will be devoted to reading and applying for advertised positions, but be sure to allow plenty of time for other job search activities such as making telephone calls, generating and researching new leads, reviewing old leads for follow up, writing thank you notes or other correspondence, and visiting placement offices, employment agencies, or other service providers. The percentage of time you dedicate to each activity depends on what is most effective for your field of work or geographical area, so it may be worthwhile for you to ask others what has worked for them.

Most people perform different activities more effectively at different times of day. Take your natural energy flow, as well as the availability of quiet time for conducting research and telephone calls, into consideration when planning your schedule. If quiet time is not available at home during the daytime or evening, an employment resource center can be an invaluable resource.

Keep your personal preferences in mind when planning your activities. For example, if you dislike talking on the telephone, it may be less stressful for you to get your calls out of the way before beginning your other activities, or to intersperse your phone calls between other activities so you don’t become overwhelmed.

If you’re planning to drop off unsolicited resumes, map out a route of targeted businesses that are in a particular area, and plan to cover the entire area in one day. This will cut down on your travel time and expenses as well as the number of times you need to dress up.

Keeping a log of the actual time you spend on each activity will allow you to see whether you are on track and to identify any problem areas. It’s not uncommon to become frustrated and depressed when you’re out of work, so be sure to schedule regular time for self-care and other personal activities like going to the gym or the hairstylist.

Next week, we’ll look at ways to organize your job search workspace effectively.

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