Originally published on StudySoup

When on the hunt for a job, it’s not uncommon to be applying for multiple opportunities at once. This is especially true for those of us just starting out in our careers. But multiple applications mean different versions of resumes and cover letters, and many, many different deadlines to keep track of. With so many moving parts, it’s easy to get disorganized.

But a disorderly job search process can lead to embarrassing mistakes, such as lost phone numbers, confused deadlines, and missed interviews. To help avoid these pratfalls, we’ve put together a few tips to keep your job search organized.

Start with clear career goals

It’s easy to want to just jump right in and start sending out job applications. But before you do, it’s best to take a step back to take a look at the bigger picture. Where do you want your career to go?

Though it may seem trivial, visualizing your career path is one of the most important steps to take. How are you supposed to start going anywhere if you don’t know where you’re headed?

Reflect on what you like to do now, and what you would like to do in the future. Where do you want to be 10 years from now? Don’t worry, you don’t need to be overly specific. Once you have a general idea in mind, work backwards from there to five years, a year, and then six months from now. As you do this, make sure to take family, education, and finances into consideration. You will have to make compromises along the way, but if you have a plan of attack, you can account for them early on in the process.

Create a schedule

After you’ve thought through your goals, it’s time to start building out a schedule. After all, to achieve your objectives, you’ll need time.

The first step is to set aside time for job searching and all its spin-off activities. This can be a much more time-consuming process than you’d expect. So aim to set aside at least two hours every day to fully focus on it. Sound impossible? It’s not. You can always find blocks of time within your schedule between chores, meetings, and any other responsibilities you might have. Just think of how much time you spend on social media during a week!

Next, start building a schedule to complete certain tasks you know you need to get done. You might, for example, devote one hour to cleaning up your social media profiles (like LinkedIn). Devote another hour or two to updating your resume and creating cover letter templates for different jobs. It’s also a good idea to create a job alert with Workopolis to get new jobs sent directly to your inbox.

Keep your job applications to a minimum

Applying for tons of jobs can make it feel like you’re improving your odds, but this is actually a waste of your time. Not to mention an easy way to become disorganized (and discouraged).

Remember the short- and long-term goals you set? Here’s where they come in handy. Keeping your goals in mind can help you narrow your search to jobs that align with your long-term plan. By always remembering where you want to go, you can save valuable time by only looking out for opportunities that will help you get there.

Next, narrow your search down to openings that match your experience and skill level. By focusing on appropriate positions, you can increase your chances of getting job interviews.

Track each position you apply for

Here’s where things can get especially messy. Applying for multiple positions at once leaves you with a lot of different things to manage. To look as professional as possible (and to ensure your own peace of mind) it’s important to keep track of all the details along the way.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a system that keeps track of each job application. You can start by creating a spreadsheet. Don’t worry about making anything too fancy; just make sure to include relevant information, including:

  • The name of the company you’re applying to
  • The name, email, and phone number of your contact at the company
  • The date you submitted your application
  • Dates and times for any deadlines and interviews
  • The date you followed up after an application or interview
  • The status of your application (whether you’ve been rejected, are waiting to hear back, or have an interview scheduled)

Not a fan of Excel? No problem. There are tons of different ways to track this information. JibberJobber, for example, is one such online job search organization tool that helps you keep track of what you’re working on.

During the job search process, it’s easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. But by following these few simple tips, you’ll be ready for an effective, organized, and positive job hunt. Good luck!