‘Tis the Season to Prepare for Your New Year’s Job Hunt

As Seen in Palmetto Bella Magazine

The holidays are a season of hope, but they should also be a season of preparation if you are thinking of changing jobs in the new year.

According to Monster.com, January is the busiest month for job searches, although we typically see hirings begin to ramp up in February. We have found that when you apply for a job — as in, how soon you apply after the job is posted — can decide whether you get selected for an interview. That means you cannot wait until a job is posted to refine your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. We call these your personal brand, and we recommend you nurture and hone that brand on a regular basis.

If you are considering looking for a new job in 2021, give yourself a gift this holiday season by investing in your personal brand today. Follow these four strategies to get ready for the new year.

1. Build out your career success “story bank.”

Our clients all start in the same place: writing down their top accomplishments and writing short stories around them. We call these your career success “story bank.” These stories are critical to building out your personal brand and selling your successes in a job interview.

To start, answer these questions for each of your jobs:

  1. What three things are you most proud of?
  2. What awards and/or recognition did you receive?
  3. Were you promoted or given new responsibilities?

For each answer, be specific, and quantify your successes whenever possible.

2. Update your resume.

One of the biggest mistakes we see is resumes that describe only what you have done but omit how successful you were at doing it. This is where your success “story bank” can transform your resume. You should include three to four success stories and a summary of your job duties below each job, starting with the most recent and working your way back in time.

Format your resume for today’s postings by removing your objective and replacing it with a bulleted list of professional skills, strengths, and areas of expertise. These should mirror the keywords you see in the job posting.

Finally, format your resume to be readable by an applicant tracking system (ATS), a program used by employers to filter resumes that match their required qualifications. To work in this format, avoid using tables, update your job title to mirror the job posting title, and prepare a Word version of your resume ready for uploading. Your resume should be updated at least semiannually with new achievements and changes to your skills or duties.

3. Refresh your LinkedIn profile.

Your LinkedIn profile should not simply be a repeat of your resume, and it should not include the overly personal information in your other social media accounts. The primary rule for LinkedIn is to keep your profile professional. Consider it an extension of your resume, a place where you can add personal touches to tell a recruiter or potential employer a little of the “who” behind your resume without sharing information you would not share in an interview.

For starters, your profile summary, the About section, should succinctly describe who you are professionally and how your experience has led you to today. My LinkedIn profile, for example, notes that I specialize in building the personal brand and competitive advantage of my clients by leveraging my 13 years of experience as a recruiter.

Make sure your headshot on LinkedIn portrays you in a professional light. Do not include other people or animals. If you have not updated your photo recently, now is a good time to enlist a friend, go outside in good lighting, and use the portrait mode on your phone’s camera to get a fresh new headshot.

4. Prepare your cover letter template.

While you should never send a generic cover letter (this can actually hurt you more than help), you should have a basic template. Your cover letter should explain who you are and why you are a fit for the position you are seeking.

Match your experience to the job duties outlined in the posting by using the same words as in the posting when describing your relevant experience. Be sure to represent your background accurately while doing this. To make the cover letter more visually appealing, to draw the reader in, add bullet points that highlight your success stories that are relevant to the job posting.

Include just enough information to motivate a recruiter or hiring manager to read your resume. With that in mind, your cover letter should never be longer than one page.

By making time this holiday season to elevate your professional brand, you will be prepared to conquer your professional resolutions come New Year’s Day.

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