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7 New Year's Resolutions for Job Search Success in 2021

By Susan P. Joyce

7 New Year's Resolutions for Job Search Success

Technology has greatly changed recruiting, and those changes in recruiting have significantly modified successful job-search strategies. One copy of your resume and hitting the "Apply" button on job boards will not land you a new job now.

With very high unemployment, competition is stiff. Use the strategies to succeed.

Resolutions for Job Search Success

Get 2021 off to a great start with these 7 resolutions for a successful job search in the New Year:

  1. I will monitor my online reputation.  

According to a respected survey, over 90% of recruiters and potential employers will Google you before inviting you to an interview.

If you don’t know what they will find, you are defenseless. When you do know what employers find, you can address any issues you have, including your own missteps as well as mistaken online identity (someone else with the same name you have and has done something a potential employer would not like).

Resources to help:

  • Learn how to do Defensive Googling. It is an important task to do regularly, particularly when you are in job-search mode. You will see what potential employers see about you when they Google you.
  • Your best defense against mistaken online identity is your LinkedIn Profile, and your best reputation-management tool is your LinkedIn Profile (next).

  2. I will increase my professional visibility using LinkedIn.  

LinkedIn is your best defense against bad Google search results because Google typically places LinkedIn at, or very near, the top of any search for a person's name.

LinkedIn is the "happy hunting ground" for most recruiters. A recent poll of recruiters by JobVite.com revealed 94% of recruiters used LinkedIn for recruiting. You cannot afford to be invisible to recruiters.

If you do not have a good LinkedIn profile, you are at an increasing disadvantage in the job marketplace. The good news is that you do no't need to pay for the basic LinkedIn account, which provides everything you need for your job search -- at no cost!

Your LinkedIn profile must contain the appropriate terms for your professiona and goals (job title, job requirements, education, skills, etc.). Those are the keywords recruiters use to find qualified candidates, and, without the right keywords for you, your LinkedIn profile will not be found.

Then, be professionally active on LinkedIn. Make relevant and professional posts. Comment appropriately -- no nasty comments. Do not confuse LinkedIn with Facebook!

Resources to help:

In an era when 90% of employers Google a job seeker before inviting them in for an interview, you need to have a good message out there about you. These days, the most effective way to do that is with your LinkedIn profile -- you tell the world about yourself, in your own words, and Google shows that to anyone who does a search for your name.

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  3. I will tell people the job I want next.  

If you don't know what you want to do, you will not be able to convert conversations into opportunities and your LinkedIn profile will look unfocused.

People will not be able to help you, regardless of how much they try. And you'll waste time chasing jobs that are not good fits for you.

Picture this: You meet a potential employer in line at the grocery store or at a networking event. You tell them that you are looking for a job, and they ask, "What are you looking for?"

Even people who know you well will not be able to figure out what job you should do next. So tell them!

You MUST have a good answer ready when asked -- job title(s) and target employers (company name) and/or target employer group (like accounting firms or grocery stores or whatever is appropriate for you).

If you don't yet know what you want to do, figure it out. In this case, being "flexible" about what you want means that your job search will be longer than it needs to be.

Resources to help:

  • Book: What Color Is Your Parachute -- has sold millions of copies because it helps you figure out what you do best and what you want to do. Buy the latest edition or borrow any edition (updated annually) from a friend or your library.
  • The University of North Carolina, Wilmington, offers What Can I Do With A Major In... -- very helpful whether you are about to graduate or graduated many years ago.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online -- walks you through several exercises online to help you determine what your skills are and where they could be used. It also helps you connect with "hot careers."

  4. I will develop my personal list of target employers.  

When you look for a job without a list of possible employers you are targeting, you are at the mercy of the jobs you find advertised or stumble over in your networking. You may get lucky and end up with a good employer, but you may not.

Avoid needing to do another job search too soon by choosing your next employer carefully!

Right, you cannot know how to avoid the next pandemic-like economic disaster, but you can research to find employers where you would most likely be successful and enjoy your job.

You probably know the best employers in your location or industry. As long as you're looking for a job anyway, why not target the best?

If you do not know the best employers, research to identify them. Ask friends, colleagues, your network. Study the local newspapers and online news sources.

  • When you are talking with someone (networking officially or unofficially), and they ask you what you are looking for, tell them not only what (as in #3 above) but also for whom! Maybe they know someone who works at one of those target employers, or they know someone who knows someone who works there (etc.).
  • When you search through the job boards, look for jobs with those employers.
  • If your target employers have jobs posted on their websites, visit those job postings regularly. Sign up for emailed updates if you can.
  • Pay close attention to the job titles your target employers use for the job you want so that you can include those terms, as appropriate, in your LinkedIn profile and other online visibility (even Facebook).
  • Check LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, etc. to find people who work for those target employers. Hopefully you will find some with whom you have a connection, even a tenuous one. Reach out to those people, and rekindle an old friendship, find an old friend, or just help expand each other's networks.

