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It's the best time of year to land a new job — how to capitalize in 2020

Career coaches talk to Know Your Value about why January is the most opportune time to look for jobs ⁠— and mistakes to avoid in 2020.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.Miller Hawkins

If you spent the latter part of 2019 looking for a job to no avail, you may be in luck. January is the time when most companies are working with full budgets and a fresh perspective on their goals for the year. A new budget can also mean new projects and initiatives that companies must staff in the coming year.

Know Your Value recently spoke with career coaches Rebecca Fraser-Thill, Maggie Mistal and Cicely Brathwaite. They explained why now is the time to take action, and how you can make your 2020 job goals a reality.

Why January?

The holidays are stressful for everyone. Employers are busy with family and holiday events, tying up the year’s loose ends, taking care of employee reviews and more. When the new year starts, however, it’s all systems go.

“January is a good month to look for jobs … There's a resurgence and a refocus on getting things done when people return to work in January,” said Mistal.

Not only is it a time for a reset, Brathwaite said she’s “found that there is excitement about the possibilities ahead for hiring managers and job seekers alike.” This newfound excitement should be used to the job-seeker’s advantage — meaning it’s a great time to tap into your personal and professional networks.”

“I've noticed networking to be easier in January than any other month of the year,” added Fraser-Thill. “People are highly responsive to requests for informational interviews during January. I believe it’s because they've made New Year’s resolutions with themselves to be their best selves — including being helpful and giving.”

Start applying, but be strategic.

To make sure you’re using this month to your advantage, make sure you’re clear about what kind of job you’re looking for.

“Take an accurate assessment of your skills and how they match the positions that you have your eyes on so that you are applying strategically,” said Brathwaite. “When you see a job on LinkedIn or another site, before applying, get clear on what you have to offer and tailor your resume and cover letter.”

If you’ve been considering a career change, January is the time to consider what kinds of responsibilities you want the new roles that you hope to take on. Mistal encouraged her clients to evaluate their existing skills so that they have a realistic idea of their qualifications. A good way to find out what a new role requires is to request informational interviews.

“Through research steps like informational interviews or job shadowing, you can gather information and test out a new career to make sure it matches the elements of your ideal career,” said Mistal. “Having this kind of insight builds confidence that your career change is the right move.”

How to stand out in a sea of applicants.

Because January is such an opportune time to consider a new job or career change, it’s likely that you’ll be up against quite a few other qualified applicants. Mistal encouraged her clients to focus on what makes them unique as a person — and to be clear that they’ve been thoughtful about choosing positions for which they’d be a fit.

“I've found that personal development retreats, sabbaticals and travel make a person stand out when applying for jobs,” said Mistal. “Having some structure or objective to your travels enables them to be a better boost for your resume and interview conversations.”

This could mean attending a retreat — or it could be as simple as arranging meetings (on the phone is fine) with professionals abroad to find out more about their careers. Regardless, it shows genuine interest in the field and creates a big conversation starter when meeting potential employers.

Brathwaite also suggested looking for job postings that advertise immediate needs. “For example, the upcoming 2020 elections mean that the political world needs talent particularly in entry to mid-level roles,” said Brathwaite. Make sure your resume and cover letter are prepped so that you’re ready to jump on these opportunities.

Finally, make sure you’re letting those that you’re closest to know that you’re looking for a job. While it may not be an immediate consideration, they could have a connection to the perfect opening.