The new year is a great time to look at your job hunt so far, step back and reevaluate your priorities in order to make your search go as smoothly as possible.
Take these four steps to bolster your job hunt in 2015:
1. Create a schedule for yourself, and prioritize your tasks.
Better time management is one of the most common New Year's resolutions, whether or not it's related to a job hunt. Set a daily, weekly and monthly schedule for yourself. When you make this schedule, consider these questions:
-- When will you make the calls to keep up to date with people in your network and make appointments for informational interviews?
-- How much time will you budget for online activities, like networking on LinkedIn?
-- Don't forget to plug into your schedule times for networking at group meetings, professional associations and alumni functions.
Volunteering should be a part of your schedule as well! It's a great way to get out of your house, do some good for a group or cause larger than yourself and meet people who have similar interests and values to yours. Plus, you can never tell when a fellow volunteer will know the person you really want to meet and help pave the way for you.
Remember that you need to continue to have a life, even in the midst of a job hunt! Include time for your spouse, partner, kids and even your dog. Be realistic. Include your TV and other downtime activities.
2. Reimagine your elevator speech.
You are probably familiar with this standard and altogether boring format for your 30-second elevator speech to use when introducing yourself: "Hi. I'm so-and-so, and I'm a [fill in job title here] with X years experience in the Y industry doing this, that and the next thing. I'm looking for ..."
The problem is that this format defines you by your roles and responsibilities. Worse, when you include the number of your years of experience, you are often inviting the idea that you are a "same old, same old" kind of employee. You shouldn't be selling your years of experience above the value you can add for your future employer.
Take the time to think about the positive impact you've had on your employers, boss and co-workers. What have you done that even indirectly has led to greater efficiencies or productivity, lowered costs or increased revenue? Then you'll be better able to articulate your value in a more compelling fashion.
Here's an example: "Hi! I'm so-and-so. In my last job as a [fill in the blank], I enabled my company to increase widget production by 18 percent by redesigning the assembly line. My value for my next employer will be to provide fresh perspective and apply that to ..." Notice: No years of experience or job description.
In short, try to use your elevator speech to connect the job you want to the value you bring, rather than to the job description you have had.
3. Keep learning, and keep your skills up to date.
Whether or not you are currently employed, the way just about everything gets done today is different than it was not that long ago. You can only remain relevant if your skills are in-line with an employer's needs for today and tomorrow.
Sure, you've gotten results doing things this or that way in the past, and maybe you just don't feel like changing. But if you take this attitude, don't be surprised if you are labeled as both outdated and lazy. It is a sure way to make your competition look better!
4. When embarking on a career shift, measure twice and cut once.
There are many valid reasons why you might be considering doing something very different than you have done up to now. Whether you are fleeing from a horrible situation or following your passion to something new and different, be certain to do your due diligence.
What's professional life like for those who are already doing what you aspire toward? What do they find both fulfilling and frustrating? What are their challenges, and how do they see the future panning out for themselves, their company and industry? How well are you prepared, and how willing are you to deal with the frustrations and challenges that would await you?
These are the kinds of questions you should be asking in a whole series of informational interviews with key people in your proposed field before you even begin to apply for these new roles. Do your research carefully, lest you go from the frying pan into the fire by following a dream you never researched.
Moreover, as you gain greater knowledge, you will be able to make a stronger case for yourself when you do get to the stage of actually interviewing for new dream role.
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
-Chief Administrative Officer.