Now that we’ve touched on the importance of tracking/organizing one’s job hunt, and I’ve made my case for why I think it’s critical to have a structured framework in place when searching for work, let’s dive a little deeper.  Let’s talk about the specific type or types of information that most professionals would typically want to track, relative to their job search implementation efforts.

After giving this matter some thought, I’d propose that there are 5 main buckets of things that an effective job seeker should focus on managing effectively during the course of their transition period.  You’ll see this list of items below.  Clearly, one could tack some additional items onto this list or subdivide certain categories further, but if we keep things at the 10,000-foot level for now, these are the main areas I’d recommend that people concentrate on.  So after contemplating each of these areas a bit in terms of your own situation and search parameters, your mission should be to buckle down and design the system — or collection of systems — that will most help you:

— Manage your TIME/CALENDAR effectively
— Manage your EMOTIONS/STRESS effectively
— Manage your NETWORK OF RELATIONSHIPS effectively
— Manage your FINANCES/BUDGET effectively
— Manage your JOB SEARCH TO-DO LIST effectively

Did you note the word “manage” that I used again and again, above?  It sounds silly, I know, but this word choice is an important one, since I’d argue that the essential idea of “managing something” involves taking ongoing steps to maximize the productivity of a resource or set of resources.  For example, we all have the exact same number of hours available to us in a given day.  How do we squeeze the most productivity out of them?  Or in terms of individual stress levels, I don’t think there’s a single person on the planet who is able to maintain a supremely high level of energy, confidence, and enthusiasm at all times.  So given this fact, what steps can we each take to increase our supply of these critical emotional reserves on an ongoing basis?  You get the idea.  And where the “tracking” part comes in relates to the time-tested truth that “what gets measured, gets managed” and that it’s hard to course-correct ANYTHING (e.g. your job search, your diet, your spending habits, your marketing campaign, etc.) unless you keep an accurate record on hand of what you’ve been doing to date — and what results (or lack thereof) you have to show for it.

So again, no matter what type of organizational system you decide to put in place, I’d start by factoring each of the above 5 areas into your thought process.  If desired, you can then get fancier and break down certain components into subcategories, such as carving the “Job Search To-Do List” into a set of discrete areas such as your responses to advertisements, contacts with recruiters, interviewing opportunities, and the like.  Keep in mind, however, that you’re not developing these tracking systems for their own sake or as a way to postpone the less comfortable aspects of hunting for work. You’re investing this time to make sure your efforts are as focused and efficient as possible, right out of the gate, and so that you can effectively identify areas for improvement down the road, if and when needed.  In short, you’re questing to find the “Goldilocks” level of tracking that comes between tracking TOO much, where it becomes a burden or an avoidance mechanism, and NOT TRACKING ENOUGH to the point where you don’t have enough data on hand to analyze/improve your efforts.

Make sense?  Are you with me?  Then in closing, at least for this installment, I’ll leave you with one additional list — which is my own personal opinion of the “top 5” metrics and data points that successful, serious job hunters should be tracking religiously.  Again, this is highly subjective stuff.  And in defense of my selections, all I can tell you is that this is the data I’d most want to have available for every one of my clients, especially those coming to me a few months into their search, frustrated by their lack of success.

#1: How many outbound contacts are you making each day/week/ month in each of the 4 main job-finding channels: ads, recruiters, networking, and direct marketing?
#2: What’s the status of each of these leads and what are your next steps in terms of following up on each opportunity?
#3: What has your success rate been in generating interviews through each of these four different channels?
#4: How many people do you currently have in your network and when is the last time you touched base with each individual?
#5: How many interviews have you had to date and how far along (e.g. phone screen, 1st interview, 2nd interview, offer, etc.) have you gotten with each opportunity?

Again, job hunting is a management science, at least in part.  And if you commit to keeping tabs on the above set of data, at minimum, it will provide WORLDS of insight down the road into what you may be doing wrong — or right — in the pursuit of your next assignment!