Eat healthier, exercise more, pick up a new hobby… these classic New Year’s resolutions probably date as far back as the creation of calendars themselves. (Well, maybe not quite THAT far.) But, the new year has always served as a time of reflection and often resolution setting. For many people, these New Year’s goals extend to their careers — specifically, finding a new one.
22% of workers set a goal of finding a new job in the new year. If you're one of them, here are some tips for tackling the job hunt. Or if just want to up your job-hunting knowledge — here are a few ways to get out ahead of the pack to land your dream job.
Set your job compass
Determine where you’re willing to live.
If your New Year’s ambitions extend beyond your current zip code, then identifying the right area for you just might be the way to kickstart your search. If it’s New York City/Chicago/San Fran or bust, then there you have it! But before you isolate these as the meccas for any and all career opportunity, you may want to broaden your search a little. (See The 25 Best Places to Find A Job in the US.)
Take a “company-first” stance.
That is to say, think beyond exclusively conducting field-specific searches and hone in on some companies you’d really love to work for. Keep in mind that not every company actively promotes openings, while some constantly accept applications or are just on the cusp of identifying a need. You could avoid the rush of other candidates and set yourself apart as someone who is passionate about the company.
Consider a temporary position.
Even if it’s not exactly your dream job, there’s nothing wrong with taking a temporary position or freelancing to give yourself a little time to search the field. This can help you to learn a new skill or beef up your resume within an existing field. It might even open the door to potentially building an important connection or turn into a full-time position that you might love! For a first-hand account, see How I Landed My Dream Job Through Temping from Glassdoor.com.
Pro-tip: If opportunities don’t yet exist, strategize on how to create them. Leverage your network and the power of internal referrals to support your search execution.
Time your job hunt just right
Off to the races.
The good news: many companies are hiring at the first of the year. According to FastCompany, “Employees typically avoid jumping ship right before their year-end bonus arrives, while employers often set new targets, hiring budgets, and identify areas of need for the coming year at around the same time.” Knowing about recruitment cycles may be the advantage you need. According to Monster.com, “This might also be a great time to seek out a higher salary or more responsibility, when demand for talent may outweigh the supply of qualified candidates.”
If at first you don’t succeed… stick with it.
Even if you don’t hit your goal within the first major wave of hiring, don’t give up. The big hiring months are January and February and again in late September and October. Pro tip: Don’t stop applying while you’re waiting to hear back from a company. Most job seekers are rejected by over 15 employers before landing a job, and worse case scenario, you might have to juggle multiple job offers at one time (#goals).
Dust off the ol’ resume
Keep it simple.
Emphasis on 8.5” x 11”. A resume is your way in the door — not the whole enchilada. If a recruiter is reviewing multiple applications and spending minimal time per resume, you need to put yourself in the consideration set — quickly. Think of your resume as an elevator sales pitch for yourself. Every statement should correspond back to a relevant qualification for the job at hand. See Top Things not to Include in a Resume for tips.
Break it down to the facts.
Yes, bullet points are your friend. And if you have numbers to back your achievements, even better. One way to narrow it down is to tell one to three quick “Dragon-Slaying Stories” per job you've held according to Forbes’ Five Ways to Spruce up a Boring Resume. An example would be: "In my boss's absence I talked our biggest customer out of canceling his account and got him to double his order instead."
Give it a personal touch.
Think of relevant keywords, without coming off like a robot. Your potential suitor could be employing skimming tactics to narrow down their stack of resumes. True. However, you don’t want to focus on keywords at the cost of sounding too mechanical and dull. It’s important that your personality comes through, even on paper. Keyword stuffing will not achieve this.
Don’t forget the cover letter!
Speaking of personality… the cover letter is like the preview before the movie. And nothing screams “I’m applying in bulk” like a templated cover letter. Make sure each cover letter is customized to the position at hand.Your cover letter may not be what ultimately gets you hired (although it might), but it could be the thing that takes you out of the consideration set altogether.
Give your LinkedIn some love.
LinkedIn has become so fundamental to the game that we could go on and on forever. With a simple platform that helps support the legwork of drawing attention to you and your skillset, why not take advantage? From writing an attention-grabbing headline and personalizing your profile, to choosing a great photo and getting a custom URL, The 31 Best LinkedIn Tips for Job Seekers from The Muse can get your LinkedIn on the right track, quickly.
Pro-tip: LinkedIn can help you create lists of people you know and places you want to work. Then see where the items on your list intersect!
Review your online presence.
These days, this pretty much goes without saying, but it’s important to review all of your online sites, profiles — basically anything that links back to you — not only for accuracy but also for unintentional or potentially unflattering content. AKA: Don’t let that Cancun trip from the summer of ‘03 be the thing prevents you from landing your dream job.
Interview like a pro
The 10 Rules of Interview Etiquette provides some excellent and versatile interviewing insights. Here are just a few:
Do your homework on the company.
“At minimum, review the company’s website and Google its key players. Find out who you’ll be interviewing with and learn something about them, such as when they were last quoted in a publication or if they’ve recently received an award. Casually reference the information during the interview and quote specifics, such as “I see the company has expanded into several new markets over the past year.” - TheMuse
You’ll project the image of someone who is interested, does their homework, and pays attention to details.
Nail the interview(s).
There are the standard questions that you can pretty much bank on being asked during every interview. Even still, it helps to be prepared and confident (but not overly rehearsed) for when the pressure is on, AKA, minimize answering on the fly, even surprising yourself. To help with this, consider practicing out loud to yourself while looking in a mirror. Also, try to familiarize yourself with interview questions beyond the basics, more specific to your field.
Follow up post-interview.
Nothing says polished and professional like sending a custom thank-you note after your interview. It’s a good way to stand out from the pack — or at least prevent you from sticking out as someone who isn’t as enthusiastic. It also serves as a reminder and a potential opportunity to circle back with the company for a follow-up.
Pro-tip: Don't just thank them, reiterate why you're the best candidate for the job. Think of your thank you note as just another opportunity to impress.
What else can you do to land the new job?
Network, network, network.
This is more of a constant, but is especially top of mind when job hunting. The job circle is always smaller than it seems; you may even have in-common connections you didn’t even know about. So maintaining business relationships is critical. Just remember: If you choose to call on a connection, be sure to do so in a tactful way and always try your best to pay it forward!
Try something unconventional.
Remember, there’s not a one-size-fits-all method to getting hired. Trying something outside the box or retooling your job-seeking mindset just might be the thing that makes all the difference. Granted, this works better in some fields than others, but doing something that is both memorable and identifies you as an individual is never a bad idea. See Forbes’ Unconventional but Very Effective Tips for Job Seekers for more ideology on this.
New year, new job
Beyond simply subbing kale chips for potato chips, rolling over a new year is a great time to evaluate some major things in your life — including your career. Not only are companies positioning themselves to hire, you’re in a position to make some important adjustments that could propel you well into the future. So why not take advantage of this period of enhanced focus, enthusiasm, and momentum when it comes to your job-hunting tactics? Who knows, it just might land you the job of your dreams.