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The holidays are behind us, and the party is over. It has been a few weeks since you returned to the same old job and the same old routines. Once again, you’re having thoughts of looking for a new job.

There is good reason why the start of a new year sends so many of us to the job boards. It’s the season of new beginnings and new resolutions. Many of us spent our holidays talking about our career ambitions and frustrations with friends and family members. We use the holidays to reflect, and that reflection often spurs us to start looking at the job market.

Preparation Is Half the Battle

Before you embark on this journey, you must understand you are up against a lot of competition. It’s January, which means there are many more job seekers out there searching for the same opportunities you are. It is important to accept that it’s not the most qualified person who gets hired, but the person who is qualified enough and in the right place at the right time.

You must also accept the fact that edgy fonts and fancy resume layouts are not enough to capture a recruiter’s attention. To stand our effectively, you must focus less on design and more on content, context, storytelling, and relevancy. You stand out by being the one who communicates better, the one who tells more clear, concise stories relevant to the employer’s pains and needs. Do this right, and you’ll get many more job interviews in much less time.

Always Use a Map

It is exciting to start your search or send out applications, but you have to be careful not to get ahead of yourself. Do you have a job search map yet?

A “job search map” is a document that lays out your plan to achieve your particular career goal. Let’s say your goal is to get hired as a software engineer. You could begin to draw your job search map by making a list of 20 companies you want to target. Document everything you learn about each company as you perform your market research. Make a list of all the available positions at each company that suit you. Identify what it will take to secure an interview at each company.

A job search map is critical. Without it, you can’t be sure whether or not you’re moving in the right direction! There’s no point in landing a good job at a bad company. You’ll only lead yourself astray. Ten years later, you’ll find yourself totally off your desired career track.

The more control you have over your job search journey, the better you’ll feel and the better your job search results will be. A job search map allows you to plan out your steps and see potential obstacles before they arise. You can better prepare for unforeseen circumstances like losing a job offer or receiving a disappointing salary package.

To stand out from other job seekers, you have to do something different. You have to do what others aren’t doing, so that you can have what they aren’t getting. To grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, share your job search map with them. Show employers what you have done to get to them, what experiences you’ve had and goals you’ve accomplished. Share your career story in a wholly positive and exciting way.

Get comfortable asking leaders and experts in your field for advice. Connect with them on LinkedIn, start conversations, and share your aspirations with decision-makers at the companies you admire.

Stop Filling Out Applications

We already know that sending out resumes through online job applications doesn’t result in quick job interviews. This is especially true during a month like January, when many companies are experiencing large application volumes.

If you want to get hired fast, you have to be willing to break a few rules.

Skip the online applications and send your resume directly to the hiring manager. Give them a call or start the conversation on LinkedIn. Of course, you have to give them a reason to speak with you, which is why you should lead with the tangible results you can provide as an employee. You can’t just throw your resume at someone and expect them to call you. No, you must put in the extra effort and strive to start real, meaningful conversations. Those who do this well are those who get invited to interview.

To stand out from all the other January job seekers, you have to do something different. Start by building a detailed map of where you want to work and why, plus what you want to do for each company and how you will do it. Take your map with you wherever you go, and share it with leaders and decision-makers to get their advice on improving it.

Don’t rely on your resume to capture attention. Instead, make human-to-human connections on LinkedIn with people you admire and genuinely want to help. Give recruiters and hiring managers a reason to talk to you, and you’ll have those interview invites in no time.

Nader Mowlaee is an engineering career coach and recruiter who is motivated by building confidence in engineers.

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