Career tips : Put your best foot forward

5 things you can do now to improve your marketability in the New Year

New Year: a time of year for hope, dreams, and new beginnings. This feels particularly pertinent this year, with people around the world racing to leave 2020 behind and start fresh. Say goodbye to resolutions centering on weight loss and good habits – with COVID-19 having a huge impact on employment globally, career goals are taking precedence.

However, much like those regular resolutions, many people procrastinate when it comes to starting a job search or focusing on their career as they wait for the new year to arrive. The only trouble is, this is exactly what everyone else does too.

The new year new you competition is afoot

Every year, December is the quietest month for hiring. While allowing people time to relax over Christmas and other winter holidays, it means everyone unemployed in December will likely remain unemployed in January – which inevitably leads to the month being notoriously the busiest time of year for job applications.

This year, however, there’s also an even bigger factor at play. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw 750,000 people in the UK alone lose their jobs between March and August this year, hiring activity is set to return to normal for the first time since the pandemic in January 2021. Research from Brighton’s Crunch Accounting has also revealed that most Brits are likely to hand in their resignation letters on January payday.

Suffice to say, recruiters are set to receive a much higher volume of applications than usual this January, so standing out above the competition is about to get a lot tougher. Fortunately, we’re here to offer some help when it comes to jobhunting at this time of year. Here, we’ll guide you on five things you can do right now to make sure your job applications are as attractive as they can be when you start your job search in the New Year.

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1# Give your digital presence a makeover

Whatever discipline you’re interested in, it makes sense to showcase your digital skills, well, digitally. Reviewing your LinkedIn in a similar way to which you updated your CV should be your next priority. Recruiters are likely to double-check that your LinkedIn is consistent with your CV, and over 90% of them use it to find candidates.

Once your LinkedIn is updated to reflect your most recent experience and skills, you can tweak a few settings to make the platform work for you, while you set your focus elsewhere:

  1. Set your profile as “Open to Work”, which will flag your profile to recruiters
  2. Edit your tagline as a descriptor of what you do
  3. Set up job alerts to receive email notifications when a role is posted that matches your skillset

Of course, LinkedIn isn’t the only place to showcase your skills, and those seeking work should also think about where industry leaders and recruiters would expect to find your name. Maybe you’re a graphic designer or marketeer who would benefit from a Behance profile, or you’re a tech analyst or researcher who might have work published. Backing up your reputation in the places recruiters would most expect to see you increases your value.

Finally, if you’ve not already – create a website or digital portfolio! Many employers, especially those hiring in the more creative industries, have a tendency of asking for portfolios in the application process. It’s always good practice for keeping all of your work in one place – not only for your own benefit and records, but also because doing so actually makes it easier for employers and recruiters to find reasons to hire you!


2. Improve your prospects and upskill

Once you’ve reviewed your CV against existing roles and updated your digital presence, you should have developed a pretty strong idea of where you might be falling short in terms of any skills, or where you might stand out.

Now is the time to be filling in any of those major shortcomings. Whether it’s learning a certain software, familiarising yourself with a particular design technique, or taking a short course on time management, there are always countless ways for us to improve our methods of doing something. And there’s plenty for everyone, from key learnings available through LinkedIn Learning, online courses, classes and YouTube explainers.

Get deep into that TED talk, listen to that podcast, or learn something new… By identifying and developing the kinds of skills that are desirable now that perhaps weren’t before (or that you know other candidates may not have), you’re demonstrating to employers that you’re proactive and also keen to learn new skills. These both ultimately set your application aside from the masses, with both the new skills you’ve gained and your learning moxie giving you a much better chance of getting hired.


3. Test the water and put your feelers out now

There’s a reason that old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true when it comes to finding roles and furthering careers: reputation can be an additional secret weapon when it comes to jobseeking. A recommendation or a short word from someone respected to the right person could make all the difference when you submit your resume. It might even be the difference between recruiters looking out for your name, or your application being lost amid a sea of paper.

Start by letting your network know that you’re seeking work, then consider: do any previous employers, colleagues or contacts you know have solid links within your field? It’s never too bold to ask for an introduction to hiring managers or employers if you have a connection in common. Networking can also grow your contact pool, and you may stumble across changemakers in your chosen industry without the need for going through others. Contact recruiters, agencies - At this point in time, it’s all about making your name visible and recognisable, so that when the time comes the ones who hold all the cards (recruiters) will already have some familiarity with who you are and what you do.


4. Add sparkle to your CV

When it comes to starting your preparation process, you’re going to want to research what the job market looks like. This might include what roles are available, and what levels of skills and expertise they want.

The great benefit of doing this all now before more roles open in January is that it gives you time. Time to take stock of what you’ve got versus what employers want, and time to fill in any gaps in your CV to bridge the gap between your last job search and this one. Consider what relevant in-role training you’ve had, or any other skills you’ve gained that you’ve not yet put on your CV. 

Then look at the format and layout of your CV. As a guide, CVs should be no longer than two A4 pages in length, using a simple, professional font, and should include clearly set out sections for your employment history, education, skills – and a short personal statement at the top. This is where your CV can really shine. Tailor your personal statement to the role you’re applying for by flagging up some of the immediate skills and experience referred to in the job description.

When it comes to reviewing CVs, recruiters tend to keyword search against the preferred skills for the role to see if you measure up. By replicating these keywords (if they apply to you), you’ve more chance for your application to reach the top of the pile when January arrives.


5. Don’t fall into “New Year New Me” set realistic goals

It’s a well-known fact that people tend to flake on New Years’ resolutions – you just have to look at the uptake of gym memberships in January against those still using them in February. However, you can achieve focus and long-term success when it comes to your targets by setting SMART goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Many people make the mistake of simply saying: “I will get a job in January”, or “I will not be unemployed by February”, however this kind of vague goal-setting rarely ends up getting you what you want. Instead, start by being specific – even if this means breaking your goal down into smaller milestones. For example: “I will apply for five jobs by the end of the first week of January” or “I will reach out to 10 contacts regarding work this week”.

By making sure the goals you set are aligned with the five SMART criteria, and thus avoiding much of the overwhelm attached to larger and more unattainable goals, you have an anchor on which to base all of your focus and decision-making.


Do all the things to make 2021 your year!

It’s no secret that planning is imperative when it comes to performance, and the same applies to setting yourself up for jobseeking success in the New Year. By taking action now, you get a headstart on the race to the top of the pile, as well as a boost in your confidence and a spring in your step – something we all need as we leave 2020.

If your main job pre-Xmas is getting your CV in order, take a look our CV tips! If you have a great job, but really want a promotion, you can also check out our tips on how to get a work from home promotion