There are few ways I could better imagine starting 2018 than with a new job the second week in January. Fortunately, that's exactly how my year started out.
On Jan. 8, I started working at a B2B tech startup in Queens with all the things I could ever ask for: a big salary bump, new responsibilities and a better commute. Another bonus? My new CEO is an observant Jew. No more need to explain obscure holidays nobody has ever heard of on the Jewish calendar to my supervisors. My typically awkward requests are already baked into the company DNA.
My search started Oct. 30 with the logic being that if I was going to make a run at a new job before the first of the year, I'd need to land something before Thanksgiving; I thought my odds would decrease during the holidays.
Turned out I was wrong. In seven short weeks, I had three job offers. Not only that, my opportunities actually grew rather than shrunk after Thanksgiving. I guess you could say I made good on my New Year's resolution early.
If your 2018 resolutions also include a new job, here's what I learned that could help make your resume more desirable than your JSwipe profile.
Figure out your niche
By all accounts, unemployment is the lowest it's been in over a decade, meaning it's a job-hunter's market. If you do one thing really well, the odds are there aren't too many people who also match that skill.
For instance, because my niche is business-to-business digital marketing, I only applied for jobs in that field. As someone who's been on the job hunt multiple times, I was surprised by how easy it was for me to get interviews. In fact, one of the jobs I received an offer from over a month ago has still yet to fill that opening.
If you're spraying and praying in hopes of finding a new opportunity, you likely aren't going to have the same demand as someone who carved out their own niche. Having focus pays off.
Learn a desired software or skill
Regardless of the field you're in, there's likely some piece of software that is daunting for the average person to learn. Chances are your future manager has no patience to learn it either.
By specializing in a specific skill or software, you can make yourself much more marketable as you substantially narrow the pool of competition. For one of my friends, that meant becoming a Salesforce expert. For me, that skill was HubSpot.
The ability to program workflows, configure the software with Salesforce and create dynamic contact lists to create better marketing segments put me head and shoulders above everyone else I competed with for the jobs I applied for.
If you don't have a highly technical skill, it's never been easier to learn something on your own. On the higher end, there are boot camps for skills like coding and product management and many software programs have free online tutorials and some sort of assessment that looks good on a resume. With a little bit of knowledge, you'd be surprised by how easy it is to stand out from the pack.
Tell your career story in an engaging way
In all my job interviews, I've realized that 70 percent of all questions are the same, and one of them is almost certain to be the interviewer asking for a summary of your career.
Try to memorize a 30- to 90-second story that sums up your entire career, tying it together by showing a natural progression of your skills and capabilities. Sometimes, careers don't line up nice and neat. That's okay -- just explain what those outliers are and why you went that direction.
For instance, as someone who's worked mostly in B2B, I knew that working at Angel's Envy (a bourbon company) would look a little strange on my resume. I always get ahead of that question by saying I love whiskey and the job looked too good to pass up, but I quickly realized that the spirits industry wasn't for me.
My intent was to sound more focused on getting a job in B2B marketing and adequately alleviate any concerns my interviewers had about why I was only there eight months.
Attack the gap
There are going to be questions you're asked that you can't speak to, either because you lack the experience or just don't have the comfort level to speak fluently about it. Rather than going on the defensive and making yourself sound unqualified for the job, go on the offensive and explain why the experience you do have is more relevant.
For example, since I was interviewing for digital marketing positions, I knew I'd get asked about pay-per-click advertising, in which I had limited experience. Rather than dwelling on that fact, I turned it around and talked about how I felt my experience in paid social was actually more effective and why it would be better for the job.
I believe this was a big reason why I had success with my interviews. As someone who has not only been hired but also hired others in the past year, it's almost impossible to find someone who dots every "i" and crosses every "t" from a skills perspective. As long as the skills gap isn't glaring, it shouldn't be detrimental to your job search.
If you're even considering a new job in 2018, now is the time to look. With an insanely low unemployment rate and a seemingly infinite number of job openings, it could be the year you get a big pay raise.