6 smart resolutions that will land you a job in 2015

If you’ll be searching for a job in 2015, don’t just apply the same old tired job search advice about expanding your network, improving your social media presence, and cleaning up your resume. Those things matter, of course, but they’re hardly revolutionary advice.

Instead, here are six new year’s resolutions to truly kick off your search off from a position of strength.

1. Go for quality over quantity in your job applications. You might be tempted to apply to as many jobs as possible, figuring that that will increase your odds of being called for an interview. But in practice, that usually means that you’ll end up “resume-blasting” – sending out tons of applications without customizing your resume and cover letter to the particular openings you’re applying for. Employers can tell when you’re submitting the same generic application that you’ve submitted to dozens of other places, and you have a far lower chance of catching their eyes. Instead, send out fewer applications but spend time customizing each – writing a cover letter that’s specific to each job you’re applying for and ensuring that your resume highlights speak directly to the qualifications being sought. If your application package is identical every time you send it out, that’s a sign that you need to be more targeted in your approach.

2. Reach out to past managers and coworkers who loved your work. Strangely, when people think about their networks, they often think about family and friends but neglect to think about the people in the best position to vouch for their work: past colleagues. If you haven’t recently reached out to past managers and coworkers who thought highly of you, now is the time. Get back in touch, let them know that you’re searching, and ask for leads, advice, connections, or whatever else might be useful. After all, they’re the people best positioned to champion your work.

3. Write a better cover letter. If you’re like most job-seekers, your cover letter is … well, it’s bland and pretty boring. Chances are high that it doesn’t do much more than summarize the experience that’s already listed on your resume. And using a whole page of your application to merely repeat the contents of the other pagesis doing yourself a serious disservice. Instead, your cover letter should add something new to your candidacy – information like personal traits, work habits, and why you’re genuinely interested in the job. And importantly, it should be heavilycustomized to the particular opening you’re applying for; don’t send the same letter for each job you apply for.

4. Learn from past mistakes. Job searching effectively isn’t just about getting a job offer; it’s about identifying jobs where you’ll excel and be happy and avoiding the ones where you won’t. If you’ve ended up in jobs that weren’t quite right for you in the past, chances are good that there might have been signs that you overlooked during the hiring process. Help yourself avoid making similar mistakes in the future by reflecting on what red flags you ignored in the past (like an unpleasant interviewer or a culture that didn’t feel like a fit) – and vowing to heed warning signs this time around.

5. Stop agonizing about when or whether you’ll hear back from an employer. One of the worst parts of job-hunting is sitting around and wondering when you’ll hear back from an employer after you interview or submit an application – and trying to read into every tiny sign from an employer. Instead, do yourself a favor and vow to move on mentally after applying or interviewing. Tell yourself you didn’t get the job so that you’re not sitting around agonizing about why you haven’t heard anything, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do contact you. This approach won’t hurt your chances, and it will make you a whole lot happier meanwhile.

6. Help another job seeker. If you spot a job opening that looks perfect for a friend, pass it along. Or if you have a talented contact who’s applying at a company where you know the hiring manager, reach out and put in a good word. Finding ways to help other job seekers isn’t just a kind thing to do; it’ll also make you feel good, pay forward any help you’ve received yourself, and – here’s the self-interested part – even put you front and center on the radar screen of people in your network, which can only help in the long-run.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 14 comments… read them below }

  1. justine*

    Alison, That’s all great advice – thank you! I’m in a job hunt now and it’s probably because I didn’t heed the signs when I interviewed. Finding a job might be like finding a husband (don’t settle) or hair dresser (if the lady who just got out of the chair looks jacked up then don’t sit down) or groceries (don’t shop hungry). – Justine

    1. Kira*

      I like the ‘don’t shop hungry’ part. I did that….desperate to get out of a bad job that I took the first thing offered to me and it was even worse, and then I felt like I had to stick it out for a while to not look like I play employment music chairs.

  2. Ali*

    I need to remember No. 5. I am in a work environment right now where I’m desperate to get out of. I notice that praying I’ll hear from employers when I check my e-mail and phone hasn’t brought about a lot. But I got one call for a phone screen when I was just relaxed and never expecting to hear from the company recruiter. I unfortunately did not move to the in-person interview, but I noticed the difference for sure. Not saying it’s 100% foolproof but it is sound advice.

  3. TheLazyB*

    Hoping these will help. I’ve just discovered that the biggest employer in the area that I want to get into is restructuring and loads of people’s jobs are at risk. And I’ve taken voluntary redundancy wef 1st April. Am slightly panicking :-/

    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think it could be.
      But the more immediate thing that I noticed with helping others was that it became easier to ask others to help me. It made it feel like give and take, rather than me just taking. And it also provided opening for more conversations that I would not have had any other way.

    2. azvlr*

      Not in the Karma sense, but I passed along a job opportunity to someone who I felt was in direct competition with me for jobs, and I know she felt the same about me. I basically had the job in the bag, but I was holding out for an opportunity that she did not have access to. She got the one job, and I got the other. A win for both of us and worth the risk in my opinion. This act (the sweet-potato pie she brought me on a day that I hadn’t eaten breakfast didn’t hurt either) helped to break the ice between us. We are now friends, and help each other with editing and bouncing ideas off each other.

      I believe this left a favorable impression with the recruiter, so the next time I’m job-seeking, I will definitely reach out to this recruiter first.

  4. hayling*

    Great advice!

    Also I’d throw in “Ignore all advice from your parents and anyone else who hasn’t applied for a job in the past 20 years.”

    1. JM in England*

      Amen to that……………………feel like I’m banging my head against a wall when I try to tell my mother (who started working in the 1950s) how the modern workplace and job hunting practices run!

  5. Jake*

    #1 is by far the most important to me. Last time I job searched, I’d come to work on Monday and talk to a coworker looking for similar level of work as me. He’d talk about how he submitted for 30 (!) jobs over the weekend, while I had submitted for 2 or 3. I looked for 2 months, he looked for 5. We had the same position, the same experience, basically everything was the same. The difference was I took my time and made sure every company knew I wanted to work for them doing “insert position title” while he just filled out as many online applications as he could.

    1. JM in England*

      Wish I could be as picky as you, Jake here in the UK. Was unemployed prior to landing my current role and a condition of claiming unemployment is to apply for a minimum number of jobs per week. However, I can now take my time once again in looking for my next opening………..

  6. BananaPants*

    My husband and I need to work on #5. He lost his job 8 months ago and it’s SO hard not get our hopes up that THIS job interview will be the one that leads to an offer and the end of the misery. It’s difficult to not get emotionally invested in the job hunt when your finances are in the toilet and you’re stressed. Our family life for much of the last year would have been better if we had just mentally moved on after each interview. We have two small children and when Mom and Dad are stressed, it affects them negatively. Nothing would have changed – he still wouldn’t have a job – but as a family we wouldn’t have gone through the emotional wringer with every single interview!

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