Resources to help:

  • How to Find Jobs by Targeting Employers even shows you how to use Google Maps to find small employers who may be near you.
  • Search through the job postings on sites like Indeed.com, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to find jobs from those employers. Job-Hunt's Guide to Using Indeed to Find a Job describes how you can pull out all the job postings from a specific employer.
  • Set up a spreadsheet to help you track who you have contacted at your target employers and what the requirements of their employee referral program are. Include the URL's for the company website (and job postings on their website) as well as the names and contact information (including LinkedIn profile URL) for your contacts with that employer.

    • Identify the job titles used most often for the job you want (keywords!).
    • Identify the requirements your target employers have for the job you want (keywords!).
    • Check the employers' Company Pages on LinkedIn to see your connections who work for those employers.
  • Keep track (on the spreadsheet or elsewhere) of which jobs you have applied for, when you applied, who referred you (if anyone), who got which version of your resume, plus the name and contact information for the hiring manager, the hiring manager's LinkedIn profile URL, what your next action item is for your job search, and much more.

  5. I will focus my efforts on networking, NOT on submitting job applications.  

In over 20 years of studying and observing the process of using the Internet to find a job, I have seen that sending out massive quantities of resumes, in response to job postings or, worse, using a resume distribution service, does not work. It may feel productive, but it is not -- with very few exceptions. 

Employee Referral Programs (a current employee refers someone for a job) are employers' preferred way to hire. The data shows that fewer than 15% of people are hired through job boards.

Few job seekers are referred, but those who are referred are hired MUCH more often than people who just click on the apply button. While 40% of jobs are filled via referrals, only 7% of job candidates are referred. So, being referred greatly improves the probability you will be hired by that employer.

  • Track down former colleagues and classmates in person, via LinkedIn or other social media, via email, etc. --

    • Ask your friends if they are still in touch with [whomever], who works for one of your target employers.
    • Google the names of the people you want to find.
    • Ask your college alumni center if they can give you the email addresses or other contact information. If they can't do that (because of privacy concerns), ask them to forward your contact information to the person or people. There also may be a printed alumni directory you can buy or access online to search yourself.
  • Network online. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, et al, can be good sources of contact information for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
  • Join a local job search-support group. Exchange ideas and information with other people in the same boat and often get help from a professional at weekly or monthly, low-cost meetings. Avoid the pity-party, ain't-it-awful groups. Look for groups that focus on moving forward, learning, and networking.
  • Join the local chapter of a national organization that is relevant and appropriate for your target job and where you can meet people who work for your target employers. Then, attend the meetings via Zoom or in-person (when safe). Volunteer to help the group, and you will meet more members.

Resources to help:

  6. I will help others with their job search.  

As the Beatles told us many years ago, "We get by with a little help from our friends." So right!

You do not need to give someone else your hottest lead, unless you decide that it is not right for you. But you can help them connect with someone you know who works (or worked) at one of their target employers, give them help with their resume, invite them to a virtual job search support group meeting, share their best LinkedIn post, etc.

Particularly when you are unemployed, helping others can help you feel more useful as well as keeping you active in your network and connected with the world.

And it often, but not always, comes back to benefit you. That person you helped with their LinkedIn post has a neighbor who might be able to help you, and so on.

As another old saying goes, "What goes around, comes around," and helping others really does seem to pay off directly and indirectly. Help others for that reason, if for no other.

  7. I will demonstrate business etiquette.  

Sadly, being polite and professional will help you stand out from the crowd of unknowing or thoughtless people. A thank you email sent to anyone you interview with (including the HR person as well as the hiring manager and any other staff members you met with) will be an important differentiator.

You may not lose an opportunity if you don’t write those thank-you emails, but writing them will be an extra "nice" thing about you that may tip the scales in your direction.

According to the experts, fewer than 25% of people do send out thank you notes, so you can see how much it will stand out.

And, strangely, one of the most effective thank-you notes you can send is a thank-you note after you've received the thanks-but-no-thanks rejection letter. I wrote an article about that, Turning Rejection into Opportunity, in 2004 (most recent update is 2020), and it is even more true today.

The Bottom Line

The strategies above are required today for a successful job search. You must discard old job-search tactics to land your new job now. An unfocused job search, minimal or no LinkedIn profile, unprofessional online visibility, missing keywords, and more, demonstrate that you are out-of-date, making you largely invisible to employers. Recognize and adapt to the technology used by recruiters and employers today. You will be hired much more quickly!

More Resources to Help You


Susan P. Joyce About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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