If you’re in the market for a new job, the next couple weeks may seem like the worst time possible to start searching. Between holiday vacations and the stress of wrapping up the year, managers may put hiring on the back burner—meaning your painstakingly crafted resume could be buried in his or her inbox for a lot longer than you’d like.
But that doesn’t give you the green light to ignore everything job-search-related for the next two weeks in favor of watching Christmas specials and binging on holiday treats.
Instead, why not take the rest of the year to prepare for the beginning of the new year—because come January 1, it’s time to get into serious job-hunting mode. And if you’re 100% ready on New Year’s Day, you’ll be way ahead of the rest of the pack.
So, between attending parties and shopping for gifts, make some time to prepare for your January job hunt with these seven essential steps.
1. Spend Time With Friends and Family
I know—the holidays are busy. And it’s likely that you want to spend the free time you have with family and friends, celebrating at parties, and exchanging gifts.
Well, go ahead! But, use that time wisely. Take advantage of all the mingling opportunities 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 with a “Oh, anything really—so, how are the cats?” 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.
Plus, don’t knock the value of networking with the friends and family you’re already familiar with. You never know who they’re connected to—and if you give a good elevator pitch, it may spark an introduction you didn’t expect.
2. Make Your List and Check it Twice
When you dive headfirst into job searching, it can quickly become a blur of job listings, companies, and positions—and before you know it, you’re applying to anything that looks halfway legit and promises to pay you. And that can easily lead to a less-than-satisfying job.
So, before you even start digging into job listings, use some time during these last two weeks of the year to find companies that truly interest you and seem like a perfect fit for your personality, passions, and skills. Maybe you’re drawn to tech startups with a laid-back culture, or maybe you’d prefer a more structured corporate role at a company that focuses on mentorship and professional development.
Whatever your preference, draw up a list of company names and types of roles that strike your interest. When you do start job hunting, this will help keep you laser focused (are you really interested in this company and position, or are you just anxious to get some kind of job?) and actually get you excited (yes, it’s possible!) about landing a gig at one of your dream companies.
3. Revamp Your Resume
While you’re cozy on the couch watching Home Alone, pull out your laptop and give your resume a revamp.
Think back over the year (or however long it’s been since you last updated), and add in any recent accomplishments and projects, and remove anything that’s no longer relevant. Go through with a red pen to make final edits, and within a couple hours, you’ll be good to go.
4. Give Your Social Media a Fresh Start, Too
Now that you have an updated resume, transferring those bullet points to your LinkedIn profile will be a cinch.
But, take some time to complete the rest of your profile, too, including adding a headline, summary, and a professional photo, and joining (and participating in) a few groups. If you don’t have any recommendations, request a few from previous supervisors or co-workers who know your work well.
And while you’re at it, make sure your Facebook and Twitter are up to snuff, too—that is, if you wouldn’t want your future boss to see it, get rid of it.
5. Get a Head Start on That Dreaded Cover Letter
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 when you find a job listing that you’re excited to apply for, create some sample cover letter templates for yourself. Write a couple killer intros (which is the hardest part anyway), 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.
6. 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. The holidays are hectic for everyone, so for now, a quick email with an updated copy of your resume and a few sentences about the type of role you’re looking for works well.
Then, early next year, start reaching out by phone to touch base and answer any questions.
7. Set Your Resolutions
Making resolutions seems natural at the beginning of a new 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.
With all of your job search tools at the ready, goals in place, and a focused idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to start your hunt full force as soon as you ring in the new year.