Staying Organized During a Job or Internship Search

Many students tell me that it’s challenging to keep track of applications they have submitted to employers. It’s an understandable concern; there’s the date you initially send your email or submit your documents on a website, the response you receive (if any) after that, your follow-up communication to reiterate interest in the position, messages to thank anyone from the organization who has helped you during the process, and so on. It’s conceivable that you could communicate with an employer a half dozen times (or more!) during the course of the application process.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used a less-than-organized route in the past, i.e. scouring my sent mail box for communication with a particular organization. Wouldn’t it be easier to set up a system for tracking these messages?

It sounds like a common sense solution, and maybe you’re saying “Oh, I already do that with my applications.” If so – awesome! However, if you’re like me and you’re still tempted by the post-it note method of tracking important information, consider using a spreadsheet or similar tool to track your job or internship applications.

Here’s a helpful example I received from a Tufts alumnus after his job search efforts resulted in an offer.

This example has information about each application, including organization name and position title, important dates, and qualitative information about responses received from employers. You could also include details about networking contacts, the places where you found prospective jobs, and any relevant web addresses and emails. On a related note, it’s a great idea to copy and paste job descriptions into Google docs or Word docs before you apply, as they’re sometimes difficult to find again, even if you return to the same website.

What else do you notice about the sample?

  • He submitted a lot of applications. Job and internship searches take patience and time. And yes, rejections are almost always involved. Don’t worry — That’s to be expected! This alumnus was (and still is) a stellar candidate for positions, and he still received rejections. Instead of feeling permanently defeated, though, he moved on to his next option.
  • He used a variety of approaches to make contact with potential employers. In addition to submitting applications online, he sent emails and reached out to contacts in other ways.
  • The process took time. His spreadsheet includes dates in mid-March, and he accepted a position in mid-June. There’s no right or wrong timeline; it’s unique to the individual. Similarly, there’s no right or wrong number of applications to send. That number varies by individual, too! Resist the urge to compare your process to another person’s.

There are many best practices for staying organized during a search, so choose the method you think will be easiest for you. Here’s an article with more helpful advice — Tips for Staying Organized During a Job Search. It includes suggestions for both organizing information, as we’ve been discussing, and also time, another important resource.

Don’t forget all the great tools available through Handshake! You can store resumes and cover letters, set up saved searches and alerts to receive email updates with internships or jobs that interest you.

Questions about organizing your search? Make an appointment with a career advisor! We’re always glad to help you strategize.

By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor