If finding a new job is one of your New Year's resolutions, you're in luck -- 2017 should bring a healthy employment market, and there's no better time than now to turn your career-related resolutions into reality.
"If you resolved to get a new position in the New Year, now is the time to start preparing. There's always an uptick in hiring right after the holidays, and if you're prepared and eager, you might get first crack at some great new opportunities," says Jamie Chafel, recruiter for the software technology search division of recruiting and staffing firm WinterWyman. Here, Chafel outlines 14 tips for job seekers looking to land a new role in 2017.
1. Spread some holiday cheer
Take the time to share season's greetings with your professional network. This is a great way to reconnect with former colleagues that you've lost touch with over the years who may be in a position to hook you up with the right opportunity or serve as a solid reference, Chafel says.
"Having an internal associate [in a company you're considering] who can speak directly to your work and what you bring to the table can be one of the most effective ways to get your foot in the door," he says.
2. Stand out on LinkedIn
The most common thing employers do after reading your resume is check your LinkedIn page, so it's crucial that your LinkedIn profile demonstrates all the positive attributes you've expressed in your resume, while also telling a story that compels a prospective employer to reach out, Chafel says.
"Use a professional photo; make sure the employment section is up-to-date and complete, highlights what you've accomplished in your career, and shows what you are passionate about professionally," he says.
You regularly should add to your list of connections, and ask for recommendations from colleagues and former managers. "Remember, your LinkedIn page is part of an online database being searched by thousands of recruiters in your market on a daily basis, so make sure it includes the appropriate vernacular and search terms that correlate with the types of jobs you want to hear about. Be findable," Chafel says.
3. Are you being social enough?
Having a professional social media presence beyond LinkedIn is a must-have for job seekers, Chafel says. Don't discount platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but remember that the same rules apply: Use a professional picture and a well-crafted bio that encapsulates your professional self, all in a condensed manner, he says.
"Tech-savvy employers in today's market are tweeting out their higher-profile and most urgent job openings. Make a list of the companies you're interested in and follow their Twitter accounts so you don't miss anything new that's posted. And don't forget to tweet! Post tweets that include relevant keywords pertinent to your search. Seem like a lot to manage? It's worth the effort," he says.
4. Check in with your recruiter
Make sure you and your recruiter are on the same page with your search goals, Chafel says; the holidays are a perfect time to check in, say hello, and let them know what you're up to. That way, when the right opportunity comes across their desk, your name will be top-of-mind.
"If you're working with a good recruiter, you should be able to gather some intelligence on the market, recent salary trends, which companies are hiring, and how to best start preparing for the upcoming interview process. Don't have a recruiter? Make that one of your resolutions for the new year. Ask your network for recommendations, and don't commit until you've found one that can be effective and who you can trust to have your best interests in mind," Chafel says.
5. Have a conversation with the candidate in the mirror
Before you start applying and interviewing, take an honest self-assessment of what's most important. Is it having the chance to take on more responsibility and advance? Is it having a work-life balance that allows you to coach your kids' sports teams on mid-week afternoons? Is it working for a company with a socially impactful mission? You may discover that your career goals and objectives are different from the last time you looked for a job, and that's okay, Chafel says.
"Priorities change. Getting the answers now will make the search process more efficient, and more importantly, ensure the highest level of personal and professional satisfaction with the outcome," he says.
6. Be ready to act
Regardless of how a new opportunity comes about, when it does, employers will be motivated to fill it quickly. If you're not ready to match their urgency, you could miss out. Make sure your resume is up-to-date and ready to be presented with confidence. Assemble a list of references you feel comfortable with and confirm their consent and readiness to come through for you. Prepare for interviews by crafting your elevator pitch -- a succinct, but powerful, message that explains what makes you unique and why a company can't live without you, Chafel says.
7. About that resume …
Having your resume ready to go means a lot more than just updating the months and years you've spent at your current employer. Resumes that include the basics -- overview, job titles, day-to-day responsibilities, education, etc. -- can all start to look the same. How do you make yours stand out?
"Start by highlighting how you have progressed within the organizations you've served. Instead of listing your responsibilities, detail what you have accomplished for the company. When you pick and choose what to include, give priority to what seems most pertinent for the new opportunity. Having a resume that yields lots of phone calls, but all for the wrong job, doesn't do you much good," Chafel says.
8. Don't be afraid to ask for help
A successful job search can't be accomplished alone. At some point -- whether it's asking your former boss to be a reference or asking your prospective boss for the job -- going through the interview process becomes an exercise in collaboration.
"The earlier you start asking for help the better. Don't be bashful in reaching out to your extended network, both professional and personal, to let them know you could use their assistance in finding a new opportunity. You might be pleasantly surprised by their willingness and eagerness to help. Work up the courage to go to networking events and have the same conversations with strangers," he says.
9. Remember that nothing worthwhile comes easy
Odds are, the first online application you make with your new-and-improved resume, carefully honed networking skills and sparkling social media presence isn't going to be the one that leads to your next great opportunity. Don't get discouraged, Chafel says.
"Completing a successful job search takes focus, persistence and a lot of hard work. Adding this to an already full plate that includes your current job, family responsibilities and social life can make it hard to find the necessary time. Find ways to get into a routine and hold yourself accountable to it, whether that means allotting every Tuesday night to attend a networking event or getting up early on Saturdays to search for new leads and send out resumes. Find a system that works for you and your schedule and stick to it," he says.
10. It takes a village
Whether you are in the midst of a job search or not, the connections made by getting immersed in groups can be invaluable to your career. Find a trade association, meet-up group, fan club, or online discussion forum that overlaps with your career and get involved. Try attending an event or two from several different groups and determine which will be most beneficial before you commit to just one, Chafel says.
11. Put on your sales hat
Even if you're in sales by trade, the act of selling oneself, your skills, experience and value as an employee can be an uncomfortable experience. However, if you don't have the ability and willingness to do so, you'll quickly find yourself losing out to your competition, Chafel says.
"Remember, a good resume's job is to secure an interview and give you an audience with potential employers. It is the interview, good or bad, that determines whether you are selected for the job. The candidate that leaves the best impression is confident in the unique skills and experience they bring to the table and able to enthusiastically articulate this through words, body language, and general demeanor. Practice makes perfect, so work on your sales pitch and you'll find yourself getting more and more comfortable in delivering it with each repetition," Chafel says.
12. Specialize, don't generalize
No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. Presenting yourself as all things to all people isn't good for you, or for your potential company, says Chafel. "You'll just end up confusing your network about what you're looking for, or worse -- you'll get yourself into a situation where you've bitten off more than you can chew. Take the time to map out your strengths and your professional interests, then go after the opportunities at the intersection of the two," he says.
And in 2017, most organizations are looking for specialists, not generalists, according to Dave Morgan, president of IT and engineering at staffing and recruiting firm Addison Group. Morgan says clients also are looking for talent with hands-on, been-there-done-that experience that can be productive almost from day one.
"Clients across all industries are wanting to see more specialized experience in candidates, and in IT, I would say our clients absolutely want specialists. There are very few roles that require someone to wear, say, three different hats across multiple roles. They want someone who's gone through this, who can integrate that specific technology, for instance," Morgan says.
13. Talk is cheap.
Saying that you're ready for a change is easy. Putting in the time, effort and execution required to act on making that change is a different matter altogether. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are doing what it takes by occasionally applying to a job here or there. Your search isn't going anywhere unless you make it a priority and turn your words into actions.
"If you let weeks and months go by without taking the proper steps, you could find yourself mentally checking out at work and having your performance suffer, or seeing that volatility you were worried about after your company's recent acquisition come to fruition. Your position as a job seeker is markedly improved if you are gainfully employed and have the time to be patient with the process. So don't delay," Chafel says.
14. Don't settle
If you're being selective, the search process might take longer than expected. And if you've been committed to it, you've logged a lot of hours and poured a lot of energy into the process. So when an offer comes in for a job that doesn't match what you set out to find, part of you may want to accept it just so the process can be over with.
"Don't give in to that temptation. The decisions that you make as a job seeker have both short-term and long-term implications on your job security and earning potential. It's critical that you have the resolve to stick with it until you find the right fit. There's nothing worse than having to start all over in six to twelve months -- or sooner -- because you acted hastily," Chafel says.