So you’ve set your career goals for 2017. (You totally have, right? If not, you still have time!) Yet unless you have some organization and a realistic timeline behind them, it’s likely that you’ll be in the same spot this time next year, wondering where the time went.
Start the year with a roadmap like the sample one below, and you’ll be able to stay on track without overwhelming yourself with all job search elements at once.
December: Start with a wish list
Where do you want to be in a year? What kind of role would you like to have? Before the new year even starts, take some time to think about what it is you really want to do. “A new job” doesn’t really cut it here—think about which job. Or if you want to keep the same kind of job you have now (or the one you had last), include specific companies you’d like to target.
January-February: Do your due diligence
If you haven’t already, dig in and research your target jobs or companies. What is the general market for your industry and skill/experience level? Is there a particular hiring season? What kind of salaries are available in that field? Keep all of this information in a file (digital or old-school print) so you can go back to it later, or add to it as you come across new information.
March-April: Resume makeover time
If it’s been a while since you last overhauled the doc, it’s best to start from scratch. There are resume templates available online, or you can create your own. The important thing here is to make sure your current skills and achievements are not only listed, but maximized. Use strong action verbs, and avoid passive bullet points about “responsibilities.” And most importantly, proofread the heck out of it every time you add or change information.
By the end of the month, when you feel like you’ve got a final draft, hand it over to a trusted friend to read and review for information that’s missing, confusing, etc.
May-June: Interview rehearsal
Remember that old joke that asks you how to get to Carnegie Hall? (Practice, of course.) It’s schticky, but it applies here as well. No matter how confident you feel in your ability to rock an interview, you should still set aside time to prep. You can start here, to get a refresher course on what to expect on interview day. Once you’ve done that legwork, practice how you’d respond to particular questions, and how you would frame the information in your resume.
Practice in the mirror, practice with your goldfish, practice with a friend or family member until they’re sick of hearing about your problem solving skills. Practice your body language. Practice your winning interview smile like you’re prepping for the Miss America pageant.
July-August: Skill building
Are there skills required by your target job or skills that would make you an even better candidate for your dream company? Think of this as the equivalent of summer reading from when you were a kid. If there are classes available and it’s possible for you to take them, sign up! If there aren’t any available or they just don’t work for your schedule or budget, set aside a certain amount of time per week to do online research or talk with people who have expertise.
Once you feel like your foundations are good, start applying for job openings. Keep in mind that a lot of hiring takes place through personal recommendations and word of mouth, so also keep an eagle eye on your networks to see if anyone can help you get an in with one of your target companies.
November-December: Keep up the hunt
Keep applying for openings as you see them, and don’t hesitate to go back to steps you completed earlier in the year if you feel the need. Always be vigilant for chances to boost your skills. Make sure your resume up-to-the-minute. Practice your suave, hire-me handshake. And don’t forget that so much of the job search is waiting for the right opportunity, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away.
This yearlong roadmap is just a guide—if a different schedule works best for you, run with it! It might be that while you’re in the midst of interview bootcamp, your dream job opens up. So definitely keep an eye on opportunities throughout the year, and adjust your plan as necessary. The important part is that you’re setting a plan, and getting yourself in shape for the 2017 new-job marathon.