You've probably heard someone say that looking for a job is a full-time job. There's no doubt that an efficient, effective job search involves at least as much time, diligence and discipline as a regular 9-to-5 workday. But perhaps most importantly, it takes organization.
And as expectations and standards for job applications continue to change, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the process. For instance, if "The Macarana" was the No. 1 song on the charts the last time you were looking for a job, you might feel a little lost about the best ways to find a job in the modern Internet era.
To make matters worse, the competition is stiff: Looking for a job in a down market means you'll be vying against more applicants for fewer positions. Successfully navigating the online job search means being organized enough to apply for many jobs, allowing you to maximize your chances of landing one. But at the same time, you'll need to target your search toward jobs that are best-suited to you while personalizing your applications so you stand out from the competition.
Luckily, the Internet also offers tools to help you with this difficult balancing act.
Create Electronic Resumes and Cover Letters
Even in the Internet Age, certain things haven't changed. Most employers still require resumes (and often cover letters, as well) as a first measure for considering you as an applicant. However, they now ask that you send your resume electronically. This may be through their own system on their Web site, though a job site or via email. You should keep a good, up-to-date copy of your resume and cover letter in a computer folder that's easy to find. It's best to construct and save it in Microsoft Word, because most employers use this format. Experts say you can either copy and paste the cover letter into a body of an e-mail (without any special formatting) or attach it as a separate document.
Employers like to see that you have a personal interest in their open position. They want applicants who sincerely believe they're well-suited for the job. To convey interest in the particular company and position, you need to customize your resume and a cover letter for each job application.
This is where organization is key. Sending a customized resume to each company means saving a template of a generic resume, and then saving each customized version separately. Should you ever get called up for an interview, you'll want to be able to find that particular version of the resume you sent.
Use Web-based Tools
Since nearly all employers now require online submissions of applications, your information should now be saved and organized on your computer. Why not also take advantage of online tools to further organize your job hunt?
The Web allows you to keep up with your job search even when you're away from your own computer. Keeping important documents and information stored online rather than on your hard drive is a great way to not only back up your files, but also maintain access via someone else's computer or through a smartphone when you need to. The most important step in this is to get an e-mail account that you can easily access through the web. Gmail and Yahoo! Mail are two popular examples of free Web-based email services. Don't use the e-mail account you have with a current employer, which shows a lack of discretion to potential employers [source: Doyle].
Gmail also provides calendar and document services that you can access online from anywhere. These will allow you schedule reminders for job application deadlines and upcoming interviews. You can also save and edit documents, and even convert them to Word files or create spreadsheets. This can come in handy for recording who you meet at which company and making notes on what you talked about.
Visit Job Search Sites Daily
Once you've updated your resume and begun planning how you'll organize your search, you need to launch the job hunt as soon as possible. The Web offers a slew of services dedicated to posting jobs. Top sites include Monster.com, Craigslist.com, Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com, among others. Within these sites, you can search for specific job titles or general industries.
Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com allow you not only to look for jobs but also post your resume for employers to find. Craigslist.com is a simple Web version of local newspaper classifieds. Indeed.com includes postings from company Web sites and job boards, in addition to providing useful information like salary averages and industry trends.
Alongside these sites, it's wise to use a job site that is dedicated to posting job listings in your particular industry or field of expertise. Niche sites are available for everyone from day care professionals (Care.com) to workers with security clearances (ClearedConnections.com).
Whatever sites you do use, be sure to check them daily so you can pounce on job postings quickly -- before the job gets filled.
Use Social Media to Find a Job
You may have originally signed up on Facebook to keep up with friends and family, but professionals find that it and other social media sites are actually great tools for finding a job, too. The trick is that you have to be much more guarded and selective about what you say when you want to use social media sites for networking purposes. This might involve a major revamp of your profiles.
The most popular site specifically meant for professional networking is LinkedIn.com, where you can list your professional experience on your profile and make professional connections. You can ask your old coworkers and managers to write recommendations, which you can post on your profile. Also consider increasing your presence by participating in discussions relevant to your industry [source: Wilms]. Potential employers may happen to discover you on LinkedIn, or they'll likely find your profile there when considering your application.
In addition to increasing your online presence, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are good tools for following companies you are interested in working for. If the company posts updates on such sites, read them regularly to keep up with its interests and direction. Becoming familiar with a company will give you leverage as you try to sell yourself to them.
Use Job Search Organization Sites
If you struggle to stay organized and remember everything that needs to be done in the complicated process that is job hunting, consider using a Web site dedicated to job search organization. These sites, which are often free for at least some basic services, allow you to collect all your information in one place.
Popular examples of such sites include JibberJobber.com and JobKatch.com, which manage your job search and help you track your relationships with professional contacts. Set tasks and reminders for yourself through these sites so you don't forget to follow up on job postings you've found and applications you've sent.
Another site, Becomed.com, allows you to set personal goals for yourself, like applying to a certain number of jobs per month, and keep track of how you're doing. For every job you want to apply for, you can record the information where you found the posting.
Don't fool yourself into thinking organization is more trouble than it's worth. In a difficult market, as your job hunt is likely to take some time, organization can only help you as you get further in your search. Why not take advantage of every tool the Internet has to offer?
You've finally graduated, so what's next? First order of business: Where should you live? Check out our Where to Live After Graduation pictures.
- Greene, Susan, Melanie C. L. Martel. "The Ultimate Job Hunter's Guidebook." Cengage Learning. 2011. (Jan. 27, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=zAD9XLdkvCoC
- Doyle, Alison. "Internet Your Way to a New Job." Happy About. 2011. (Jan. 27, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=rm34TRqg3vkC
- Lauby, Sharlyn. "Top 9 Job Sites to Bookmark for Your Career Search." Mashable. Jan. 10, 2011. (Jan. 27, 2012) http://mashable.com/2011/01/10/job-sites-to-bookmark/
- Waldman, Joshua. Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies." John Wiley & Sons. 2011. (Jan. 27, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=rm34TRqg3vkC
- Wilms, Todd. "2012 Job Market: 5 Tips for Using Social Media to Find a New Job." Forbes. Dec. 22, 2011. (Jan. 27, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2011/12/22/2012-job-market-5-tips-for-using-social-media-to-find-a-new-job/