The phone rings. “Hello, this is Mr. Prospective Employer with Company X. Can you come in for an interview on Monday at 10 a.m.? Thank you.” You hang up, panic stricken. Who was Mr. Employer again? He said the company name but you didn’t quite catch it. And where is it? You wrote it all down in your notebook. But then you tore out the sheet. Where IS it?
If you’ve been telling yourself, “I just can’t get organized” and leaving it at that, it’s time for a change. Whether you are a new grad, or looking for a new career or even directing the church Christmas pageant you need to organize your contacts. Who have I talked to and who not? What did they say? When did I promise to call them back? You need all this information to be in one place.
Choose Your Tools
The catch is, it has to be a place where you will look. If you copy all the information from those little slips of paper all over your desk into your computer using expensive organizational software and a week or two later your desk is again covered with little slips of paper, you’ve got the wrong tool. You don’t use it, because it doesn’t suit you.
No one can really decide on the best organizational tool for you except you but here is some food for thought. If you are going to use your computer, think twice before you invest in fancy software with a lot of bells and whistles. Unless you are a devout technophile, extra features are just going to get in your way. You want to find specific information as fast as possible and perhaps be able to reconfigure it in a few different ways. Any more is a waste of money and worse than that time. A simple spreadsheet program might be just the thing. And don’t forget to back up your files on a disc, Flash Drive, or even a Rolodex.
A Simple Little System
You need to select one system of organization and only one. Alphabetical? By what? Last name? First name? Company name? Maybe geographical area or date of first contact? Or you may have some obscure little system all your own. Choose and use. As long as it is something you can remember easily and apply consistently, it will do.
What facts do you need know about each entry? Title, name, address, phone number with extensions, company, school or association, all those are obvious. Put down the date of each contact and who initiated it. Did the person say they’d call or ask you to call them? Did they mention any specific information that you need (their office hours; the type of job opening they might have; a specific project; “We’re always looking”)? Did they seem receptive and sincere, or did the attitude say, “Brush-off”? If you want to figure out codes for all this, fine, but only if you can recognize them later.
The Magic of Maintenance
Fine your contacts are organized. Now, how do you keep them organized? For many people this is tough part. You need a schedule. Decide on a regular day and time to update your files, say Fridays at four. Write it on all your calendars, paper and electronic, in a way that will stand out (red ink, all caps, etc.). If your e-mail or phone service has a reminder feature, ask to be reminded of file update day. Make an effort to put the contact data you receive in the same drawer or cubby or coffee table corner, anywhere as long as it’s all in the same place. Take the cards and papers, smooth the wrinkles out of them, and enter the information in your system. You can update back-up files at the same time, or less frequently, just put it on the schedule.
Finally, don’t forget to update the contacts themselves. As you organize the information, make a list of whom you should call or e-mail and when during the next week. Put that on the schedule too. Note names and a fact about each person (“Dan Johnson, recently promoted to senior analyst,” or “Barbara Watson edits the newsletter“). Mentioning these details will make you memorable – the goal of applicant and recruiter alike.
Work on your habits of organization. Practice keeping your desk clear, your appointments up to date and your deadlines met. That way, when you get the job, the habits you need to succeed will already be in place. You can find some technical contact papers by clicking here.