1. Think about the skills you will need to achieve your future career goals: If you are to move closer to reaching your professional goals, it is crucial to subjectively take stock of your current skill set. Make concrete plans to plug any gaps you may have. The start of a new year is a great time to do this.

It is vital to appreciate the difference between skills and competencies, the former being specific learned abilities, and the latter being knowledge and behaviour that contribute to your success in a job. By understanding the differences between the two, you’ll gain a better awareness of which areas you need to focus on to reach your career goals.
Besides, it is important to understand that at different stages of your career, there will be different skills that you’ll need to focus on. In your early career, for instance, you should be mainly focused on building technical skills and expertise. As your career progresses, however, you are likely to become less involved in specific day-to-day tasks and will proceed to participate more deeply in projects in different areas of the business. That’ll necessitate you to work on project/niche skills. 
So, as we enter a new year, use this time of reflection to consider where your skills gaps are, and then make a commitment to yourself to continuously upskill – making learning a lifelong habit for you going forward. Do everything you can to develop a growth mindset and think about finding a career mentor. Remember that a commitment to lifelong learning doesn’t just enhance your CV and LinkedIn profile – it is also something you can showcase in a job interview. This will only strengthen your appeal to hiring managers and recruiters.
2. Focus on self-awareness to improve the way you’re perceived: Interestingly, a study of senior executives, by Cornell University, found that self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills consistently delivered better financial performance. But what exactly does being ‘self-aware’ mean in the world of work?
If you are self-aware, you understand yourself better than anyone else on the planet does. You know your strengths and weaknesses, but also accept that you’re only human. Crucially, you understand how other people perceive you.

A good starting point in establishing greater self-awareness is asking yourself what three words you want people to most associate you with. This will help you to start getting a sense of what your values are – and once you are clear about this, you will be able to improve the way you’re perceived by potential employers, while still being your authentic self. Developing a greater sense of self-awareness can only ever be a good thing when striving to reach our career goals.

Acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses can also help you to identify the right job opportunities – rather than spending time on a job application that isn’t right for you.
3. Be clear in your mind about your unique selling proposition (USP): It’s also important to start thinking about what your USP is. While you’ve almost certainly heard of USPs, you’ve probably only ever associated them with the marketing of products or services, rather than people. Nonetheless, many of the principles of USPs can also apply to jobseekers. To determine your USP, answer the following questions: 
  • Why should an employer hire you over any other candidate? 
  • What is it that you can bring to the table that other candidates can’t? 
  • What unique skills or experiences do you have that could add real value? 
  • Do you consider yourself to be particularly creative or innovative? 
  • What salary and benefits package are you looking for?
  • What kind of role would represent a sensible step towards your long-term career goals?
  • What technical and soft skills are you looking to develop?
  • What kind of culture and work environment would you like to join?
  • What might your ‘deal-breakers’ be?
  • What are you prepared to be flexible about?
With a backdrop of increasing automation, human skills such as creativity are set to become increasingly important to employers in the decade ahead. So, keep this in mind as you embark on your job search in 2020.
Also, it’s important to think about any specific examples you can cite which clearly evidence your USPs to both recruiters and hiring managers. Perhaps your innovative thinking and new ideas led to new processes being rolled out, and thus time and money saved? Or probably your strong communication skills and compassionate leadership style improved your employer’s retention of high performers? Take some time to reflect on what tangible impact your unique skills have had on the teams and businesses you’ve worked for. Thinking about this ahead of time will help you tell your career story in a succinct, compelling, and undisputable way – which will really help you stand out from the competition.
If you can define your USPs before you start your job search, you’ll be able to clearly (and with more impact) communicate what sets you apart from others throughout each stage of the process.
4. Consider what you’re looking for in a new role and new employer: Next, put some real thought into what it is you’re looking for in a new opportunity. The more comprehensive your understanding is of precisely what you are seeking in a new job and employer, the better you will be able to target your job search so that you can be sure of only exploring the most relevant opportunities. To this end, before starting your job search and to help clarify your thoughts, ask yourself these questions:
5. Be prepared to be brave and take some risks: Contrary to the widespread perception that the best way to build a career is always to choose the most apparent and incremental steps, taking a few calculated professional risks could actually go a long way to making yourself more employable in 2020 and beyond. As Hays Spain Managing Director, Chris Dottie, has previously explained – having taken a career risk himself that turned out well – sometimes, a ‘risky’ decision can also end up being the right one.
Just imagine how much you could expand your experience and skillset, for example, if you were to switch to a different industry or move to an organisation that is significantly larger or smaller than your current employer. But of course, it’s also important not to take a gamble just for the sake of it; the wisdom of taking a particular risk will differ in each case, in light of your own particular priorities, circumstances, and ambitions. So, you should always do your research, carefully consider precisely what opportunities a specific career move could bring you, and ensure that whatever decision you do make is well-reasoned.
6. Keep positive and stay motivated when searching for a new job: A bright outlook and positive attitude will significantly aid in improving how recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers perceive you – thereby potentially bringing you one step closer to that much-desired job offer.
Crucially, a positive frame of mind isn’t just right for your own wellbeing – it also demonstrates to a prospective employer that you can deal with unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances constructively. This is a skill in and of itself – remember, after all, that employers wish to recruit people who can perform strongly on the job, including by facing down and overcoming unexpected challenges and thriving and developing under pressure.
Whatever you aspire to achieve in your career in 2020, the steps above will help improve your employability, and ultimately ensure your professional dreams become a reality this year.

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For any career that you choose, Communication is among the most commonly listed employability skills and is in demand across most industries, disciplines, and professions. Keeping the need for this core employability skill in mind, PHI has come up with a series on Communication Skills that helps you to develop the skill to communicate with diverse individuals and organizations across regions, countries, and time-zones.
Browse our Communication titles here: Communication Series

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