In this guide, you’ll discover how to build a career growth plan, improve your professional brand, and land a better job in the new year.

The new year is right around the corner. Maybe you’ve been considering getting a new job or transitioning into a new career, but don’t know where to start. If you need inspiration, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 15,000 new jobs will be added in 2018. These predictions represent a phenomenal growth in the overall job market since the recession in 2008. With all the opportunities available, there’s no need to put off your job search any longer.

It takes more than inspiration to prepare for and land a new job. To help you get started, we prepared a guide to make the process easier and to help you find your dream job in 2018. In this brief guide, you’ll learn how to create a new career growth plan, improve your professional brand, and get tips for landing a better job, grow in your current position, or change your career path.

Build your career growth path

What is a career growth path? A career growth path is essentially a plan outlining your long  and short term career goals that includes all the steps necessary to meet those goals.

Your plan can help you identify areas where you lack skills or experience in your current career, what you need to do to boost your skills, and which actions to take to become a strong candidate for the position you want.

Reflect on past successes

In the first section, you’ll get started on building your own career growth plan. Look back at your year, reflecting specifically on your successes and near misses in your current job. Review how your actions impacted the company directly. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What positive results did my skills contribute to?
  • How did the milestones and goals I reached make a difference?
  • Which new skills did I acquire either through job experience or professional development?

Compare what you’ve done against the requirements of the new career or job you want to pursue. Determine the value your skills and talents will bring to a new employer, and see how they measure up against your potential competition.

Moreover, make detailed notes of your past year. Try to avoid listing down general ideas  and find specific examples of successes you achieved. Peek at your resume or past performance reviews for detailed information.

Review current job trends

A smart move for any job seeker is to review current job trends. Before you start applying for new positions, you’ll want to make sure there is demand for your skill set in your desired industry or company. If your industry experiences seasonal fluctuations, this could either be the best, or worse, time to start a job search.

If your target industry or company is experiencing a hiring slow down you’ll want to avoid changing careers right away. Instead, look for potential advancements within your current position, if possible. Sometimes a little extra education or certification can help you move up in your current job.

However, if the market looks favorable for the career you’re seeking, then start identifying open positions with the companies you favor the most.

Put key skills first and educate yourself if needed

When you’re looking for a new job or switching careers, consider other important elements, such as job skills and talent. As you’re reviewing job descriptions, look at the required skills, certifications, training, or education needed to complete the job.

It’s the perfect time to learn new skills, especially with the holiday season now in full swing. Take some time off, if possible, and set time aside to learn new skills. You can pick up new skills online and even receive certifications proving that you know how to perform these skills.

Notable places to learn new job skills include:

  • Lynda.com
  • Skillshare
  • Udemy
  • Coursera
  • ALISON

Some of these learning sites offer certifications in specific areas (programming, accounting, etc.), while others teach soft skills (decision making, leadership, problem-solving) that many companies look for when making the final choice between equally qualified candidates.

Network

There are two ways to grow your network: online or at local in-person events. Most people will favor online networking because it’s faster and easier. Your online profiles will come in handy here, and you’ll want to make sure these are professional in appearance with pleasing colors and relevant content. Reach out to old co-workers, bosses, and connect with people at the new companies you’re interested in working for.

Even if you like online networking, in-person networking can be exceedingly effective. The holidays are a perfect time to network. Take advantage of office parties, personal gatherings, or large professional events. Remember to carry business cards with your current contact information to pass out to prospective connections.

Be committed

If you’re truly ready to make a career change, then invest in that change. Time to land a new job, varies greatly by industry, but it generally takes about six weeks (or 43 days) to find and secure a new job. If you aren’t diligent in your job search and don’t spend ample time looking for a new job and actively networking, it will probably take a little longer.

While you’re looking, stay positive and avoid getting derailed by negativity and depressing news about layoffs, mergers, company foreclosures, and anything else that will keep you from being actively engaged in your job search. If you want to make a change, stay focused on your job search, fine-tune your skills, and grow your network.

Improve your professional brand

Working to establish and boost your professional brand is an important step toward getting ahead in the new year. Your professional brand emphasizes your talents to others and supports your career goals.

Keeping your name away from negative media or bad press is only part of establishing a good professional brand. You need to nurture your professional brand by sharing content relevant to your career goals while identifying your passions, values, and interests to potential employers.

This next section will offer tips and suggestions to help you improve your current professional brand.

Overhaul your online presence

Open a new browser tab incognito and look up your name. You’ll want to review what you see concerning your name. A few questions to ask include:

  • Do you see your correct online profiles?
  • What are some of the first items that show associated with you?
  • Is your name or social profile associated with anything negative, vulgar, or offensive?

Try to remove anything negative that is associated with your online profiles. If possible, delete or make your profile private and make a new one. Your online presence should be appealing, professional, and intellectual, especially if you want to catch your prospective employer’s attention.

Have a clear vision

Ensure your social profiles clearly state your vision. Looking to switch to a customer experience management position next year? Adjust your profile to include content in the customer experience/customer service industry.

Communicate your vision to others to promote inspiration and motivation. Include your experiences that are most relevant to your new focus.

Expand on past experiences

If you’ve already looked back in your reflection step earlier, take that information and expand upon it on your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is considered one of the best social media platforms to use for job seekers. Here, you can convey all your professional highlights, areas of expertise, and top skills to recruiters, hiring managers, and potential employers.

