Career Path

The New Year’s Job Resolution: What Almost Everyone Gets Wrong

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison on how to set your career plan for the new year.

It’s year-end and you’re taking a hard look at your career. You’re bored in your job. You hate your boss. Your coworkers are useless. And you don’t see any light at the end of this tunnel.

This is it! You’re finally going to go for that new job. In fact, you make it your No. 1 resolution. To get a jump start, you do a quick update of your resume and fire it off to a dozen or so online job postings. And you didn’t even have to get off the sofa.

Anyone with a decent education can get a job somewhere, but to find the right job is hard.

Wrong! If this is your plan, you’ll soon join the sad statistics that show, by the second week in February, nearly 80% of all New Year’s resolutions have been broken. The gym membership goes unused, that at-home exercise machine is draped with your laundry, and you’re still in your old job.

Getting the job you want fails to materialize because of one sad fact: you, like most people, have no idea how to go about it. Here’s what often goes wrong:

Getting the right job is tougher than you think. While almost anyone with a decent education can get a job somewhere, it’s hard to find the right job. You want a job that’s aligned with your sense of purpose—where what you do really matters. But almost everyone ignores this, paying little or no attention to the culture, the boss, and the coworkers.

Polishing your resume isn’t the answer. People think their resume accounts for 90% of getting a new job, when it’s only about 10%.

Sending resumes out blindly gets you nowhere. Of the 250 resumes that go out to every corporate job posting all year long, the initial screening typically eliminates 98% of job seekers, leaving only 2% who will even get an interview. And, by the way, over the holidays, even the “robo-response” is on vacation.

 Discouraging? Yes—but it’s better to know than not know. If you go at this blindly, you’ll begin to doubt yourself. You’ll take any job rather than languish in a position you don’t like anymore. Or you may quit before getting another job—and that’s the No. 1 mistake to avoid, because it’s far better to have a job to get a job.

To avoid this slippery slide to desperation, you need an action plan to get that job you really want in the new year. Here’s what goes right:

Lose the resume. Yes, you still need to have a resume, but don’t expect it to be more than a calling card, a conversation opener. What you need is a plan—a systematic approach broken down into different phases. Think of it as a marketing strategy in which you are the product—who you are and the unique contribution you bring to an employer.

Target your opportunities. Think about where you ideally want to work—what geography, industries, and companies. What firms do you admire for their purpose? What kind of culture fits you best? It’s shocking how little time and effort people put into targeting (it takes work to do the research—it’s much easier to just click and send resumes into oblivion). But the payoff will be a job in which you’re happy. When you’re happy, you’re motivated, and when you’re motivated, you perform.

Network, network, network. The best job-search strategy starts with your network. The holidays are a perfect time to reconnect with a former boss or colleagues over lunch or coffee. It’s so easy to send a “thinking of you” note to someone at this time of year. Of course, you should be growing and nurturing your network all year long, starting with what you do for others. You can’t take out what you haven’t put in. When you connect with others, find out more about what they’re doing. Get feedback about where and how they see you making a difference.

Land a job that doesn’t exist yet. As the new year rolls around and companies are reviewing strategies and their talent agenda, it’s a great time to seek out warm introductions to people at the companies that most interest you. Someone who knows someone who knows somebody who knows you can open a door to pursuing the job you really want—one aligned with your passion and purpose and where you can make a real contribution. The best scenario is landing a job that doesn’t exist yet. How does that happen? When a company wants to hire you so much, they’re willing to create a position for you. Believe me—it happens.

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