The holiday season and new year presents a great opportunity for young job seekers, including recent and rising college graduates, to recalibrate and consider how to focus their energy on launching, accelerating, or pivoting their careers. Even in a “normal year,” December typically marks a time of slowing down in the workplace, and new job postings typically taper off during this season.

Early careerists can take advantage of this lull to create a solid foundation of disciplined approaches to immediately leverage as business picks up again in the fresh, new year. Whether you are working currently or job searching, we suggest focusing on the ABC’s of effective job seeking.

A: Assess Options & Adjust Approach

Invest time in considering what type of work will best suit your interests, cognitive styles, and behaviors. If you are not sure what you want to do, consider completing a career assessment with guidance from a trained professional. The outcomes of that work can present an array of options that you might not have previously considered. To find the best path for you, explore these options in terms of the careers’ characteristics, the skills needed to pursue those careers, and the workplace settings.

Assessments can also be of value to those already in the workforce – a career assessment might indicate that an adjustment or pivot makes the most long-term career sense. Adjustments may include addressing skill deficits, adding aspects to your current job, or seeking new but related challenges. A career assessment might also prompt more drastic steps like changing jobs or applying to graduate school.

It is important to be intentional in your job search – examining and assessing your career options and adjusting your search accordingly, is the first step to job search success.

B: Build Systems & Be Resilient

To be effective and efficient in your job search, it is important to be methodical and consistent. One way to do this is by building systems. If you are researching companies and industries for your job search, utilize financial research tools like Bloomberg or Morningstar, media outlets like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, and industry resources like professional associations or journals in order to develop a thorough, current, and well-rounded knowledge base. If you are applying to specific jobs, utilize LinkedIn to find those in similar positions so you can understand what credentials and/or certifications make candidates attractive. Develop a method to track companies you are not yet familiar with and create a system to record questions that arise as you research.

You should also build systems to deal with some of the mental challenges a job search presents. Rejection is a natural part of the job search process – this can take the form of an outright ‘no’ or a more frequent lack of response from an organization. However, while this rejection is normal, that doesn’t mean it isn’t deflating. Before you confront these challenging hurdles, create a plan to cope and be resilient.

One tip is to create a set of personal IF/THEN statements to incorporate specific actions, including physical movement and breaks. For example:

  • If I interview and get turned down, I will seek feedback and go for a bike ride to clear my head.

  • If I study job-boards for 2 hours, I will take a break, walk my dog, and call a friend.

  • If I don’t hear back from a company, I will try one more time to follow up and then acknowledge it is “done.”

C: Create Connections & Cultivate a Team

Networking is a vital part of the job search process; and approximately 70-80% of jobs are secured through a networking recommendation or referral. However, we find many of the young people we counsel are initially uncomfortable with this process. Networking should be approached methodically. Your first strategic step should be to map out a model for your connections – these are the people, who will help you learn about the profession and help keep new ideas and information flowing. Think high level first; identify groupings of people you might reach out to, conceptually. These groups may be broad – such as alumni of your high school or university – or more specific, like physics majors who later went on to a Ph.D. and work in the Defense Industry.

After you build these conceptual clusters, test them, and try to see if there are any “gaps”, or groups you should consider who aren’t accounted for by your map. Once you have a reliable map, you can translate this into small action steps. First, create a set of quality questions that you will have armed and ready as you forge the actual connections to build your network. Then, start to research individuals who meet your criterion using LinkedIn, your alumni databases, and/or asking family and friends if they know anyone with that profile.

To aid you in this process, and to keep you accountable, you may want to put together a job search “team”. This team might include peers who are also job searching, a mentor who is invested in your career development, a parent who can provide a sounding board, or a career coach who is working to help you build your candidacy. In any case, the goal of the team is not to do the work for you – you will need to put the time into sourcing, researching, and applying to jobs – but to provide accountability and advice throughout a process that is overwhelming and undefined. Having the right team in place can make all the difference to an aspiring career.

Preparing for a well-executed job search requires a career focus, structured plan, practice, discipline, and resilience. In closing, think broadly about making the best of 2021. The work described has a value far beyond a job search or career change. Your goal-setting work extends beyond career options. Use self-reflection to begin making personal plans for hobbies, volunteerism, and fitness goals. Your search for new and emerging information will extend far beyond the job search to come; you will build off this foundation throughout your career. Investing time crafting your approach to engaging with others is a substantial commitment to make with your future self.