Equipment for job hunters

There are enough stresses in job hunting without adding more for yourself.

The job hunt can get seriously disorganized, and that adds a lot of frustration when you can't find things. Notes with references and phone numbers vanish. Your rewritten CV file is saved somewhere. Your copy of your new application has already got saved in a folder about shopping.

Even with online applications, and everything pretty much automated, the ability to get tangled up in your own processes, lose your information, and give the wrong impression to important phone callers is built in.

Another problem with job hunting is keeping yourself comfortable and focused. The more disorganized things become, the more irritating it gets.

The routine of job applications is an irritant itself.

Trying to figure out the mysterious refusal of online forms to submit is bad enough, but doing several applications a day doesn't do a lot for you mental organization, either. Bookmarking a heap of websites with passwords gets frustrating, as does updating the 20 or so resumes you've got online.

You need a system you can live with, and a routine that will work for you, not against you. So here's a list of tips:

Privacy, and some peace and quiet.
Decent levels of comfort.
Good ergonomic practices.
A reliable computer and phone hookup.
Some structure and planning to your job hunting.
A way of making sure you can find everything you need.

Privacy, and some peace and quiet.

You need to be able to think. Find a room where you don't get through traffic, where you've actually got some peace. That can be difficult, but even in a busy place you can create some personal space for yourself.

If you can find a spot which nobody else uses, or preferably your own room, that's your best shot at a personal workspace. You need something roughly the size of an office cubicle, for storage and equipment.

(The other important point is having everything you need in one place, and organized to be findable. You need both.)

Noise levels should be as low as possible. Noise isn't only a distraction, it's an interruption. If you can site yourself away from the local noise factories, you're doing yourself a big favor.

A place you can keep clean is another asset to peace and quiet. Areas that seem to always need cleaning are a distraction, nagging away while you're trying to work.

Decent levels of comfort.

Comfort aids thinking, and prevents the sort of aches and pains associated with sitting in a chair for long periods of time.

A good chair, with an ergonomic support, will solve that for you, as will a good desk or table of the right height. This isn't just ergonomics, which we cover below on the next point. It's about how you feel when working at your desk.

Discomfort is a real irritant, and it obstructs thinking as well as physically making the work more difficult than it needs to be.

Good ergonomic practices.

In the early days of computers, ergonomic problems caused a rash of health issues nobody had ever seen before. Things have come a long way since, but there still is a real problem, if people overdo things.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is no joke. Even the minor form of RSI, called Painful Arm Syndrome, is quite bad, and involves actual nerve damage. Even that form, which is relatively trivial, can take years for full recovery, because nerves are slow to grow back and repair themselves. The serious form of RSI is so bad sufferers are sometimes classed as invalids, unable to use their arms effectively. Even holding a teacup is a major achievement, and not painless.

Ironically, people who are good on keyboards are more likely to suffer from it than others. They can work at speeds which literally affect the hands and arms, and RSI can occur in relatively small time frames.

It's avoidable, too. Research into the huge number of RSI cases soon indicated that all that was required to avoid RSI were good ergonomic practices.

You can get accustomed to desktops heights, but your actual need is for a chair where you're above the keyboard, and to be able to type fluently without strain. Your chair has to be adjustable to your preferred height. You need to be able to sit quite comfortably while working, without doing a balancing act or any sort of extra reaching. You'll know when you've got it right. If you've had training in ergonomics, remember it, and you'll be OK.

A reliable computer and phone hookup.

Communications are everything for job hunters. It's easy to forget how dependent on technology people are. You need to be able to guarantee access to a computer or phone as required.

This is also a budget issue. If you possibly can, make sure your communication costs are covered well in advance. It'll save spending later. A secondhand computer and phone will do.

Failing that, an internet cafe or a borrowed or rental computer can cover the gaps.

If you don't have these things, your job hunting is shut down. Trying to job hunt on paper is murderously slow, and you'd need to have your materials printed up, anyway.

The phone is part of the standard equipment. It's a time saver when you call about jobs and a contact point for employers.

Some structure and planning to your job hunting.

Job hunting is a time management exercise as well as organizational. You need to plan your times, so you can be sure of covering all the bases. You could spend hours online applying for jobs, and not have any time left for cold canvassing, ringing prospects, or networking.

