Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new year. With this transition comes the inevitable litany of New Year’s resolutions that will be made. Some of you may decide that this is the year you will get out of debt, or travel the world, or lose that pesky ten pounds. What your specific goals for the year are isn’t nearly as important as the frame of mind that has brought you to this place. At this time of year, there is a feeling of change in the air. That feeling, brought on by the symbolic shedding of the old and celebrating the new as you prepare to welcome a new year, often serves as the catalyst for creating change in your personal lives as well. For job seekers, this is a great time to re-evaluate the ways in which you are executing your current job search, and to incorporate new activities into your plan as you progress into the next year.
Below are four New Year’s resolutions that every job seeker (and even those professionals who are not currently looking for a new position, but who want to keep their options open for the future) should implement in the next months.
1. – Invest in developing your network
How many times this year have you gone to a “networking event”, smiling and shaking hands with lots of random people, gathering a stack of business cards but never making a real connection with anyone? Has this ever resulted in a tangible improvement in your current employment situation? If the answer to that question is no, it may be that you simply need to invest more time (and to some degree, money) in developing your network.
When attending networking events, it is important to work your way through the room quickly, mentally cataloging the people in attendance. Then, once you’ve made the rounds once, go back and talk to a select few people (no more than 3-4) who you are really interested in getting to know or who you feel have the potential to be valuable to you going forward. Make it a point to talk to these people in depth, and to really establish a connection with. Then, make sure that you exchange contact information and follow up with them. Invite them to lunch or for coffee over the next few days, and maybe again shortly after that.
This allows you to improve your network by not only establishing, but also maintaining connections with people who have the potential to help you further your career in the long run. This will require a conscious investment of time and, to some degree, money as well (you’ll need to be prepared to pay for lunches or coffee meetings, since you’ll be the one giving the invitation initially). However, if you choose well and are consistent with your follow up, you will see great improvements in your personal network almost immediately.
2. – Create a Career Development Plan and stick to it
How many of you have a clear plan for your career development at this time? A career development plan (CDP) is a roadmap for your professional career – it is an outline of your short term goals and long term aspirations as they relate to your career. A good plan will include:
• A personal mission statement/statement of purpose
• Past/current employment
• A summary of skills and qualifications (including education)
• Short term goals (things you would like to accomplish in the next year)
• Long term goals (things you would like to accomplish that you anticipate taking more than a year)
• A vision statement describing your optimal career position
Having all of these things together in an organized format will allow you to visualize what you want out of a career, and will also help you stay on track as you work your way through the steps. It is important that you not only have this plan, but also that you actively stick to it. This means not pursuing jobs that don’t coincide with your goals, and not participating in activities that could be detrimental to you in the future.
3. – Find a mentor
This, for many, is considered to be the single most important piece of career advice ever given. The benefits of having a mentor cannot be stated enough. A mentor is an invaluable tool in the long term growth of your career, because he or she can serve as a guide to you and can help you to avoid mistakes. Their experience and knowledge can be put to work to assist you in making decisions of your own, ensuring that your best foot is forward at all times.
There may be several criteria you consider when choosing a mentor, which will vary based on your industry, the level you’ve reached in your career thus far, and future plans. Some key things to keep in mind when choosing a mentor, however, is that he or she should be someone whom you admire and with whom you have mutual respect. He/she should be someone who has demonstrated knowledge in the field that you are interested in, and he/she should be someone who is accessible and available to you for mentorship. Understand that mentorship is not a one-time thing – it is an ongoing relationship that you have established with your mentor, and like all relationships, it requires regular attention in order to grow and be effective for both parties. Choose well and stay committed.
4. – Concentrate on cleaning up your credit
Over the last few years the economy of the United States (particularly in the South) has taken some hard hits. Although it is rebounding on the whole, many individuals have been left with scarred and marred credit ratings as a result of these difficult financial times. You already know that a low credit score can inhibit you from being able to make major purchases and navigate your financial affairs easily. Unfortunately, poor credit can also make you less desirable for employers. With competition in the job market now more intense than ever, employers are more selective about which applicants they select for hire. Once it wouldn’t have mattered what your credit looked like (unless you were pursuing a career in financial services), however, that is no longer the case. A growing number of companies use a credit check as part of the overall applicant background check, and many make hiring decisions based on this score. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to make sure that your credit is something you can be proud of. The great thing about cleaning up your credit is that it will have positive implications for your personal life as well as your professional life – you’ll be setting your best foot forward all around!