Millions of people are walking around with undiagnosed Job Search Disorder.

There are two kinds of this disorder, in my opinion.  The first is a perpetual-job-seeking behavior that’s masking a deeper unhappiness about something else or a serious misalignment between career choice and personality.  (Although that’s an interesting topic to ponder, that’s a post for another day.)

The second type of job search disorder I’m talking about – which affects many more people than the first – refers to actual disorder: disarray, mess, jumble, or chaos.  An “I have no idea what I did with that” kind of mess.

Here’s how you know if you’re dealing with Job Search Disorder:

– You have a giant pile (or piles) of printed out job descriptions, or tons of online bookmarks, but you can’t find the one you need

– A recruiter calls you about an application you submitted, and you can’t quickly place the company name and/or position title

– You know you’re supposed to follow up with someone, but you can’t find the email

– You can’t figure out which resume version you submitted for which job

– You have scraps of notes (or no notes) and they’re all over the place

– You feel like you can’t get to your search because it’s so disorganized you don’t know where to start (so you never do)

– You sit down to do your job search, but you don’t have a game plan, so you get lost somewhere online and lose track of time.

– You can only do the job search from one location, since your notes and plans don’t synchronize across all of your devices.

Ugh.  I get it, I really do.  I love cooking, but my recipes are all over the place:  scraps of paper, online links, Facebook “likes,” photos on my phone.  So, when I need to make a grocery list or figure out what to make for dinner, I scramble.  Where’s that link?  Where did I save that file?  If I could only put my hands on that paper…

It’s a mess, and it adds so much more time and stress than if I just sat down to organize it in the first place.  (So I am starting to do that, and so far it’s been such a relief to have most things in one place!)

What to do if you or a loved one has job search disorder?

First, cut yourself a tiny bit of slack.  After all, you’re probably trying to cram a job search into the busy corners of your life, and you haven’t had the time to organize it, yet.

Then, set aside four hours.  That may seem like I’m asking you for the impossible.  I swear, I’m not.  That’s 7PM to 11PM, if you work better in the evening.  That’s one Saturday morning, or two Sunday afternoons of 2 hours each.  Get someone to take over your typical responsibilities, and clear the decks.  You’ll get at least four times back the time you spend organizing.

Next, pick one place or tool that’s going to store all of your information.  Here are some ideas:  Google Drive.  OnePageCRM.  Evernote.  Trello.  (Or any other cloud-based database that lets you store links and files and has an app for your mobile device.) Honestly, it doesn’t matter which you pick- they each have their pluses and minuses and they each let you search.  The ONLY criteria to use is whether or not you can easily access it from all of your devices.  (Scenario:  a recruiter calls- can you quickly go to the device that’s in front of you and get the information you need?)

And create one folder in your email service where ALL of your job search communications will go.  Save all job search emails here.  And, from now on, bcc yourself on all emails about job correspondence, so you can find the last note you wrote to someone.  Save all emails, even the ones where you’re turned down for a job.  You never know when you might need that person’s email address again.

Now, cut, copy, paste and fill your document, spreadsheet or database (whatever you picked for your tool, above).  If you only have something in paper form, take a picture of it or scan it (using a scanning app on your phone, you can turn a paper document into a smartphone picture and into an online file very easily).   Organize it in whatever way YOU will actually use it.  If you’re likely to search by company, organize it that way.  If you’re likely to mostly save links, organize it that way.  If you’d rather see it by date and job title, go for it.

Hint: An organizational system is only as good as what you put in it.

Here’s a trick:  use both your email and your repository/database (whatever it is) as a backup to each other.  If you’re doing something related to your search and you can easily update your repository, DO IT (don’t wait).  But if you’re on the fly, just send yourself an email with the relevant link, contact information, etc..  Then, later, you can add that information to your database and file the email in your job search file.

Finally, use the system you’ve developed.

Update it regularly; spend the few minutes staying organized as you go and you’ll thank yourself later.

If you find that you’re better at setting up organizational systems than actually using them, I get that too!!  But, I promise, your life will be so much less stressful if you have a system for your job search than if everything feels helter-skelter all the time.

And my dinner’s going to be better once I find that risotto recipe.  Where did I put that copy, again???