How I Organize My Job Search: Unemployment Edition

In case you missed it, I’m currently unemployed. To make a long story short, my position was eliminated due to a restructure.

I could get into all the feelings about unemployment, but I’m tired of feeling things. I want to talk about how I’ve systematized my job hunt.

When you’re suddenly unemployed and you have to go on a job-hunting blitz, it can be hard to keep track of where you’ve applied, whom you’ve heard from, and who had the gall to reject you while managing your emotions. I’m no emotions guru, but I am a systems nerd. Here’s what I’m using to manage the process.

Tools I’m Using

Airtable

If you’re not familiar with Airtable, I lovingly refer to it as “spreadsheets on acid.” There are a lot of functions that remove the need to manually type for each field.

Like any spreadsheet or productivity software, Airtable has publicly-available templates you can use. I cribbed their Job Hunting template and adjusted for my needs.

My Airtable base, with leads redacted.

Definitions to know

I’ll be mentioning a few terms that may be unfamiliar to non-Airtable users. Like I said, it’s like spreadsheets on acid, so there are some powerful functions to know.

  • Base: This is the equivalent of a “book” in Excel. It is your Airtable, made up of any sheets you create.
  • Field: This refers to any cell in your Airtable.
  • Field type: This refers to the kind of data you designate to display in each column. For example, if you want to have one column where you can pick from a dropdown list, you don’t have to do any data validation like you would in Google Sheets. You can choose the Multiple Select field type and add in your options.
  • Grouping: You can group data by particular columns you select. So if you have a lot of entries that may reference the same company, for example, you may want to group by your Company Name column so you can see your data more clearly.
  • View: If you’ve ever worked in Google Sheets, you may have experienced toggling between different filters to see certain sets of data within one spreadsheet. View eliminates the need to toggle between different filters. You can use Views to toggle between the same data, filtered in different ways. You can set up multiple Views within one sheet, which retains your information and eliminates the need to manually duplicate information. There are also different types of Views that can visually present your data how you need it. For example, if you’re tracking the status of a project, you may want to create a Kanban View to create a Trello-like presentation of your base.

Organizing my Airtable

The first sheet is for Job Leads. I dump any links to jobs that remotely interest me there, and I sit on them for a day. This is useful for me because sometimes I may consider a job more out of desperation, rather than truly being interested. This sheet changes often. After I apply to the job, I check it off and it’s removed from the Time Tracking view through a filter I’ve set up.

Other views I have under Job Leads is for Jobs I’ve Applied To and Rejections. Some people may not like to see this in one place, but I like collecting that demoralizing data.

The next sheet is Interview Questions, which is pretty self-explanatory. I have two fields which I group to create my own categories: General Questions and Questions to Ask. I answer common interview questions for myself to help me think about my own career trajectory. I make a note of questions to ask for informational or job interviews, and I group those further by company.

Resources is a link dump sheet for any unemployment articles or resources that may be helpful for me. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Another sheet, redacted.

The final sheet is For Unemployment. Since I’m collecting state unemployment, I have to keep a log of all my work search activities. I’m required to complete a certain number of job activities for week and the state has a few different activities that qualify, such as attending workshops, resume reviews, and seeking career coaching.

The main view is what I need to focus on in the next two weeks. (You file your claim biweekly.) I have fields for the following: Date, Company, any links to jobs, Opportunity Type (i.e. job, coaching, training), and a field for Time on Task.

The final field is Notified TWC?, which is just a checkbox field for submitting the log. I set up a filter to remove the field once it’s checked to a new View, which is a general collection of all the places I’ve actually applied to.

Zapier

Zapier is a productivity tool that connects apps to other apps, automating work. When you create a connection between two apps, it’s called a Zap. I use a Zap integration to connect a time-tracking app to Airtable to track the time I’ve spent on applications or any contract work. All I have to do is start and stop time in my time tracking app and it automatically is recorded in my Unemployment sheet.

Toggl

Toggl is a time-tracking app. I wasn’t sure how granular the state of Texas wanted me to get on my work log, so I thought I’d be better safe than sorry. I’m not totally won on this app because it’s organized by client and project, and I’m just working on tasks. However, it’s suitable for freelancers and this tends to be the structure for other time-tracking apps like Clockify or Harvest. I like how the desktop app sends you a gentle reminder to track your time and nudges you when it senses inactivity.

Adjustments I’m considering

With any system, there’s still some kinks to iron out. I tend to forget to time-track, so I often estimate my time on task which isn’t the best. Time-tracking serves me well when I’m doing contract work. When I’m writing another cover letter for the nth time? Not so much.

I also don’t have a good to-do list system at the moment. Right now, it’s my Reminders app on my iPhone, and my to-do list is mixed with home chores, measurements of my cabinets, and job tasks. It could be better.

My former co-worker had the great idea of setting up a Zap to Trello for any skills she needs to learn. However, I used up my two free Trello boards to organize my sewing projects and track my fabric stash. I’m exploring another way to track skill development, perhaps in the same Job Hunting base.

Do you have any productivity hacks to manage the job search process? I’d love to hear them!

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