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How to advance your career in 2021

By: Hays recruitment expert on Dec 9th, 2020

If you are looking to advance your career in the 2021 job market, it will require a determined effort to stand out and a willingness to disrupt your pre-COVID-19 job searching approach.

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has – and will continue to have – a hugely disruptive effect on everything to do with the world of work. Our working approach has changed and we’re prioritizing differently than this time last year. Is it any wonder then that you need to approach your job search differently too?

After all, what worked well when job searching in the past now requires some adjustment. Those who can embrace the new trend to willfully disrupt their traditional approach to job seeking will be the ones who stand out, land their next job and advance their career.

Here are our top tips to help you advance your career in 2021: 

Be proactive

Mindset is playing a huge part in a jobseeker’s ability to secure a new role right now. We’ve spoken to a significant number of candidates who think that because of COVID-19, they won’t be able to get a job. So instead of quitting before you even start your next job search, think more positively and understand that when markets change, you must pitch yourself at the right point. 

Build relationships

This begins with being proactive in your job search. Rather than sending your resume and hoping for the best, reach out to the relevant employer and follow up every application. Relationship building is more important than ever to cut through and shine, so make a genuine effort to engage the recruiter or hiring manager when you follow up to ensure you are at the front of their mind. Don’t forget to also ask that all important question, “If you don’t think this role is right for me, what other roles might be suitable?” 

Avoid the scatter gun approach

Don’t use the same resume in every application. Every employer is different and therefore naturally values different skills and competencies. Take the time to research an organization to understand their values and what they want, then tailor your application to engage them. Yes, personalizing your resume for each application may seem like a lot of effort, but if you really want a particular job, you need to invest an hour or two to customize your resume for that role.

You may also think that you don’t have enough time to personalize each application because there are a lot of jobs you want to apply for. If this describes you, it’s time to be honest. Yes you could apply for them all, but you won’t be applying for any of them very well. So, think objectively about your strengths and skills and identify the roles that suit you best. Then spend time personalizing your resume for each one. 

Be brave

To advance your career in 2021, you may need to consider previously unchartered waters. Look at the industries where vacancy activity is highest, even if you haven’t previously worked in them before. For instance IT, healthcare, logistics, infrastructure and professional services have strong job opportunities on offer, so be brave and consider searching outside your typical parameters. For more advice, check out our blog on how to change jobs during a crisis.

Sell yourself

The ability to sell yourself doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But today, if you want to stand out, it’s essential. So, identify and understand your unique selling points and how your key strengths can add value in the job you’re applying or interviewing for. Remember to share concrete evidence of your achievements for each selling point. Practice articulating your pitch to family, friends or trusted colleagues.

In addition, be aware of the first impression you make in an interview. Those candidates who dress professionally for a virtual interview, such as by wearing a suit rather than casual attire, do help to sell themselves. 

Show you used 2020 as a year to grow

A recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t need to know all the details of how your career plans for 2020 went astray. Unfortunately, many people experienced a similar situation. Instead, spend the crucial time you have with a hiring manager or recruiter sharing what you learnt from your experiences during the past year and how you developed and upskilled yourself. For example, did you join an association, volunteer at a local charity, complete one or more short courses or listen to relevant podcasts or TED talks? For those who found themselves unemployed in 2020, showing how you used the time productively to upskill demonstrates an impressive commitment to your field. 

Prove your adaptability

If there’s one soft skill that will top all in 2021, it’ll be adaptability. This is a critical skill given how much change is occurring both within organizations and the wider world of work. So, in your resume and an interview, share examples that demonstrate your adaptability, such as how you were able to continue to add value to your employer and how this makes you a stronger candidate today. 

Don’t let the conversation end with the rejection letter

Persistence is an important trait when job hunting today and one that should not end when you find out your application was unsuccessful. Call or email the hiring manager to ask why your application was rejected and if they can suggest any areas to improve to aid your continuing job search. You may not receive a reply, and you may not receive helpful feedback, but it only takes one hiring manager to give you the constructive advice you need to help you succeed next time. 

Use social media to show genuine interest in your field

Cleaning up your digital footprint may seem like job seeking 101, yet we continue to see countless candidates who fail to review their social media profiles before applying for a job. Those memes you think are funny or the scathing product reviews you posted may not present you in a professional light, so Google yourself and remove anything that doesn’t align with the professional reputation you wish to present. 

Then update your LinkedIn profile, follow industries and organizations of interest, keep up to date with your specific market and post on LinkedIn. Such demonstrated interest in the market will aid your application. 

Articulate how you are most productive

2020 marked a turning point in the way people work, with the acceptance of flexible working catapulted years ahead. With more employers, when relevant, using a hybrid working model, you need to be able to express the steps you’ve taken to ensure you remain productive in both a central office and remote model. Share any changes you made to adapt your working style to remain productive in both settings. 

Remember to search our available jobs or explore our career advice hub for more practical tips. Good luck!

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