The holiday season is officially over, which means it's back to the grind for employees who have been enjoying vacation time and work-from-home days. It also means that companies are gearing up to meet their personnel demands for 2015.
"Oftentimes, companies have just re-evaluated their budget and departmental needs, and are prepared to bring in new employees at the beginning of the year," said Thomas Moran, CEO of staffing firm Addison Group. "There are easy ways for applicants to stand out and show that they're a great fit for the job."
Business News Daily gathered some expert advice from our previous career articles to help you jump-start your search for your dream job this year.
Know what you want
Determine what your career goals are before beginning the application process, Moran said. While many people may think they can do everything, flexibility is not the right answer when determining job-search goals. Having targeted, focused and specific job goals will help ensure a successful search process.
Clean up your online presence
You're likely a member of multiple social networks, and all of them have at least some degree of publicly available information on your profiles. Moran emphasized the importance of understanding the differences among these various sites, and using them appropriately. Refrain from posting questionable content, remove any inappropriate or explicit content, and avoid posting content that is too personal. For a professional site like LinkedIn, be active and post engaging, thought-provoking content that is relevant to your desired position or industry.
Donald Kluemper, a management professor at Northern Illinois University, agreed, noting that job seekers must be extremely careful about what they post on Facebook, Twitter or any other online outlet that an employer might see. There is little hope of coming back from ill-advised posts or comments made in poor taste on your profile, Kluemper said.
Learn how to properly leverage your past experiences (even bad ones)
You've likely held positions that you aren't particularly proud of — an unpaid internship where you were just an errand runner, or a job you tried and hated, so you quit. Don't think of these as black smears on your résumé. Instead, own up to them and use them to demonstrate the skills and knowledge you learned.
"One nonintuitive thing employers want to see on a résumé is failure," said Phil Rosenberg, president of reCareered.com. "Employers want to see that you've tried, failed and learned from your failure, all on a prior employer's dime. This demonstrates innovation, willingness to [take] risks, [and] faster reaction and response time. It is also a learning experience, and failure teaches success."
Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker and author of the book "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring" (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), noted that it's important to draw on a variety of past experiences in both paid and unpaid positions.
"These transferable skills, acquired during any activity — volunteer positions, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports — can be applicable to one's next job," Myers said. "By adding transferable skills to a résumé, employers get a better understanding and broader picture of who they are hiring, as well as the interests, values and experiences that the candidate brings to the table."
Revamp your résumé
A plain, one- or two-page generic PDF with a boring font simply won't catch a hiring manager's attention. Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said a unique format, especially in the creative industry, will jump off the screen and pique an employer's interest.
"It's a highly competitive job market, and you have to clearly demonstrate how your unique skills and experience are relevant and beneficial to that particular employer," Haefner said. "We see more people using infographics, QR codes and visual résumés to package their information in new and interesting ways."
In terms of content, Moran reminded job seekers to tailor résumés to specific positions, and include keywords from the actual job posting. Your accomplishments and skills should match the requirements set in the job description.
Job seekers can't sit back and wait for someone to show up at their door, offering them a job. Putting yourself out there by networking, whether online or in person, will get you much closer to the job you want.
"Networking is key in today's competitive environment," Moran told Business News Daily. "Take the time to locate events that are attended by individuals in your ideal profession. Once there, present yourself in a professional manner, have talking points ready and know how to pitch yourself in a way that highlights your skills and accomplishments.
"Chances are, nobody but nobody is going to pick you out of a crowd and offer you your dream job, not even knowing what it is," added James McLauchlin, founder of the nonprofit Hero Initiative. "So, you have to jump up, pursue, ask, demand and make the first move yourself."
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks, Business News Daily senior writer.
Originally published Dec. 26, 2012. Updated Jan. 6, 2015.