Don’t wait until January to search for jobs! Get ahead of the game — and ahead of the flood of 2017 new year job applications — with a solid job search plan. It’s important to be well-prepared so that you have enough time to research positions and companies, craft solid cover letters and resumes, and take any additional steps necessary to land an interview. During holiday downtime, you’ll have plenty of time to perfect your job search plan for the upcoming new year.

Define your goals and expectations.

First, figure out what type of job you want. Are you looking to switch to a different position, or to a different industry? Then determine a rough timeline for your job search, the application process, and when you’re specifically looking to start a new position. Once you know what you want, you can begin to research companies and positions.

Decide which job listings best meet your needs.

Different job boards tend to serve different industries. If you’re looking for a creative position, check out the job listings on your local Craigslist site or on Mediabistro. If you’re looking for a position in business or finance, CareerBuilder might offer you more options. Figure out which job sites work for you — and stick to them — so that you feel less overwhelmed about the job hunt.

Gather measurable data from your work experience.

Did you increase your company’s social media presence by a certain percentage, or help your company land a new client? The job planning stage is a great time to organize this information into specific details (think dollar amounts and percentages) so that you have ready information to cite when you need it for a resume — or an interview.

Optimize your resume and social profiles.

It’s time to polish and optimize your resume, LinkedIn profiles, and any appropriate social media profiles. Consult a professional for resume tips (like using resume keywords) and additional job search advice if necessary. You can also use a service like Jobscan to see how well your resume matches the positions you’re applying for.

Get your references and supplemental materials in order.

Generally, you should ask colleagues and supervisors for any references a month before you plan to send out applications. However, don’t let a three-week time span keep you from asking for a reference — it never hurts to ask. In addition to references, make sure to get any supplemental application materials, such as writing samples, together. This may include organizing published pieces or responding to an application-specific topical assignment.

Plan your interview attire.

It’s crucial to have an appropriate interview outfit for the position you’re applying for. Take the company’s dress code into consideration. Will you be required to wear a suit every day, or will slacks and a sweater be appropriate attire? Don’t wait until you schedule an interview to shop for an interview outfit. Avoid any potential stress by planning ahead.

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James Hu

James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan, a web tool that helps job seekers land interviews by optimizing resume keywords.

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