New Year, New Job!

A new year is a great time to assess where you are at professionally. Is it time for you to make a job change? Or a career change?

But it is easy to WANT a new job, yet find yourself suddenly realizing you are six months into the new year and no closer to that new job. We’re all guilty of procrastination, more often than we’d like to admit. There’s always tomorrow, we tell ourselves, so why not just steer clear of the stress and anxiety and just put it off until later.

Of course, the best cure for this inaction is action, and a good way to ensure action is to make taking action a party of your daily routine and habit. Things like brushing your teeth or making your bed are daily habits that you probably perform automatically without even thinking about them. Why not turn spending 30 minutes each day on your job search or career development a daily habit as well?

Procrastination is all about taking that first step. But it doesn’t have to be a big, overwhelming first step. That’s why it is a good idea to ease into it with the knowledge that after a certain amount of time, or once you’ve finished X, you can do that fun activity that you want.

It will also be easier if you break that ultimate goal (a new job) into chunks. You can’t control exactly when you will land a new job, but you can control your actions that will influence your ultimate achievement of the new job. That’s why this exercise rewards effort, not results. The results will come when you take the consistent action, day after day, in meeting your goal.

It has been said that a new habit can be formed from 21 days of consistent action. After that it becomes easier, but you still have to keep yourself motivated and inspired. This 21-day job search action planner is designed to make this easier for you. Choose from the actions below. Commit to doing at least one action per day for the next 21 days. If you have the time, you could do even more, but don’t overwhelm yourself. If you are having trouble motivating yourself, just commit to one per day.

For best results, enlist an accountability partner to help you complete the 21-day commitment. Ideally, it will be someone who is looking to make a job or career change too, so you can check in each day and keep each other accountable and on track.

At the end of each week when you are forming the new habit and making it a part of your routine, reward yourself for good performance. Enjoy a special outing or anything else that will encourage you to keep going!

Daily New Year, New Job Action Items

Here are some suggested daily actions, organized in categories, for you to choose from:

Where Are You Now?

  • Find the most recent version of your resume and/or cover letter and locate the most recent copy of your job description.
  • Google yourself. What comes up when you put your name in Google? Evaluate your social media presence.
  • Brainstorm a list of everything you need to add to your resume: recent work experience and accomplishments, education, training, certifications or licenses, etc.
  • Identify and review your most recent performance evaluation or annual review. What were you commended for?
  • Pull together information for your brag book — a copy of your college or university transcript and certificates/diplomas, work samples, copies of awards or honors, testimonials about your work from supervisors and/or customers, etc.
  • Review your social media profiles. Do they position you in the best light as a jobseeker? If not, scrub negative information. Delete any profiles you’re no longer using.

Where Are You Going?

  • Why do you want to make a change? Take 15 minutes and sit down and make a list of the things you do and do not like about your current job/career.
  • Instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up,” sit down and take a few minutes to ask yourself the question, “What problem(s) do I want to solve?”
  • Brainstorm what are the 10 most likely job titles for the position you want.
  • Research and identify three job postings for the type of position you’d like (even if these aren’t actually job postings you actually end up applying for).
  • Spend some time thinking about your dream job. Make a list of the types of things you’d be doing each day if you were working your dream job.
  • Think about what you would want your next job to do for you that your current job doesn’t. In other words, make a list of what will be different about your next job.
  • Assess whether you have the skills, experience, and/or qualifications necessary for the job or career you want to pursue.
  • Don’t just look for a job — look for a calling. Spend 15 minutes answering these three questions: What are you meant to do? How can you use your skills, education, and experience for maximum benefit? What kinds of problems could you solve for a company?

What Sets You Apart?

  • What value would you bring to your next employer? Can you help the company make money? Save money or save time? Make work easier, or solve a specific problem? Expand their business and attract or retain customers? Identify what you can do in each of these areas.
  • Outline five accomplishments using the C-A-R strategy. (What was the Challenge? What Actions did you take? What Results did you achieve?)
  • Make a list of new skills and education you’ve achieved. Have you attended any conferences? Achieved a certification? Also consider non-traditional education/training. Assemble a list of online courses, boot camps, and tutorials you’ve completed that are relevant to your job/career target.
  • Make a list of the honors and/or awards you’ve received.
  • Prepare yourself to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.
  • Write the story of your biggest professional accomplishment of the past year.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about gaps in your employment, skills you don’t have that are necessary for the job/career you want, and why you left a job. Take some time to think through how you’d answer questions about these issues.

What’s Your Plan?

  • Take a few minutes to organize your job search. Create a weekly list of activities you’ll engage in.
  • Identify the skills, training, and/or education you need for success in your next job or career. Research how to obtain one of these.
  • Take a skills test or skills interest inventory to assess your strengths and skills.
  • Research your target job salary.
  • Reach out to someone who works for the company you want to work for, or in the industry you want to work for. Ask them if they will meet you for lunch or dinner.
  • Think about how you got your last job. For example, were you networking at a professional association meeting? Is that something you can try again?
  • Identify the tools you will need for your job search. Make a list of things you need, or need to update, like your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • Find an accountability partner. Who can you work with to support you during your job search? Maybe it’s enlisting your spouse, or a friend. Or maybe it’s hiring a career coach. Line that person up.
  • Make a list of 10 companies you’d like to work for, whether or not they are actively advertising relevant openings right now.
  • Brainstorm a list of people to reach out to that can provide ideas, information, and leads for your job search. If you have a holiday card list, start there.

Let’s Do This!

  • Research one of the companies that you’re interested in. Look at their website. Do a Google search on them. Look at what current and former employees have to say about them on sites like Glassdoor.
  • Go through your network and contact anyone you know (or a friend-of-a-friend) who works for each of the companies you your target company list.
  • Reach out to one person in your network and let them know you are looking for a new opportunity.
  • Identify a hiring manager at one of your target companies, and see if you can find someone in your network who knows him or her and can make an introduction to that person.
  • Join a professional association and examine how you can get more involved.
  • Update your resume. Reach out to enlist the help of a Distinctive Career Services for professional resume writing or resume editing if needed.
  • Create (or update) your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are in alignment in terms of focus and content.
  • Brainstorm a list of 25 keywords that you should include on your resume to help it get through the applicant tracking system (ATS) software.
  • Research recruiters who work in your target industry and send 3-5 of them a LinkedIn connection request.
  • Apply for an advertised opening for a job you’re interested in.
  • Set up your personalized LinkedIn URL.
  • Review your list of LinkedIn Skills (and delete any Skills that aren’t relevant).
  • Update your LinkedIn profile photo.
  • Add your contact information to LinkedIn in the About section.
  • Connect with your references on LinkedIn (be sure to personalize your invitation).
  • Reconnect with someone on LinkedIn and invite them to meet up with you “offline” (in person).
  • Send LinkedIn connection requests to two former coworkers.
  • Follow one company on LinkedIn that you’d like to work for.
  • Spend 15 minutes reading and responding to other people’s status updates/posts in your LinkedIn News Feed.
  • Connect on LinkedIn with a recruiter who places candidates in your industry.
  • Send a LinkedIn message to an existing connection you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Use LinkedIn’s search function to find and connect with someone who went to your college/university that you didn’t know personally but who would be a good addition to your network.

At the end of the 21 days, review your progress. Do you have any leads on unadvertised openings? Any interviews or job offers yet? If not, don’t worry. Stick with your new routine and you will set yourself up for success to land a new job in the new year!

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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