It is almost January!  For many, that signals the beginning of the job search season.

Hiring typically slows in December and picks up again in the new year. Candidates also feel more eager to tackle a job search because the stress of the holidays has passed and they have taken their holiday leave. They are ready to get back at it.

If you are thinking of switching jobs soon, start preparing now. Searching for a new job is daunting. It is even more frustrating when you are not prepared.

First, let’s talk about what job searching is not about.  It is not about blasting out resumes or hitting “apply” to as many online listings as possible and hoping for the best. Your career should not be left to happenstance. Have a strategy that is clear and focused. A good place to start is by asking yourself these seven questions.

SEVEN QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR JOB SEARCH:

1. What do you want to accomplish in the next 2-3 years?

Where do you want to be in your career in the next couple of years? Until you can clearly describe the type of position you want, or what you want to achieve, it will be hard to target your search. Career growth takes time. It is an investment. You will need to plan accordingly. Start with two years because goals change frequently. Think about the types of employers, industries and the jobs you plan to target. Any position you accept should inch you one step closer to your overall goal.

2. What are you missing in your current job that you want to have in your next position? 

If your current duties are not challenging you, the same job description in a different company will not improve your satisfaction. What do you want to do in your next role that you are not able to do now? Understanding what you are missing also helps you in the interview process. You will be able to tailor your questions accordingly if you know what you want.

3. How will a change affect you financially?

What salary are you targeting for your next move? Maybe you are looking to move up the ladder or even downshift into less responsibility. Now is the time to determine what a new job would mean for your finances.  Additionally, think about what you might have to pay upon departure.  For example, do you have to pay back any loans, etc.? Calculate that into your financial situation or a negotiation into a signing bonus for your next role.

4. What is non-negotiable?

What do you have now that you want in your next position – no exceptions. Do you need an office, or will you be okay in an open workspace? Do you need the flexibility to work from home or is that a bonus you would like to have? Are you looking for a position in a 10-mile radius from home or are you able to commute further? Is salary more important than benefits? When you know specifically what you want you can confidently decide which offers to consider and which ones are not worth your time.

5. What does social media say about you? 

First impressions are no longer made in-person. First impressions are made online. If your social media is heavily focused on fun and parties or negative rants, that is how a potential employer may view you. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, companies will check you out and recruiters will Google you. So, Google your name to see what comes up.  If you don’t like what you see, clean it up. Get rid of anything that recruiters and hiring managers will view as negative. Use social media to demonstrate your expertise and to highlight your professional story.

Free speech may be free but it is not without repercussions. Be prepared for the employer’s scrutiny.

6. Who’s in your network?

Once you have decided what industry or the career path you want to take, take a good look at your network. Who can help you?  You may have to expand your network. Building your network also builds your reputation. You can shape how people perceive your professional identity and your “personal brand.”

7. Do you have the basics in order?

It’s important to have a well-written resume and a compelling cover letter. Resumes help get interviews. Make sure you take time to capture your accomplishments and not just your duties.  Now is also the time to update your online career profiles. Have your headline include keywords and a pitch to inspire someone to want to learn more about you.

Happy New Year and here’s to a great 2019 for you!

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.JanJohnstonOsburn.Com.