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With the new year approaching, it can be a great time to assess where you are in life. Maybe this is the time to make a resolution you can keep. One of the most common frustrations in America is being unhappy at work. If you consider carefully and decide it is time to start looking for a new job, use the enthusiasm of the new year to help you find a better position for yourself. By following these steps you can ensure your job search resolution will be in high gear by Jan. 1.

Create a Plan & Prepare Your Tools

The first step is to define goals so you can create a specific plan with the steps to achieve them. So whether you want a new job within your company or to switch careers altogether, start figuring out what your ideal work situation will look like in 2015. Start to carve out a few hours every day that you will dedicate to the job search, whether this is spent searching for jobs, scheduling meetings and interviews or updating your resume.

About that resume — have someone else (or several people) proofread it for you so it has no errors and consider some unique ways to make your resume stand out. It’s important to get it updated both in hard copy and online (LinkedIn). Work on adding more connections and putting your best virtual foot forward. When the time comes, be sure you take great care with your cover letter, making it personal for every potential opportunity. Clearly point out your qualifications and reasons for wanting the job in three to four short paragraphs.

Resumes aren’t the only documents you should review. Some employers check an applicant’s credit as part of the hiring process, so be sure to take a look at your free annual credit reports and dispute any inaccuracies.

Develop a Target List & See What’s Out There

Consider the industries, companies and roles that would fit you as well as narrowing the geographic target area. Start your list, and then expand with research. Prioritize your list based on where you have contacts or connections. You are now ready to hit the job posts, looking at as many relevant jobs as possible that match your skills, interests and experience. If the right paid position isn’t out there for you, consider volunteering your way to a new job. In this tight market, consider the opportunity to acquire necessary skills and make contacts in the field with a temporary and/or unpaid position.

Network & Create a Lasting Impression

No matter how well you can construct an email or fill out an application, networking can be helpful in connecting you to an industry and finding job opportunities. Participate in networking events, keep in touch with previous employers and classmates, and attend informational meetings.

Take control in marketing yourself and standing out from the competition. Challenge yourself to make at least three new contacts or connections each week online, at events or through existing contacts and personal meetings. Once you have obtained an interview, prepare well by researching the company, putting together a list of questions and having answers ready for potential questions that display how you would help the company. Hiring managers and interviewers remember a handwritten thank you note, so be sure you send one promptly.

Even if you aren’t in your new office early in the new year, don’t lose hope. Finding the right job for you might not happen as quickly as you would like, but by preparing now you can be on your way before you even officially make your resolution.

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