We know: It’s December. And even though you’re dying for a new gig, going to holiday parties, shopping for gifts, and drinking gallons of hot cocoa just seems like much more of a priority than writing cover letters and going to networking events.
Well, truth be told, tons of companies are hiring like crazy , so if you are on the hunt for your dream job, it doesn’t hurt to get started on a serious search now. But if you want to wait until January, we get it—so we’ve come up with 31 easy (and fun) little things you can do now so that you can hit the ground running in the new year.
Do one or do them all (one for each day of the month!), and you’ll be far more prepared than the rest of the bunch who are just getting started come 2015.
1. Mix and Mingle
Take advantage of all the mingling opportunities that December offers to freshen up your interviewing and networking skills. For example, your relatives who haven’t seen you in a year are probably going to ask, “What kind of job are you looking for?” But instead of brushing Grandma’s questions off, use this time to get comfortable talking about your goals, skills, and ideal jobs. Those same answers will come in handy when an interviewer asks you why you’re interested in a particular role or what your strengths are.
2. Boost Your Persuasion Skills
Got two minutes between meetings or while waiting for a train? Watch this two-minute video on how to be more persuasive—you’ll be totally prepared when you’re selling your skills to a hiring manager come January.
3. Create a List of Dream Companies
Browsing job openings (and thinking about all of those cover letters you’ll have to write) is bound to make your eyes glaze over. Instead, focus on putting together a list of dream companies. Look up one of your favorite companies on LinkedIn, then check out the “people also viewed” section to find more great workplaces. Then, get an inside view into 250 awesome companies in the profiles section of The Muse and save your favorites. When you do start job hunting, this will help keep you laser focused and actually get you excited (yes, it’s possible!) about landing a gig at one of your dream companies.
4. Set Career Resolutions
Making resolutions seems natural at the turn of the year, but let’s face it: Writing down “get a new job” isn’t the most helpful goal. So before January rolls around, write down a few more actionable (and less intimidating) benchmark goals, like “apply for three jobs per week” and “attend five networking events during the month and meet five new people at each.” By fulfilling these smaller goals, you’ll have a lot easier time accomplishing that overarching “new job” resolution, too.
5. Take Long Lunches
No one wants to be in the office this month (including, most likely, your boss), so taking a few coffee meetings or a long lunch here and there probably won’t hurt. Use this month to set up a couple of informational interviews with people who work in jobs or for companies you’re interested in. (And here’s how to turn those meetings into potential job opportunities .)
6. Join a Club
If you haven’t joined a professional organization or gotten involved with your alumni association yet, there’s no time like the present: Most groups have holiday parties in December, which is a great time to show up and get to know people.
7. Send Holiday Greetings
December is pretty much the only time of year you can reach out to people you haven’t talked to in forever and not have it feel random. So take advantage of that and reach out to your network. Send a holiday card to your email list on Paperless Post, create a brief “here’s what I’ve been up to this year” newsletter, or reach out directly with a personalized note to people you definitely want to reconnect with in the new year. It’s merry, it’s festive, and it gives you a head start on your 2015 networking!
8. Say Thanks
Another great way to reach out to your network? Send a thank you note to someone who has impacted your career, given you an opportunity, or introduced you to someone interesting this year. (Here’s how to write one that will really make an impact.)
9. Prep Your References
It’s not the most effective strategy to call up your references in the middle of the interview process to explain, “By the way, I listed you as a reference. They may be calling you, well, today.” To give your references enough notice—and to make sure they know what to say about you to tip the chances of getting the job in your favor—start reaching out to them now. A quick email with an updated copy of your resume and a few sentences about the type of role you’re looking for is perfect!
10. Update Your Resume (on the Couch, While Watching TV)
I know—updating your resume doesn’t sound very fun or easy. But while you’re cozy on the couch watching Home Alone , consider pulling out your laptop and making a change or two. This article has tons of ideas for tiny changes that’ll freshen up your resume in 15 minutes or less.
11. See What Message You’re Sending
Want a quick, fun way to see what hiring managers see when they read your cover letter or resume? Drop those documents into a word cloud generator and see which keywords are popping out. If the most prominent ones aren’t what you want to be remembered by, or if there are important words that aren’t present, think about how you can tweak your materials to make that more clear.
12. Do a Photo Shoot
Is your LinkedIn photo working for you? Find out at PhotoFeeler , which analyzes your photo based on how likeable, competent, and influential you seem. Not happy with the results? Have a friend or family member take a shot of you when you’re wearing your holiday best and pop your new photo up there ASAP. (Then make sure to update it on Twitter or any other sites you use professionally.)
13. Craft a New LinkedIn Headline
A super-simple—but super-effective—change you can make to your LinkedIn profile? Updating your headline. (No, the default of your current position at your current company isn’t always the way to go.) Watch this quick video to see what distinguishes an awesome headline from a mediocre one, then spend a few minutes crafting something compelling and new.
14. Get Started on Your Cover Letters
Writing a cover letter always seems like a simple task. It’s just a couple paragraphs, so shouldn’t take long, right? Four hours and a blank Word doc later, we all know how that story ends. To avoid the inevitable writer’s block, create some sample cover letter templates for yourself. Write a couple killer intros ( here are a few examples ), then create a list of standout projects and accomplishments that you could elaborate on. Next month, when you find a job that you want to apply for ASAP, all you’ll have to do is string together a pre-written intro, a few accomplishments, and a little research about the specific company and position, and you’ll be set—much easier than starting from scratch each time.
