2017 is shaping up to be a great year for job seekers—the labor market is strong, wages are rising, and companies are eager to hire. If “landing a new gig” tops your list of resolutions, there’s a good chance you’ll soon get your wish.
The job hunt won’t be a cakewalk, though. According to a new report from consulting firm Dale Carnegie, competition will be stiff, with 41% of U.S. employees actively looking for a new job or planning on doing so within the next year.
To keep your resume out of the trash bin, you’ll need to find a way to stick out. We asked career experts across the country to give us their best tips for elbowing your way past the competition.
Upgrade & promote your LinkedIn profile
Experts are unanimous on this one: Employers are going to look at your LinkedIn page, so make sure it’s on point. Career coach Cheryl Palmer suggests padding your profile with keywords that recruiters will search for. (Here’s a good explainer.) Use LinkedIn’s new Open Candidates setting to privately signal to recruiters that you’re on the market, without alerting your current employer. Then, add a link to your revamped LinkedIn page to your resume.
Ask your friends to connect you to their recruiter
Use the holiday season as an opportunity to tap your social circle for new opportunities, suggests Robin Goldstein, founder of Job Sparker. “Many job hunters are distracted this time of year, which gives the active job-seeker a lot of opportunity to network and jump the line for January hires,” she says. At parties, “Casually mention your New Year’s resolution to get a new job.” Then, she says, throw in a friendly, low-pressure request — something like, “If you know any headhunters who focus on ____, let me know.”
Raise your profile
Cement yourself as a powerhouse in your industry by joining trade associations, volunteering to speak on a panel, or publishing a guest post on an industry blog. You’ll create a track record of expertise, and you’ll have an easier time selling your experience to potential employers, says Courtney Ellett, founder of Obsidian Public Relations. “Whether through media opportunities or smart content marketing strategies, you’re creating more immediate credibility, trust and intimacy,” she says.
Get a website already
Particularly for people who have a tangible work product — whether advertising and design samples or academic papers — a personal website provides a home for your work and an easy way to control your brand. Use a simple template from a user- (and budget-) friendly website builder like Squarespace or Weebly to “collect work of consequence,” advises John DiMarco, associate professor at St. John’s University and author of Career Power Skills. Many employers are going to ask for work samples anyway; this puts you ahead of the curve.
Streamline your resume ...
Your resume should serve as a sample of your most relevant work history. If you’re a decade or more into your career, you’re wasting valuable real estate if you still list any internships or early jobs. “Consider dropping off your early jobs — they probably don’t say much about your current skills anyway,” says Mikaela Kiner, CEO of Uniquely HR. “If you haven’t already, you can remove your college graduation dates too.”
… And delete soft skills
“Resumes are often loaded with people skills, but those things translate better in a cover letter,” says professional resume writer Laurie James. You’re better off leaving out touchy-feely words like “adaptable” “enthusiastic,” and “critical thinker,” she says. Use that space to be more specific about your skills and achievements.
Highlight tech competencies
Even if you’re not in IT, you’ll probably need some tech skills to get a new job in 2017. Update your résumé to highlight tools you already use — Workday software in HR, for instance, or Epic’s billing tool in health care. If the jobs you’re seeking require a skill you don’t have, find classes nearby or online, via sites like Udemy and Coursera.
Use mobile tools to your advantage
Your smartphone can save you time and energy during a job search. Check out Switch, an app that works like Tinder to pair you with hiring managers, or Inigo, which lets you create and send digital business cards. And Google Alerts can bring job leads straight to your phone. Be strategic with that last one, suggests Mark Anthony Dyson of The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, who says it “beats going to job boards if you use the right combination of keywords. … If I were looking for a teaching position, I wouldn’t just put in ‘teaching position.’ I would put in ‘online educator,’ ‘English teacher,’ and ‘curriculum facilitator.’
Look beyond pay
There’s ample evidence that money doesn’t buy happiness at work, so make sure you’re not putting too much weight on compensation during your job search. “Reflect on why you want a new job and isolate the ‘happiness elements’ that are driving you to seek a new opportunity,” DiMarco says. Is it company size? Commute time? Advancement opportunities? Take all of these things into consideration before setting your targets.
Bonus point: Boost your negotiating skills
Research the market value of an open position with tools like Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth,” function before the interview. This is particularly relevant for women, minorities, and other historically underpaid populations that salary negotiations tend to disadvantage, but holds true for every job seeker. “If you’re lowballed … the best thing to do is to reiterate what the position requires, and restate the fact that you have exactly what they are looking for,” Palmer advises. “Then you can say, ‘My salary research shows that the going rate for someone with my qualifications and experience is between $X and $Y.’ This makes your request for a higher salary objective instead of subjective.