For much of January, the gym in my neighborhood is packed. Eating healthier and exercising are among the top resolutions for 2019 — along with finding another job. But I have a wish for you: Don’t change your career search strategy simply because it’s the start of a new year. When you’re ready to commit, do it for yourself, your family, and your long-term satisfaction.
I’ve seen this career resolution surge in my decades as a career coach and mentor at all levels and across all industries. It can be a frustrating process, but candidates around you are successfully landing jobs, and I believe you can find that same success. They have overcome the fact that job searching is hard and time-consuming (and you can do it, too).
As you contemplate what to do next in your job search, try the following tips:
- Stop everything and define your goals.
Pause for a moment. Take a minute to stop sending out resumes and attending networking events to pass out your business cards. Instead, anchor your goal by deciding what exactly you want. If you don’t know what’s possible, start by researching job descriptions, and try to find around 10 roles that describe your target position in the city you desire.
While searching, try to make your position goal as precise as possible, but avoid labels such as director or vice president because these titles can vary from company to company. For example, you might search for “software engineer,” “project manager” or “logistics coordinator.”
Aim high with your goal. I believe job descriptions are written for the perfect person who does not exist. Once you assess the type of job you would truly enjoy, target roles for which you qualify for about 70% of what is defined in the job description. In my experience, too many candidates opt out of pursuing jobs because they are missing some skills or requirements. Apply anyway.
- Learn how to job search.
Let’s face it: What you knew about job searching might now be outdated. Young professionals and senior executives alike must understand the modern way of looking for jobs, including various networking techniques and the sourcing practices of recruiters, to be successful.
Consider taking a course on job searching. Remember that you weren’t born knowing how to look for jobs; it is not intuitive or natural. Think back to how you learned to play a new sport or instrument; you most likely took lessons, followed step-by-step instructions, and practiced. Why shouldn’t job seekers try learning job-searching skills the same way? To make the most of your learning, figure out your personal learning style, and invest time in something instructional. For example, some people love reading articles, whereas others prefer video instruction.
Once you’ve learned the techniques of job searching, it’s important to apply your skills. Many job candidates are all over the place; they aren’t consistent with the types of jobs for which they apply, and they manage their search on a sticky note. I believe some have the idea they can improvise with a great personality or strong credentials on paper, instead of learning how to execute a process step by step.
Think of the process as, “Ready, aim, get hired.” To ready yourself, identify your job goal, and study what the market is currently seeking in that position. When it’s time to aim, develop your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter and anything else you might need for an interview. To get hired, customize your applications for each role you’re applying for, network to secure interviews and follow up on all opportunities. In my experience, this can help your results significantly improve.
- Be accountable.
As a job search coach, I often hear clients express frustration with the search process. Many say something along the lines of, “They’re not getting back to me,” or “I’m waiting on 20 applications.” But I believe this shows that we learn to settle at the first sign of defeat.
Stop yourself from thinking or saying any of these phrases. Start using “I need to,” “I will do this differently,” and “I will connect with hiring teams seeking my skills.” To be accountable, set milestones such as, “By (date), I will have my resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile complete.” Or, “By (date), I will have 10 positions identified on my spreadsheet.” Wake up every day with clear steps to accomplish. Your goal is to stop waiting and start making things happen.
- Catch yourself stopping.
In my experience, once job searching becomes difficult, we try to skip a few steps or give up our goal entirely. When this happens, make appointments with yourself on your calendar, and assign specific tasks to each hour. One hour might be spent researching your goal, and another could be spent updating your resume, preparing applications, drafting cover letters, networking or so much more.
It can also be helpful to find a job-searching friend through an online or local community so you can help encourage each other throughout the process. Set up a recurring 30-minute weekly meeting to review where both of you are in your search and what you will commit to for the following week.
Overall, I believe creating a New Year’s resolution to find a new job can set you up for failure. What matters is that you commit to, learn, and execute a high-quality job search system to help achieve your goals.