Beat the January rush and start planning your job search right now. By the time January comes around, you'll be more prepared and have a leg up on the job seekers who just throw resumes out there and hope for a new job.
Before you start, here are a couple of warnings to keep in mind. First, never use company time or resources to job search. Even if it's slow around the office right now, avoid the temptation to update your LinkedIn profile or begin polishing your resume. Second, keep your search confidential. Avoid telling your colleagues you're on the hunt for a new job. You don't want them to leak the news to anyone within your company. Some employers have been known to terminate employees when they hear they are looking for a new job.
[See: 25 Best Business Jobs for 2017.]
Below are the questions you want to be able to answer so your job search starts off on the right foot.
What are your past colleagues up to? You probably already know that companies prefer to hire candidates who are referred by employees. This means you should tap your past colleagues and friends first and let them know about your confidential search. December is the perfect month to reach out and connect with people you know. Wish them a happy new year and ask how their year has been before you share news about your job search. You can network and reconnect with people you know without having an updated resume. In fact, you shouldn't even try to present your resume without first seeing a job posting.
What companies do you want to work for? Create a list of companies you think you might want to work for. If you plan on relocating, one way to start your list is by identifying the top employers within that city. If you plan on staying in the same city, look beyond the companies you already know. Take a look at the top employers list for your city or peruse your city's economic development website to uncover companies you may not have thought of. Use your list as a starting point and begin researching those companies. Search the company's career portal to see what types of jobs are currently posted and use LinkedIn to see what else you can learn about the company and its employees.
What is the salary range for the work you do? You know you will be asked about your salary requirements, so take the time to do some salary research. Check salary websites and ask people who hold similar jobs what they think the going rate is for that type of work. You want to have a range in mind which you'll need when filling out a job application. Your last salary may or may not be in line with what other companies are offering and it's best to uncover that information before you pursue opportunities. Also keep in mind that some industries like nonprofits and higher education tend to pay less.
How up to date is your LinkedIn profile? Before you update your profile, be sure to turn off the "notify your network" option. You don't want to let everyone know you're making changes to your profile. Reevaluate your headline. Will it help recruiters know what you are good at doing? Next, make sure you've included a summary. If you have one already, review it to make sure it answers the question "Tell me about yourself." Your summary should include your top skills and accomplishments. You may want to go a step above and write about what motivates you at work and the types of projects you are interested in. Update your work history and be sure to mention the skills and projects that will qualify you for your next role. Finally, now that your profile is updated, begin to use the tool to connect with more people and share one article a day related to your desired new career, such as news about industry trends or a target company's press release.
Does your resume include relevant achievements? When you find a job you are interested in, you'll want to make sure your resume shows you are a match. Your most recent job is the one recruiters will look at first so make sure it's up to date. But don't just list your job duties. Start by reviewing each job requirement and make sure your resume explains how you've done similar work. Every bullet on your resume should include the outcome in terms of money saved, improved productivity or efficiency or the quantifiable impact you made.
What shows up on page one when you search for your name? Go search for your name on a search engine, Google or Bing for example. When you do this, what comes up on the first page of search results? Is every result the right one and information you would want a future employer to see? You can fix this by creating your own website with your name as the URL, publishing articles to industry newsletters or even writing a book review on Amazon. If you are active on other social networks, you may want to clean those up, too.
Where are you active outside of work? If you don't currently belong to any outside organizations, now might be a great time to find professional associations or groups related to your desired career. Attend meetings and network with people who are in the field. You may also want to volunteer on a committee and gain additional exposure and opportunities to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.
More From US News & World Report