Busy as they are, the holidays often come with lots of down time while you’re traveling (or trying to avoid helping your mom cook). Pick one or two books to read in December—here’s a great list of reads that will help point you in the direction of your dream job.
16. Order New Business Cards
To prepare for all of that networking you’ll be doing in the new year! Request a new set from your boss or company, or order some that fit your personal brand from a site like moo.com.
17. Shop for a New Suit
Yep, here’s your permission to online-shop the day away. A job search means interviewing, and interviewing means you’ll need a great new outfit, right? Head on over to the J.Crew sale (or your clothier of choice) and pick yourself out some new duds.
18. Tweet it Up
Every day, recruiters are tweeting jobs they need to interview candidates for—making Twitter a seriously untapped resource for job seekers. To make sure you’re in the know about these leads, create a Twitter job search list that includes recruiters, hiring managers, company hiring handles, and job search websites. Then, review their tweets daily for potential opportunities.
19. Play on Pinterest
Puppies and mason jar projects aside, Pinterest can actually be an invaluable tool for your career. Whether you’re looking for a new job, dreaming about your future company, or just looking for something to wear, try putting together one of these actually helpful Pinterest boards .
20. Plan a Party
We bet you’re not the only one who wants a new job come January. So start planning a “January Job Search” event now—like a networking party, resume workshop, or career-related book club—with some friends or professional contacts.
21. Get Started on a Personal Website
A personal website can be a great tool to show hiring managers who you are and what you’ve done. But putting one together isn’t a quick-and-easy process. So, get started now by browsing around and making a list of ones that inspire you. (Here are 35 amazing ones to get you started.) And when you’re ready to start building it? Here’s a seven-day plan for creating one from scratch.
22. Make a “To-Write” List
Being published in any capacity can be a great way to show off your writing in a job application and get your name out there to people who might be interested in hiring you. To get your creative juices flowing in January, brainstorm now and make a list of article or blog topics you could write.
23. Share Something
An even easier way to share great content with your network and show people what you’re passionate about? Share great things you’ve read on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Start making a running list of awesome articles, quotes, and blogs that you could get out there over the next few weeks and months.
’Tis the season for giving back, and volunteer opportunities in your community abound! So take a day (or even a couple of hours) and lend a hand to a cause you care about. You’ll have something new for your resume, meet some new contacts, and feel merry in the meantime!
25. Brush Up on Body Language
Whether you’re meeting with potential clients for the first time or negotiating an important business deal, small changes in body language can completely change the dynamic of the conversation. Watch this quick video to see how this plays out in conversations, and learn the other undercover nonverbal cues that can take your communication skills to a hiring manager or networking connection to the next level.
26. Sign Up for a Free Class
Browse our free, email-based classes at Muse University, like Management 101 or The Leadership Skills Every Professional Needs . Pop in your email address, and you’ll be signed up and good to go in less than five seconds.
27. Swipe Right
Looking for a super easy (almost mindless) way to browse open positions while you’re on the go and traveling for the holidays? Try the new app Switch , which is being described as “the Tinder for jobs” because it allows you to quickly sift through jobs listings—and allows hiring managers to quickly sift through candidate profiles—and then will connect you if there’s a match. It’ll make your job search feel almost like a game.
28. See How Your Family or Friends Can Help Your Job Search
Just because you’re not connected on LinkedIn doesn’t mean your close friends or family aren’t part of a network that can help you find opportunities. So while you’re catching up with family and old friends, tap into that! Let people know what you’re looking for and what you’ve done, and then ask if they have any connections who may be able to help you out. Remember, opportunities can be found in the unlikeliest of places—think your dad’s old college buddy who’s now pretty high up at a company you’d love to work for.
29. Try Out Some New Conversation Starters
Having to suffer through awkward conversations with your second cousin who you haven’t seen may seem like the worst, but think of it as stellar practice for your next kind of awkward networking event. Come up with a list of stellar conversation starters to try out when the dinner conversation starts to lull.
30. Look Through Your Old Facebook Posts
No, not to reminisce (though you can do that along the way): You want to sift through your social media to make sure there’s nothing that might be incriminating to a hiring manager. SimpleWash can help you catch any text that you wouldn’t want public any longer, but you’ll have to manually go through your old photos to remove anything embarrassing.
31. Dream Big
Here’s the easiest, most fun one of all: Treat yourself to a couple hours in a cozy cafe (or, hey, your couch). Get comfortable, relax, and then allow yourself to just daydream about where your career might take you—two, five, even 10 years from now. Don’t focus on what’s possible or what you might have to do to get there—just allow your mind to wander and dream about the stuff that you probably don’t get to in your day-to-day life. Do you want to be in a more creative role? Head up a new product or your department? Have a job that lets you travel? Start your own business? If you’d rather, you can jot down your thoughts in a notebook or share them with a friend.
Have something awesome in mind? Great. Now, think of just one thing you can do that’ll help you get there.
Photo of lights courtesy of Shutterstock .
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