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Career Coach: Tricks to Getting Organized and Keeping Track of Applications

In this month's "Career Coach," Pamela Kleibrink Thompson gives readers some helpful hints on organizing your job applications.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Few endeavors are as daunting as a job search. You send out countless resumes to faceless prospective employers until days fade together in a hazy fog. Using a few tricks to systematize the process will improve your chances of success.

Recently I was surprised to learn that a career-coach client didn't know all the places he'd applied -- he wasn't keeping track. It's important to keep a record of where you apply, so you know if you've applied to over 100 companies or it just feels that way. You need to know who you contacted at the company you are keen to work for. You also need to know when you contacted the company. Has it been two months since you called, or has it been just two days? You're anxious to get a job, but you don't want to harass the hiring manager or human resource department. You don't want them to think you are a stalker by contacting them too often.

You need to approach your job search in an organized way. You need to set up a system so you can follow up with your job leads and applications.

Contact-management software makes this process easy. But you can do it with a three-ring binder, some notebook paper, a three-hole punch and a pen. Here's how to do it with the cheap stuff:

Label the spine and front of the binder with your name and "Job Search."

For every company you apply to, you will have a separate piece of paper in the binder.

Label the top of the paper with:Company Name; Contact info (web address, mail address, phone number); Type of company (games, visual effects, animation); Company projects/credits

Then below that:Contact name; contact's job title; where you met; who referred you and when; when you made contact; what you sent; position applied for; skills highlighted; feedback; and follow up date

Here's how it works:

Company Name: Potato ProductionsContact Info:, 5850 Lettuce Lane, Spud, OR 503-585-5000Type of company: GamesTitles/Credits: Spud City, Spud Racer, Evil Eye

Contact Name: Ida Gold, Art Director Where Met/Who Referred and When: Game Developers Conference, April 07When Contacted: 9/29/07What sent: Resume, cover letter, modeling/texturing reel

Position applied for: Modeler/Texture ArtistSkills highlighted: pointed out in cover letter did textures/modeling on Lettuce Alone for Cabbage CreationsFeedback: haven't heard a wordFollow up: 10/10/07 -- This is the initial follow-up to be sure they received materials. This gives enough time for them to open the package and record receipt.

Behind the first page you will put a copy of the cover letter sent to the company. Behind that you can put any promotional material from the company and articles about the company. As you build your relationship with the company, your other correspondence will follow behind the initial cover letter. Obviously, if you apply online, your follow-up dates will be a few days earlier because you don't have to wait for the mail to arrive. Also, print out any email correspondence you have with the company and put it in your notebook.

Always keep your conversations with the employer courteous, brief and to the point. After you discover that the company received your materials, ask when they will review them and when they would like you to follow up. Using the resources you have created (your job-search notebook), you add that you really liked the work they did on Spud Racer and that your skills as shown by the texture work you did for Lettuce Alone