In fact, LinkedIn profiles with detailed past positions are 12 times more likely to be reviewed. Avoid copying and pasting your resume content here—that’s not what this is for. Be creative in your details and remember to use casual wording and avoid stiff resume content. 

Make regular updates to content

You don’t want to direct potential prospects to your social profiles if you’re posting vulgar or offensive content. That’s a quick way to ruin your chances of being considered for any position!

The idea is to manage the content that you post to your social profiles. Make sure it falls in line with your ideal career goals. In addition to keeping content clean and professional, make regular updates. Don’t spam your profiles, but aim to post at least once a day or three times a week to stay active.

Get quality feedback and a second opinion

It’s easy to think that your online presence is infallible, and believing you couldn’t make it any better. But without understanding the benchmark, you could be hurting your chances at a new job without realizing it.

Instead of assuming your profiles are up to par, have a close friend or colleague review your social profiles and take in their feedback. If they say a post you shared is questionable or your overall profile look doesn’t seem to match your goals, take their feedback with grace and consider their opinion. Then, instead of feeling defensive, use the feedback constructively and revise your profiles accordingly.

Actions to take now to get a better job next year

At this point, you should have developed your career growth plan and improved your professional brand. Now it’s time to put steps into motion, and begin applying for jobs.

Get the word out

Now’s the time to reach out to past recruiters who have contacted you before. Look them up on LinkedIn or Twitter and connect. You can send a private message, too, indicating that you’re ready to start looking for a new career to get things moving.

Are there people you know who work for current companies with whom you’re interested? Reach out to those individuals online or in-person, if you can. Open the conversation with holiday greetings or casual salutations, and then let them know that you’re open to a new career and actively seeking a change.

Putting the word out that you’re seeking new opportunities is fine to do. LinkedIn has a dedicated program that allows you to be searchable by recruiters, so they know you’re ready for a new career move.

Download job search apps

Regular job searching without the right tools is chaotic and frustrating. Over 43% of smartphone owners use a mobile device to look up jobs and apply. Download a few of these apps to your mobile device to help you manage the job seeking process more effectively:

  • Twitter & LinkedIn – Hiring Managers and recruiters are using these two social media platforms the most when it comes to finding quality talent to hire. Stay on track with hashtags and mobile updates.
  • Glassdoor – A comprehensive career site and app, which is perfect for reviewing current ratings on employers, pay rate, and positions.
  • Monster -  From resume writing services to job listings and job search assistance to helpful interviewing and job search management tools, Monster is a great all-in-one site for job seekers.
  • Evernote – Use this program to organize all your notes, files, and saved job sites in a single place. Access your information from your PC through your mobile device. It’s perfect for saving career articles, job lists, and position advertisements.

Streamline your resume

When was the last time you updated your resume? One year ago? Five years ago? Never? If you’re looking to move into a new job for the new year, now’s the best time to update your resume.

Streamline your resume by keeping only your relevant work history. Having too many jobs listed, especially those from over a decade ago, can dilute your resume. Drop off earlier jobs and remove college graduation dates.

Moreover, take out soft skills and move them onto your cover letter or digital profiles—they tend to do better there. You’ll want to save all the key real estate on your resume for quantitative achievements and specific skill sets.

Learn to interview and negotiate better

Career coaches are often the best people to turn to when you want to learn how to sell yourself in an interview. Their insight is invaluable. Career coaches have access to the latest best practices and can help you learn negotiation tactics to get better pay, more benefits, and additional vacation time.

Even if you are a natural at interviewing, it’s still a good idea to brush up on current interview methods. Learning how to interview correctly and practicing with a professional can secure your chances of landing a job.

Bonus

Resume guidelines shift and change often, and with the new year coming up, new strategies are available to improve the chances of getting your resume seen. Start your new year off right with resume tips for 2018:

  1. Sell yourself in the profile section – Do this by following three simple steps:
    • Identify your exact job target and work your profile around it.
    • Select three to five of your best, most relevant accomplishments.
    • List your most recent, relevant experience concisely.
  2. Choose bullet points when appropriate – Most often, a paragraph/bullet format is used in many resumes for easier reading. However, if you can be concise with your experience, shoot for your six top achievements to list, and avoid all the fluff.
  3. List quantifiable achievements – Even if you don’t work with hard numbers, include numerical value wherever you can in your resume. Your data doesn’t have to be hard facts either. For instance, if you worked with a group of students in your field, try incorporating data as a range for a stronger achievement: “Taught 15-20 undergrad students in the field of microbiology five days a week.”
  4. Add personal interests – These are often frowned upon in resumes. But, they can be valid if they’re relevant to your career focus. If you’re seeking a position in ornithology wildlife preservation, and you’re an avid bird watcher, it’s perfect to add.
  5. Display volunteer or community work – Whether work experience is paid or unpaid, it still matters, especially if it’s relevant to your focus. Skill sets found in most volunteer or community work include management, coordination, customer service, event planning, accounting, and leadership, all of which are relevant to many viable careers.

It’s tempting to kick back and relax during the last two weeks of December to enjoy the holiday season. But, if you’re serious about changing jobs or careers, it could be advantageous to get started now.

Keep in mind that none of these plans will be ready to go overnight. It takes time and much reflection to know what you’ll want in your future career. For the best chance at success, stay on course and use the guide to help your 2018 be a success.