Having to do a lot during business hours is a real nuisance. Just contacting people can take a while, and that interferes with anything else you're doing. Try and get things done systematically, so you don't wind up with a list of things to do every day.

Also plan your times ahead. If you need to be somewhere, or can't do any job hunting work at a certain time, plan your moves so you can have that work done anyway.

Every day adds new elements to a job hunter's schedule. It's ironic that it's when you're out of work you never seem to have enough time. A job creates its own time frames and structures. Being out of a job creates a potential mess, with clashes of priorities which just never seem to happen in a job.

Time works against you if it's not used productively. Make sure you don't get stuck for hours doing something which interferes with your job hunting.

For example:

  • Dedicate the morning to job hunting and applications and any related correspondence.
  • Check your messages, do replies, make any necessary calls, keep any current applications under control.
  • Go to the best sites first, find the jobs, do the new applications.
  • Have lunch, after you've got what needs doing done. Lunch can be used as a structural thing, as well as a break. Make sure you eat, because you can wear yourself down badly if you get glued to the work without eating.
  • During or after lunch, do any research or make new phone contacts, when people have come back from their own lunches. (Morning can be the wrong time to contact some people, like late starters who are busy from the minute they walk in until after lunch.)

With this sort of routine, you know exactly what you're supposed to be doing, and when. You can keep the afternoons comparatively free, which is good because you need to be able to make space for interviews during the day. It's not unlike a work routine, in how you manage your job hunting workload.

A way of making sure you can find everything you need.

This is absolutely critical. Your records are important. You do need to be able to access any relevant information instantly, when job hunting.

When it's anything to do with record keeping, you can afford to be broad minded.

Assume anything that can be lost will be lost if you don't have a good system.

Because it will.

Hard copies

Hard copies can be a real nuisance in terms of the amount of time it can use up and the amount of aggravation it can cause if you can't find them. More problems can be created by not being able to locate files, documents, licenses, ID, than anything else. If you've ever been in the position of not being able to find your qualification certificates, or other important documents, you'll know how maddening that is. In some cases it's very difficult to get replacements.

There's a way round that, but you have to be really careful and make sure you have all your important stuff secure.

Make at least two good copies of all important educational and professional documents, and put them in separate folders, preferably in a secure place in your work area. This means you have spares of each document, one for more copying and one for sending to people.

Put the originals in a secure place.

Do not, ever, send original documents to anyone.

They can be irreplaceable. Keep them in good condition, and well away from any possible damage. If you have a safe or a strongbox, keep them in there.

Hard copy records

Keep any hard copy of applications in a separate manila folder, in date order, preferably in a filing case or a drawer. Put the name of the employer on the folder, and make sure you have records of any phone calls with dates and times marked on them.

This is particularly useful if you're sending resumes to employers, because it gives you a clear record of what you sent, when, and to whom. It's an old paper office filing method.

Keep all of these folders organized so you know where to look for things. Date order or alphabetical order are simplest.

Phone notes

Losing phone notes is another joy of job hunting we can guarantee you can live without. It's amazing how much information can be lost on a piece of paper, if you really try.

When taking phone notes:

Use a phone message pad,
Make a copy of the message, making sure the information makes sense.

Something like this:

Caller: Terri, My Employment Agency
Message: Please call John Smith (HR, ABC Inc) ASAP
Time: 9:10AM
Date: 21 October 2008

Attach the message copy to the folder for that job application. You can even scan it and add it to your computer files.

Computer records

There is nothing less useful than a computer file you can't find. It happens very predictably, when you don't want it to happen.

  • Make a general Job Applications folder in My Documents.
  • Add a copy of your resume and any macros you may have to the main folder as separate documents.
  • Create new separate subfolders for each application, and use that folder for all relevant documents.
  • Make a back up copy of your job applications folder, either in your external memory or on a disk. You can even send it to yourself as an email, and have it as a form of online storage, if you like.

The reasons for this apparently obsessive approach to computer records are:

  • If the computer crashes, you crash.
  • If you lose the data, you're going backwards.
  • If you can't find your information, you're in real trouble.

This is also a way of managing the amount of information job hunting creates. You can keep yourself organized very easily, and only keep the material you need, and send the old stuff to backup.

Job hunting is quite difficult enough without having to fight a war with yourself to just keep track of what you're doing.

It's really pretty easy to keep yourself organized enough to be able to function efficiently and not waste hours of your own time unnecessarily.