you need a career notebook: here's why

lily comba

When it comes to finding an internship/finding a full-time job/finding a graduate school, keeping all of your thoughts, goals, contacts, interviews, etc. in one place is invaluable. But how do you do that? 

I personally prefer physical notebooks, so that’s where I’ll begin. But for those more tech-inclined persons, I will relinquish your spreadsheet dreams. Not only will organizing your criteria keep you calm, it encourages you to think about what you want. Let’s get started…

Criteria/ Checklist

Start listing, people! Company culture? School size? Industry? Concentration or track? Growth opportunities? Alumnae network? Financial stability? Affordable tuition? Draw on the experiences you’ve had — both personal and professional. Contemplate who you’ve liked, who you didn’t; what you definitely want, what you don’t; where you’d like to be, where you’d prefer to not be. This list will continue to grow as you learn more about yourself and your career narrative, so make sure you leave some space before starting the next section.

Names of Companies

Start with industries, categorize and list companies or schools that interest you. For example, have separate sections for your “Tech Companies” and for your “Entertainment Companies” — or your “Close to Home Grad Schools” or “Fellowships in France.” Also write down a couple key words next to the names of the companies as a reminder. You’ll reach a point in your research and application process that you forget what other companies you liked, or why certain companies have mattered to you. Keeping this information organized and updated will benefit you right from the start.

Informational Interview Notes

Leave a lot of room for this section. Here is where you should write your questions, and the responses they will give, from the people you network with. In the future follow-up that will happen because of your conversation, you’ll want to have some anecdote or topic to bring back up that will remind them of you. You also probably asked an amazing question you’ll want to have stored for later, so don’t let it get lost in all your other thoughts.

Interview Notes

Due to how organized, thoughtful, and committed you’ve been to your search, now you got an interview! Or maybe two! Maybe three! Give yourself a pat on the back. During your interview, take notes on the questions your interviewer asks you, jot down any useful information he or she says, and most importantly, write down follow-up questions in this section. It’s an absolute must that you say “yes” to “do you have any questions for me?” Do some research on the company, on the interviewer, on anything relevant to your interview and keep that in your notebook or spreadsheet for a quick reference.

Contacts

Now, this is my favorite section of the notebook or spreadsheet. There is where you keeping a running list of the people you’ve contacted and the people who’ve gotten back to you. Start with the date you messaged them, followed by her or his title, ended with a box. You will check this box when they (hopefully) respond to your outreach. Not only will having a list of names look super impressive, you’ll be able to reference it in the future when you think you may have already spoken to someone, or perhaps when a friend could use a recommendation of someone to talk to.

The gist of this post is basically to encourage all of you to treat your career or academic journey as you would a pet. Keep it clean, keep it safe, think of it often, and love it unconditionally. Organizing your thoughts and dreams will make the process of finding a job, applying for grad school, or perhaps finding a gap year option, all the more enjoyable.