5 Tips to Fight Job Hunt Insanity

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It's easy to drive yourself insane when unemployed. A paragraph that would be perfect for one cover letter is suddenly lost in heap on your desk causing you to unnecessarily slow down in answering an amazing job post and leaving you feeling completely frustrated in the process. One of the best ways fight job hunt insanity and stack the deck in your favor when unemployed is to organize yourself so each job application doesn't become a newly debilitating or difficult experience.

Just a few efficiency tools can help you put your best foot forward with each job application. Here are five favorite tools I used when most recently unemployed for keeping organized in applying for jobs.

1. Get Ringed & Tabbed. I adapted a leatherette red three-ringed notebook as my main job-hunting organizer. It helped me stay motivated, made me feel professional, and provided a way to keep all my job-hunting tools together. I recommend at least five tabs for your binder, divided as follows: Cheat Sheets, Resume, Applications, Online Lists and Finance to keep track of job-hunting expenses during tax time.

2. Use Print Files. I had a digital filing system, but my print files were the ones that saved my sanity. If I had trouble deciding how to start a new cover letter, I flipped through past cover letters for inspiration. Rather than opening multiple digital files, I found it easier to review past cover letters in my binder. If I found a paragraph from a former letter that I wanted to recycle, then I knew where to easily find the digital original for a quick cut and paste. Nothing frustrated me more than opening dozens of digital files and not finding what I needed, or losing work on active cover letter when closing old letters off the desktop. The print files were an easy reference tool for sorting which paragraphs worked well in the past and might work best when re-tooled in a new letter.

3. Make an Online Application Template. Online applications are a frustrating experience and rarely pay off. However, when you can't avoid an online application, use it to your advantage. Devote a full day to one application, knowing that the value it will provide is more in the template you're creating than the actual application. After each online form field is completed, don't automatically hit the next button. Instead, use a screen capture program and save the page. Then, print it out, three-hole punch it and put it in your binder. You'll thank yourself the next time you need to fill out an online application and all your dates, titles, company addresses and phone numbers are in one place for easy reference. Whereas the first online application can take you a full day while you make and save screen shots, subsequent applications can be speeded up to take under an hour.

4. Number & Categorize Applications. Within my application tab, I had a copy of every job letter sent. I numbered them to keep track of how many had been submitted and kept them in chronological order so I also got a sense of how long it had been since a letter last went out. I numbered how many went to recruiters, or were networking inquiries as opposed to hiring manager applications to motivate myself when I needed to up my game with recruiters or networking contacts. The system let me easily see how many letters it took to get any type of response. This helped me build self-confidence and not get discouraged if the past three letters didn't garner a hit. I knew I had to generate more quantity to gain critical mass and got motivated to find more jobs for potential future applications.

5. Create Cheat Sheets. Cheat sheets are anything that help you get your elevator speech polished. For me they were a series of bullet points on projects I'd completed in key topic areas. If an employer asked me a question during a phone screening, I had a list of potential answers right in front of me. Cheat sheets also included questions I wanted to ask an employer at the end of an interview. Cheat sheets aren't cheating at all. They're just handy tools so when the heat was on I didn't have to rely on memory to craft snappy, concise answers.

When you're unemployed, it's easy to feel out-of-control and lost in the system. By creating your own organization system, it gives you back much-needed feeling of control and provides an assessment tool for reviewing what's working and what's not in your personal job hunt.
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