Carolyn Walstein, profession organizer, explains the importance of staying organized in your job search.
First, please tell me what you do.
I’m a professional organizer. I help people update and prioritize, and let go of what no longer serves them, to make space for what they love, want, and enjoy.
Right now I am organizing a large estate that has tremendous clutter. It was owned by a deceased elderly couple who were also compulsive shoppers and hoarders. Their family called me in to help. I started by removing all the trash and recycling that had built up over many years, and donating items that didn’t qualify for an estate sale.
All the many jobs I’ve had in my life have included organizing in some fashion, whether it was setting up my own businesses (I’ve had a few) or working for other people and setting up their offices and filing systems. I love creating order out of chaos.
Once I got myself organized, it was an easy transition to helping others get organized. I earned my masters degree in counseling psychology as a marriage and family therapist in 2011 and was not seeing the jobs that I wanted. So I began by helping a senior man reduce his storage fees by clearing out his storage unit that he’d had for years. It was hard for him to let go of his clutter, but I helped him go through his things one box at a time and finally clear out a lifetime of baggage, both materially and emotionally.
What kinds of clients hire you?
Executives, housewives, movers, home sellers, people who are in transition or moving, empty-nesters, and entrepreneurs who are secretly drowning in clutter and chaos, overwhelmed, stressed out, isolated, and just sick of the mess.
I’ve cleared a stuffed children’s room for an overwhelmed single mom. We worked side by side on that job. She let go of seven stained back packs, broken toys, and lots of outgrown clothing. I also organized an office and crafts area for a busy in-home daycare provider. I help home-sellers get their houses ready for sale by clearing space for showings. I help people prepare for garage sales, and packing for people who are moving.
Additionally, I have set people up on Excel spread sheets to track their spending and keep track of their self-employment accounting for tax time, as well as having clarity about their personal finances so they can make more conscious and empowered decisions with money.
So, talk to me about the necessity for organization in a job search.
Job searching is stressful. It’s tough emotionally, and it’s difficult financially. It can be very overwhelming facing all these challenges at once. And now it’s all on the computer, so if those skills aren’t in place, it can be daunting, especially for older workers to complete online applications. It may feel insane, but thinking about it is usually far worse than actually doing it, so I tell people not to think too hard, just start taking one small step to get things rolling.
“One thing at a time” is a very effective mantra to counteract feelings of being overwhelmed that attempt to immobilize people. Divide it up and conquer it.
What would you say are the first steps of getting organized for a job search?
First, get rid of everything on your desk that isn’t serving your job search goals. Once you have a clear space you feel good about, begin gathering the required information you will need for online applications, e-mails, and networking. Clear the clutter, and gather your necessary documents.
What you will need is all the information at your fingertips to fill in those online application answer boxes. Past employers, the phone, address, start and end dates, name of your supervisor, and why you left, (laid off, family matter - resolved, company reorganization, relocation, updated professional skills, et cetera). You will need this information over and over again. If you get it all in one place, it will make it so much easier for you and the applications will take less time.
You can make a list on your Word or Excel program, or use a Rolodex by your computer with all the information. Even a notebook will do. Keep former employers in your cell phone or bring the list you made with you when you go to apply. Just a little pre-organization can help you think clearly when so much is going on.
I have a “Job Search” file where I keep all my references, transcripts, several résumés and matching cover letters that fit the job title I am aiming for. It’s all in one easy-to-get-to folder.
Also, use the same log-in name and password for each application. That will keep it simple. Keep a copy of all the jobs you apply for.
Once those pieces are in place, what tips can you offer about keeping them organized?
Delete old stuff on your computer regularly, and only put on the desktop what you are currently working on. This goes for your actual desk or workspace – put excess away in drawers and cupboards where you can’t see them. Clear your computer desktop. Those icons can live in “My Documents” quite happily, rather than being in your face all the time.
Take risks and move stuff around until it feels right to you. If you haven’t used something in the past year, get rid of it. File the papers that come in when they come in. A pile is not a file. Let it go.