With all of the career transition activities in which you engage — applying for jobs, following up on applications, networking, writing thank you notes, etc. — having some formal manner of staying organized will help you keep track of where you are, who you have spoken with, and any items you have yet to complete. Here are some areas of which we recommend you keep close track.

How you are spending your time: Keep track of your time throughout your day, including monitoring how much time you are spending applying to online job postings, on networking activities, and following up on leads or with connections. You can assess whether or not certain areas need more time investment and whether or not you can cut back on others. Make sure your time is being spent where the results will matter most, such as in networking and follow up. Often job seekers are spending far less time on valuable activities than they realize.

Why is networking more important than scouring job boards for the newest open position? Consider these rather sobering numbers from a post at ere.net by Dr. John Sullivan:

On average, for one job posting:

  • 1,000 individuals will see the job post
  • 200 will begin the application process
  • 100 will complete the application
  • 75 of those will be screened out by either the Applicant Tracking System or a recruiter
  • 25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager
  • 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview, 1 to 3 of them will be invited back for final interview
  • 1 will be offered that job, and 80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept it.

Those are long odds, but how do you overcome them? Consider the fact that a candidate who is referred to the company is three to four times more likely to be hired. According to a 2013 study by CareerXroads, only 1 in every 6 external hires is attributed to a job board (with that number expected to drop in coming years), but about 25% came from a personal recommendation or referral.

Where you have applied: Keep track of where and when you have sent in applications, as well as which version of your resume you used. That allows you to follow up appropriately. It also keeps you from accidentally applying to the same place more than once.

Timelines for Follow Up:In addition to applications, keep track of your networking and interviewing activities as well. Be sure you are sending thank you or follow up notes to professionals with whom you have interviewed, as well as to your networking contacts. Set deadlines for yourself to check in with a hiring manager or to quickly connect with a networking contact. You never know where a brief follow up could lead.

As you meet contacts that you wish to maintain a relationship with set yourself a reminder to follow up with them at least once per quarter (or sooner if they are a target contact or you have new information to share).

Above all, keep in mind that your time is a precious resource. Take it as seriously as you might take a paid position, and you’ll find that your productivity may help you focus your efforts and reduce the amount of time you spend waiting for the next interview.

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