Five New Year’s resolutions for job seekers

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at

If you’re in the middle of a job search as you round the corner of the New Year, consider including some of the following resolutions to your list:

1. I will have confidence in myself.
Your odds are better in finding a job if you keep faith in yourself. If you’re out of work—or your job isn’t working for you—and your self-esteem is beginning to suffer, please take action.

  • Exercise positive self-talk. When you hear your inner critic pipe up, just walk away.
  • If winter is getting you down, seek treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (or Winter Depression). For example, use full-spectrum lighting at your breakfast table every morning; exercise; and stay in touch with friends (see below).

    From Flickr user Andy Wright

2. I will engage with my community.

  • Stay social. Spend time with friends and family, and find local job seekers to commiserate with. If you’ve been out of work, you may have lost touch with colleagues or cut down on your outings to save money. As social creatures, even the introverts among us need relationships to keep from going nuts. Not to mention you may hear about job openings this way!
  • Volunteer! Challenging yourself and devoting your time to causes you care about will remind you that you have a lot to offer an employer, while you’re doing good for your neighbors.

3. I will build my skills and knowledge.
Spend this time exploring topics you’re curious about, getting to know yourself better, and gaining new skills.

  • Educate yourself. Take classes—ask for scholarships if you’re on a tight budget—or consider returning to school for a degree.
  • Apprentice or intern with people whose skills you covet.
  • Read! Find a cozy nook in the library or local book store and luxuriate in picking up books on a range of subjects. Who cares if you finish any of them. Pay attention to what topics get your heart racing.
  • Assess your career interests. Maybe you’ve always known you wanted to be a teacher. But have you thought about teaching outside K-12 schools? Use this time to dig deeper and discover new career directions you would be happy to go in.

4. I will find some joy in networking.
Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t smarmy! It’s a form of community service you can engage in for the rest of your life, regardless of your career choice.

  • During your job search, turn the networking transaction around — consider what connections you can make for your friends and professional contacts; email them when you see job leads, partnership potential, or news items that relate to their work.
  • When you’re informational interviewing, lighten up, be yourself, remember to connect on a personal level (listen to your interviewee’s cues — pets, kids, alma mater — and chime in with examples from your life!).
  • If you have young kids at home, consider a daily babysitting swap with other full-time parents — it’ll bring you closer to other families while giving you “me” time to engage in career-forward activities.

5. I will tailor my resume to each position I apply for.

  • Your resume should be a direct response to a position description, detailing your experiences and qualifications as they relate to those listed on the job description. In fact, each bullet point on your resume should respond to a bullet point on the position description (use the same language if you want).
  • If you recently printed 50 identical copies of your resume on special paper, recycle or reuse ‘em for something else. No employer should ever see a generic resume from you.
  • Let go of the idea that you’ve got to apply for 100 jobs per week or 20 jobs per day. Spend more time researching and preparing to apply for fewer openings – jobs you are uniquely qualified for, that you’re honestly excited about. Your giddy feelings will make you a more attractive job candidate.
  • Keep a full 7-page resume on your computer at home, then copy and paste specific details to create each new resume to submit with an application.

From Flickr user Frerieke

2011 will most likely bring you employment — or, if you decide, an alternative like school or travel. As January dawns on your job search, keep your eye on that prize, keep your chin up, and know that when your passion is to make the world a better place, the world will find a way to accommodate you.

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