Thinking of looking for a job in 2015?
Well, I’ve got some good news for you. For the first time in a long time, you just might have the upper hand.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just announced that 2014 was the best year for hiring since 1999 and that the unemployment rate fell from 5.8 percent to 5.6 percent (employers added 252,000 jobs in December). Better still, 36 percent of employers plan to increase their full-time staff in 2015, according to a CareerBuilder survey.
Wages are on the upswing, too. Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist for The Economic Outlook Group, told USA TODAY that he forecasts average annual wage growth rising to perhaps 3 percent by midyear (compared to 2.4 percent last year).
Of course, just because firms, nonprofits and government agencies are hiring doesn’t mean the job search has gotten any easier or that you have any more time to look for work. So to help you take advantage of the improving job market in your limited spare time, here are six ways to improve your search with just a few hours of work:
1. Update your resumé. Yeah, I know — that doesn’t sound quick and easy. But I’m not talking about a total rewrite. I just want you to make sure your resumé is current (you can always do a more extensive revision later, if needed).
So, doublecheck to ensure that all your contact info (phone, e-mail, etc.) is up-to-date. Speaking of looking current, if you’re over 50, consider making these changes so as not to appear old school: Ditch your snailmail address (no longer needed), swap out your AOL or Yahoo email address for a Gmail account (you can get one for free at Google.com) and add links to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, online portfolio or other relevant sites where employers can learn more about you.
Also, weave in any key accomplishments, promotions and skills you gained in 2014. Whenever possible, quantify the value of your efforts. For example: “Increased customer retention by 20 percent over prior years.” Don’t forget to also include any relevant volunteer activity in 2014, especially if you held impressive leadership roles.
And purge “old” information to make room for what’s new. What to omit? Outdated tech skills and work history descriptions that aren't key for your intended job target. In most cases, you’ll want to keep your resumé to no more than two pages; generally, try to focus on your jobs in the last 10 years or so.
(MORE: How to Botox Your Resume to Land a Job)
2. Refresh your LinkedIn profile. In today’s job market, your LinkedIn profile is as important, or arguably even more important, than your resumé. In a recent Jobvite survey, 79 percent of recruiters said they found candidates through LinkedIn. That means keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date is more important then ever. (Just be sure to adjust your settings so people don’t get updates every time you make a change — uncheck the box in your activity broadcast setting, accessible from the Privacy & Settings page.)
Update your LinkedIn headline to reflect your 2015 job goals. In other words, think about the types of jobs you want and employers you want to attract, and then reword your headline so recruiters will be more likely to find you.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile with industry-appropriate keywords. A profile filled with the right keywords — industry buzzwords, in-demand skills and critical credentials — can help you get found for a job even when you aren’t looking. To find relevant keywords, scan job listings and your colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles.
Also, join a few new professional groups on LinkedIn. Ideally, you’ll find time to become an active participant in these groups — it’s a smart way to connect to people and attract the attention of recruiters who surf these groups for hot prospects. But even if you end up just being an occasional participant, having the groups listed on your LinkedIn profile will help reinforce your professional brand.
(MORE: Top 5 LinkedIn Mistakes That Make You Look Bad)
3. Set-up Google alerts for a target list of three to five employers where you’d like to work. This way, you’ll be on top of breaking news, job postings and business opportunities long before your competition without having to devote hours to research. And if you get called in for an interview, the knowledge you’ve gained about a prospective employer’s challenges and strategic plans will help you come across as a highly effective candidate.
(MORE: 6 Ways Google Alerts Can Help You Land a Job)
4. Add two or three job-search apps onto your smartphone. These days, the sooner you respond to a job posting, the better your chances of getting hired. Mobile job-search apps can cut your response time drastically. So download a few from job-posting aggregator sites such as Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com. Then, when you’ve got time to kill, you can easily use your phone for something more productive than reading the latest Facebook gossip.
The Next Avenue blog post I wrote, “8 Great Apps to Help You Land a Job” can help you find the right apps for your search.
5. Create a list of at least three people you think could help your job-search efforts in 2015. We all know that networking is the best way to find new jobs, but real networking is about long-term relationship building, not quick transactional exchanges. It is far more powerful to have a few strong supporters in your network (who’ll go to bat for you when there’s an opening where they work), than many lukewarm connections.
As you're coming up with a shortlist of people who could accelerate your job search, think about ones at employers where you might like to work, leaders in your target industries or former colleagues you haven’t kept in touch with. Just remember: Networking works best when you approach it with the attitude of helping others before you expect help.
Once you’ve identified your target list, send those people useful articles, offer to connect them to your other contacts and share their content on social media. These gestures will help you build meaningful business relationships, which should lead to referrals for job opportunities.
6. Sign up to automatically receive job-search tips via an email newsletter or social media. These technologies are painless ways to get nuggets of useful information in an easily digestible format. They take less than five minutes a day to read and you’ll quickly build up a useful storehouse of tips, tricks and strategies to enhance your search efforts.
There are lots of email newsletters to choose from, but my favorite morning reads are SmartBrief on Your Career, and, of course (shameless plug), the latest job stories featured in the Next Avenue email newsletter.