Looking for a job can feel like screaming into a windstorm while getting pelted by debris. You’re sending out applications and not hearing back. When you do hear back, it’s “good, but not good enough.” Meanwhile, people around you are getting lucrative new gigs or finally finding their dream jobs.
It’s not that you’re literally shooting off emails from your phone with one hand, while hanging onto a lamppost, trying not to get pulled away by a tornado with the other. That’s just how it feels. What makes looking for a job so terrible isn’t just the process or the time spent, it’s the anxiety that builds and builds, the longer you’re unemployed or on the hunt. Of course there are real, serious concerns (like getting paid) that fuel job search anxiety, but a lot of it is due to how we tend to job hunt: haphazardly and emotionally.
One week we’re feeling energetic so we send off 10 resumes. The week after we’re feeling burnt out and send out none. The week after that we send out one resume and wonder what happened to those 10 applications we submitted earlier in the month. The week after, still sweating about those apps, we shoot off an email checking in with the hiring manager of the job we really want. “Hi Denise, I just wanted to check if you saw my last email and received my materials. I’m still interested. Please read my resume if you haven’t already. Hire me, h i r e m e, HIRE ME.”
That adds up to a job search cycle that ramps up your anxiety while also being ineffective. While developing a job search system that works for you may sound like too much, it will significantly reduce your workload in the long run, increase your chances of being noticed by hiring managers, and help to manage the anxiety that goes along with looking for a job. One easy way to begin organizing is to start using a job search log to keep track of your efforts.
What Is A Job Search Log?
A job search log is exactly what it sounds like: a tracking sheet for your job hunt. In most regions, these are standard issue for people receiving government unemployments benefits — job seekers are expected to document what kinds of jobs they’re looking for, who they’re reaching out to, how often they’re sending out resumes, and when and how they’re following up with hiring managers. If you’ve ever collected unemployment, these sheets will probably be familiar to you. But they’re not just useful to bureaucrats looking to ensure you’re staying on track; they’re an essential tool for any job seeker.
There are many job search log templates available for you to download, including one from Google Docs, and they all include a few essential elements. In order to get the most out of a job search log, you need to track your job search contacts, what type of jobs you’re applying (especially if you’re applying for more than one, for example, Editor and Social Media Manager, or Cashier Supervisor and Shift Leader), and the dates of any communication you have with hiring managers and recruiters.
- Type of Job: Keeping track of job titles and types may sound annoying at first, but if your job search continues for several months, it will soon become essential information. In an extended job search it’s worth doing an audit of your log to see what kinds of jobs you’re getting the most bites for and what kinds of jobs you’re most interested in. Are you applying for jobs even when your heart isn’t in it? Are you applying for jobs you’re not yet qualified for?
- Company: Basic information like what companies you’re applying for is of course important to keep track of. Getting a call from a hiring manager and not recognizing the employer they work for is incredibly embarrassing for both of you. (Trust me, this used to happen to me at least once a week when I was a retail recruiter.) But it’s also important to keep track of in the long run. Some employers will search their archives for previous contact with you and compare your current application to an older one. Inconsistencies in your resume or cover letter may raise a red flag, even if they aren’t because of anything suspicious. It’s also important to keep track of who you’ve had contact with and where.
- Contact: Keeping track of your job search contacts is important. But it’s also a good idea to leave notes for yourself about the contact. Was it a positive interaction? Negative? Did phone interviews go better than in person? When you’re looking back on your job search so far these will help you to see patterns, what’s working for you and what’s not, and give you clarity on whether or not you’re truly interested in pursuing a career with their organization.
- Date of Submission and Followup: What’s a log without dates? Keeping track of dates will help you be consistent in sending up a followup email and help you to get a feel for which jobs may not be worth further pursuing. If you find a hiring manager is taking weeks at each step, it may be time to move on to another opportunity.
- Source of Lead: Where did you find or hear about the job? An employer job site? Indeed? Or through word of mouth? Keeping track of this detail will help you figure out what sources are producing the most useful leads. This is especially important when someone in your network told you to apply for the job — not only may they be a potential reference if they know someone at the company, but it’s only polite to thank them after you’ve been hired.
3 Job Search Log Templates
This Google Docs template has all the fields that most job searchers will need, and can of course be customized to add more, should your field have very specific requirements.
This Excel template is a bit simpler than the one built by Google Docs, but still has the most important fields for you set up: who, what, and when.
If you want a much simpler template this one from CareerChoice Guide may be right for you. It leaves off a number of the fields you’ll find in the GDocs template, concentrating on the most important information.
If none of these templates meet your needs, it’s easy enough to build your own. Keep track of all the important basic details on your log but ensure that you’ve left reminders to yourself to followup and keep things personal.
Job search logs can help you keep track of the most important dates in the application process, give you data on how effective your job hunt tactics have been so far, and most importantly, they can help you control your job search anxiety by giving you a better sense of control and knowledge over the process. But like any resolution or self-improvement plan, don’t get over ambitious. Focus on recording the most essential details at first and add more information as needed.