Many of our career transition clients are overwhelmed with the prospect of keeping track of their networking activities and ask us for advice as to the best way to do this. This is not surprising as for some this is the first time in many years that they don’t have an admin to help organize them. Others are new to the job search process and don’t have a clue how to stay on top of their search activities. We have realized that what a person needs during a job search is an easy to learnand always accessible customer relationship manager (CRM) system, like the sales force perhaps had at your last company. Examples of such programs like Salesforce.com or Goldmine or ACT! help keep track of sales leads, just like you need to keep track of your networking activity so that nothing falls into the cracks. Plus, a system that will provide reminders are essential to keep you on track and motivated. But, most of our clients have found that each has a steep learning curve and is not designed for a job search. We find that executives are contacting over a 1000 other executives during a typical job search and given that this can occur over many months, it is easy to forget what you have done and what you need to do. So, what is the best way to stay organized during a job search? The following will provide you with a few suggestions.
The first step is to open up a personal email account if you don’t have one already. Many of our clients use Gmail as it is both web based and can be accessed on your devices. Use an email address that is close to your name, not your hobby or your fraternity nick name as you will be using that address to contact recruiters, people you will network with and your prospective employer. In addition, you will be putting this address on your resume and in your LinkedIn profile (more about that in another blog post).
Second, use a database or CRM tool that is easy to use and does not require much time to get started. Your job is to find that next job, not learn all the features of a complex tool. We would like you to continue to use this system after you get your next job as networking and managing your career should now become an active part of your life, if it hasn’t before.
We recommend a few options to manage your contacts:
1. Gmail has the option for Contacts. This feature is helpful for accessing contact information quickly, but it is not easy to use it for updating notes and adding reminders.
2. Microsoft Outlook, especially Office 365, is another email program which most executives have experience, but it can be difficult to use as a CRM for the same reasons as Gmail.
3. Microsoft Excel is a very good platform for managing contact activity and is easy to track, but it is not as good once again for reminders and can become cumbersome for lengthy job searches when you have networked with 500 to 600 people.
4. Salesforce is a great CRM, but is far too complicated for most executives that have not used it before. There is not a free version so you should be really committed to it if you are going to go this route.
5. LinkedIn Contacts – LinkedIn Contacts can bring all your contacts from your address books, emails, calendars, and your LinkedIn network, and keeps them up to date. They have been expanding this aspect of their service and now you can categorize (tag) people, send group notes and make notes regarding your activities regarding other executives. Some executives don’t like the idea of LinkedIn knowing all their activity, don’t want them to have access to their personal address books (you don’t have to import this information) and it does not yet provide enough customization, such as unique names in multiple emails, for managing a job search.
6. Jibberjobber (www.jibberjobber.com) is a web-based CRM designed just for executives in transition. It helps you keep track of your job search, networking contacts and other career management information. There is a free and paid version; it is an excellent platform for organizing your search contacts and even has an automated feature for updating you on job postings within your search criteria. The concerns our clients have had is that it is something new to learn when they want to get on with their networking and that the information does not reside on their computer. However, we like the fact it was designed specifically for managing a search and can be used throughout your career. Plus, it provides 24/7 accessibility on all your devices.
Most clients start off with MS Outlook as they are most familiar with this email product. But, as their activities increase over the first month of the search, they begin to notice the limitations of Outlook as a CRM. We encourage you to give the free version of JibberJobber a try while using whatever other system you prefer. Give this trial a couple weeks even if it means duplicating your work to see what is best serving your current needs and what you think would be best for you in six months when you have over 300 entries to manage. Then, commit yourself to using whichever one you pick and stay with it over the course of your job search.
In summary, a job search which will occur over many months with hundreds of contacts and thousands of activities will result in far too much information to keep in your head. A CRM system is critically important to managing your job search. Just like in sales, getting a job is a numbers game and you need to have a simple and effective way of managing the old and new contacts that your networking activity will produce. We recommend that you try out JibberJobber, but most importantly choose a system that is effective for you, then stick with it.