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New Year, New You, New Job!

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This is the time of year for making New Year's resolutions. And if you're a savvy job-seeker, it's also the time for landing a new position. In the same manner we'll be marking the onset of 2012 with our personal to-do lists, organizations will be starting new projects, putting annual budgets in place, and creating initiatives for the upcoming year. More than likely they'll also need to bring on additional employees to carry out their plans.

There is, therefore, a seasonal aspect to employment. January and February generally represent the strongest hiring period of the year. That means you'll want to consider how you can use the opportunities this time of year presents to your best advantage. How can you connect with decision-makers and key members within your targeted companies? How can you spread the word about the skills, talents, and background you would bring to the organization? How can you position yourself to be one of those selected to be called in for an interview? The answer is simple and straightforward. Yet it is one many job-seekers avoid.

Networking is the #1 means of reaching power players -- those who can influence hiring managers by giving you the all-important nod of approval. But people looking for work often shy away from reaching out to others because they don't want to bother them, feel like such connections might be perceived as an imposition, or they tend to be introverted and find these types of contacts difficult. If you relate to any these sentiments, it's time to bite the bullet. There's just no way around it. People get people jobs... and that means networking!

Hiring studies show that, in general, about 75 percent of positions are filled by way of informal referral -- i.e., networking. We'll be covering the reasons this is true in subsequent posts. But, for now, just realize that connecting with others is your most direct route to a new position. Making this statement even more meaningful, the 75 percent figure increases substantially the tighter the job market and the older you are. In other words, age and limited opportunities combine to make your personal connections even more critical to your success.

So the next time you decide to sit down in front of the computer and spend the majority of your job search efforts responding to postings consider this: somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of jobs are obtained through online postings. By limiting yourself to replying to advertised positions you'll be competing on your resume alone. And, even if you do get called in for an interview, the candidate who comes with recommendations (obtained through mutual contacts by way of networking) will almost always have the upper hand. Given these realities, how should you plan to spend your time?

Success in the current job market requires that you learn the rules of the game today and broaden your circle of contacts. That way, you will have plenty of opportunities in the pipeline at all times. You'll also need the tools to present yourself with confidence by speaking to your strengths in ways that distinguish you and your added value from the competition.

By using the most effective means to navigate the current job market, you'll be well on your way to taking advantage of this special time of year. With your know-how, skills, and connections (as well as a little luck) in place, you'll likely be kicking off 2012 with that brand new job. And what better way could any job-seeker celebrate the New Year?

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide packed with tools to turn age into an advantage--providing mature applicants with techniques to successfully navigate the modern job market as well as strategies that give them the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!