By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS
As an Executive Career Coach, I work with clients who are involved in strategic planning, goal setting and other types of analysis.  They handle projects valued at millions and billions of dollars using planning tools that provide specific, concrete steps leading to achieving and measuring success.  So let us look at what concrete steps you need to take and things you need to think about to make 2012 a career search success.

1. The end of a year and beginning of a new one is a time for reflection, renewal and reinvention. Take a look back over the past year and see what you did in your search that you were happy with and what you feel needed improvement.  Think about whether or not you were really clear in what you were looking for and what you were doing in every aspect of your search. Clarity is very important. You see, it is only if you are truly clear that you can use your career search tools to hone in on your target. For example, when you network, you must be crystal clear in what you are looking for so that people can understand how to help you. It makes a difference if you say “I am looking for a contact in the marketing department at American Express” rather than “I am looking for a contact at a large credit card company.”

2. Now that you are clear on what you want, look at how you market yourself. Do you have a Value Proposition that is a succinct description of who you are and what happens when you go to work? If not, work on it and practice it until it rolls off your tongue with smoothness and confidence. You will use this over and over again in a multitude of situations.

3. Look at your resume. Does it require updating? Is it a reflection and/or continuation of your Value Proposition?  If you have been unemployed for a while, what does it show that you have been doing with your time? Do you have a baseline resume that you can use to custom tailor as you find positions that interest you? You see, those resumes that applicably reflect, in an honest, ethical and professional manner, the wording of the posting will be more apt to catch a recruiter’s eye.

4. What have you been doing with your time?  Do not let unemployment suck you dry. Keep developing yourself. HR people love to look at what you are doing to see if you are the kind of continually learning, continually developing person. This tells them that they are looking at a person who is an asset. You can take a certification class or take lessons from someone in your industry that can teach you a skill that you can include on your resume. Ask a friend for some instruction on a program that you feel a little weak in or volunteer at a non-profit. This gets you out of the house and into the world. Being in the world gets you into situations where you will meet people that can become part of your network. It also tells an employer that you are a “go-getter.” When many people would use this as a time to go into seclusion, you are out there pushing forward.

5. This discussion about being with people is very important because one of the most important things that helps people in career search is networking. People cite networking as an invaluable part of their search. If you find networking challenging, please check out our recent Blog postings on networking for some concrete suggestions to help you make it a part of your career campaign. This is the only time that I use a double negative when I speak.  “I will never not network again.” Make this your mantra in and out of search and you will be glad you did.“I will never not network again.” “I will never not network again.” “I will never not network again.”

6. Are you huddled over your computer day after day sending out resumes into the abyss that is HR computer software? Have you incorporated social media in your search? Resolve to break up the way you do your search. Allocate time for being online, networking, improving your skills, pleasure reading and exercising. Yes, if all you do is spend your time searching, it will drive you mad, dampen your spirit and make you less effective in what you do. Besides, you just may come upon something that has an impact on your career search either by meeting someone or researching something unrelated to your search.  I like to call it the “Serendipity Sizzle.” Go out and put some “Sizzle” in your life!

7. Have you familiarized yourself with the modern interview process? When you make the cut, are you ready for the telephone interview?  Today, most companies start the process by scheduling an initial telephone interview. Do you know what you need to do to be prepared for this? And after you make the first cut, do you have the tools to take you all the way through to the end? Do you research the company and industry? Have you created a list of questions so that you appear intelligent when they ask you, “Do you have any questions for me?” Do you know the way to guide the interviewer into realizing that you are the best candidate for the job?

8. Have you looked at your clothes, hair, makeup and personal appearance? Do you need to update your look? Is a haircut in order? Do you need to cover the gray? Is your suit in good shape? Do you need a new dress shirt or shoes?  Take stock of everything so that you are prepared in advance.

9. Do you have the right tracking tools to keep you on target in your career search? Design a way to keep track of your goals, all of the contacts that you make, networking groups that you attend, where your resume is, what sites it is on, who you sent what to, when to follow up and what the results are. This helps you to stay on task, see where you are going and celebrate the successes along the way. This way, when you ask yourself “What have I been doing?” you have solid information on how you have been spending your time. You will know that you have not been eating Bon-Bons and watching soap operas!

10. Lastly, have you checked out your online appearance?  What does your facebook page show? Are there photos of you that you would not want people to see there?  What about your Twitter account?  Is your name appropriate? OR are you using an alias that is professionally inappropriate?  What are you using for an email address? Check out all of these online platforms to make sure that you are not hurting yourself by something that is easily changed.

The beginning of a New Year gives you a chance to start a new notebook, excel spreadsheet, or whatever you use. Forget about what has happened in the past and focus like a laser beam on what you want. Making the decision to do it is the first part of the challenge. As Paul Coelho, the famous Brazilian author wrote in the novel The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” All of the above gives you concrete, sink-your-teeth-into information that can help get you on your way.

I hope the above has helped you kickstart your search for 2012. Please leave me a comment and let me know. As always, if you are struggling and need help in search, please contact me [email protected] or 203-323-9977.

Every Success for the New Year –