Our new year’s resolution is to help you get a job and, unlike normal resolutions, it’s not one we’ll be giving up on after a week of failed attempts to get up at 6.00am to go to the gym. For us, it starts with writing this post. For you, the first step is to decide that you want a new job. Once you’ve decided that you definitely want to do something, you see, the next steps become obvious, starting with reading this. What’s more, finding a new job in January is a positive-sum game: the more people looking to move, the more opportunities for you. (Supply and demand at the gym is zero-sum: the more people on treadmills, the less space for you.) Rocky’s Eye of the Tiger has fewer steps than you’ll find in the gazillions of self-help books telling you how to achieve your goals so we’ll be a bit less prescriptive here, and certainly briefer.
In fairness, self-help books accidentally hit on something when they suggest writing things down; it’s not magic but it can help clarify your thoughts. You can write your dream job on a piece of paper, tie a ribbon around it, and put it under your pillow. You can send a message in a bottle. You can email your sixteen-year-old self with some sage advice. Write anything at all that helps you think about getting your new year job. Write down the things you like to do, things you’re good at, things you hate, what you’re proud of, things that you would tolerate doing every day if the salary was enormous. Make a list of your friends’ jobs and consider if you’d like to do any of those. When you’ve got something, post it somewhere prominent but not on the notice board in your office, and move it somewhere else every few days because if it stays in the same place on your dressing-table or fridge you’ll stop seeing it after a while.
Though not strictly a self-help book, Naomi Kline’s seminal 1999 No Logo warned against the tendency towards the personal brand but seems to have lost the argument to LinkedIn and Academia.edu. In the long, dark, cold January evenings, playing LinkedIn is not the worst thing you could be doing for your job prospects. The gamification of everything means that you can now compete with your friends and colleagues for the title of The One With The Most Connections, or Most Skills and Endorsements, or Most Famous Connection, or Most Obscure Skill. LinkedIn also now lists Influencers, so you can find some famous people to follow and, more importantly, start following the same ones as the people you hope will give you a job. Based on what you decide to tell the interweb, try working on a twenty second pitch, not the one next to the twenty-first football pitch in the park kind but the introduction kind. Practice it in front of the mirror or the dog.
You’ll need to practice talking because, for all the virtual efforts to out-pace the real world, there’s a lot to be said for talking to actual people in actual person. Look to the companies or other institutions that you’ve ever done business with and have a chat with people about the state of the industry and where they think the prospects might be. When you flatter someone by telling them they’re an expert and that you’d be really grateful for their advice, you can get a meeting with pretty well anyone. The twin benefits here are the advice itself and the marketing of your personal brand so that you’ll be the first person they think of when a vacancy does arise.
If your CV looks a bit bare or if there’s something else you need to be able to say you can do, there are a couple of ways to use your time in January. The kind people of the internet offer loads of MOOCs (that’s Massive Online Open Courses, not to be confused with Moog synthesizers) for free. For the more self-reliant, you could spend a couple of hours teaching yourself some SQL programming or look at another stats programme and add that to the list. Volunteering in just about anything makes you look like a saint compared to someone whose interests don’t extend beyond their cat and their Instagram account. Even if you just start anything like this it shows impressive initiative.
Three things are to your advantage in January: there’s a general spirit of change as people talk about resolutions, there’s a more dynamic jobs market, and there’s time to spend on job-getting, whether networking or self-improvement. The most important thing is that it stays immediate, because if it’s on your mind, you’ll see everything though a job-seeker’s lens. There are now New Year’s Resolution apps that will helpfully, and not at all annoyingly, remind you of your resolutions so when that little alarm goes off, smile, think of us, and look at the latest listings.
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