As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the economy, millions of Americans are starting the year off unemployed and in search of new job opportunities.
When looking at weekly jobless claims for the week ending Jan. 2, 787,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time, a number that is four times that of the pre-pandemic average. In total, roughly 19.2 million Americans are receiving unemployment compensation today.
Though the growing number of job losses may cause many job seekers to lose hope amid their search, data shows that the top of the year could be more promising as January and February are the most popular months to look for work. In January specifically, job searching site Glassdoor has historically seen 20% more U.S. job applications started on its platform than in any other month. And while the pandemic has certainly impacted the pace of hiring for employers, Glassdoor economist Daniel Zhao says he still believes we will see an uptick in job search activity.
"With millions unemployed in 2020, the drive to start 2021 on a better note may further drive interest in new jobs in January," he writes in a Glassdoor post, while noting that Glassdoor's latest analysis shows that there are roughly 5.4 million job openings available right now in the United States.
CNBC Make It spoke to Glassdoor CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong to get his insight on what workers need to do today to take advantage of these openings and land a new job in 2021.
Rather than applying to any and every job you see, Sutherland-Wong says it's important for job seekers to first figure out what they are and aren't looking for in their next position before starting their search.
"For some people, a job is an important means to an end and it's about the paycheck," he says. "For other people, their job is their passion and they're looking for something that's a stepping stone to other things." Meanwhile for other people, he adds, "it's about the people they work with and the culture, or it's about the perks of the job or the work-life balance."
Whatever it is, Sutherland-Wong says, "it's important for an individual to figure out what matters most to them because you spend so much time of your day at your job."
Once you've done an assessment on the things that matter most to you, Sutherland-Wong says you should then start researching what job opportunities are out there and what companies you ideally want to work for.
When looking at new opportunities, he adds that you should do your research on the average pay for the role you're looking at, what the culture is like at the company you're eyeing and what current or past employees say about the benefits. Company review sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and Comparably can be a great resource for finding this information.
Doing this research, Sutherland-Wong adds, will "really let you know ahead of time, even before you apply, if it's going to be a job or company that you're going to be happy at."
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Once you've got an idea of the job openings that align with your interests, the next important step to landing a job is to update and personalize your resume so that hiring managers know just how qualified you are for the role.
On your resume, you should include a "unique personal summary" that focuses on the skills that are important to the job, says Sutherland-Wong. And, he adds that rather than just listing out your experiences, you should be sure to "quantify your success" on your resume by using growth metrics and percentages that show just how much value you can add to a company.
After personalizing your resume, Sutherland-Wong says that you should apply to the job formally and then use social media to connect with someone who works at the company to see if they can help your resume get noticed.
For example, he says LinkedIn is a great way to see the professional profiles of different individuals and to leverage the people you're already connected to as well as the people your friends are connected to. And, he says, it's completely appropriate to reach out to a hiring manager or recruiter to let them know that you've applied to a job at their company.
"That's something I've seen with people applying to Glassdoor," she says. "It's perceived very well and it shows initiative. It shows that you really want to work at my company and I appreciate that and I think a lot of other leaders and hiring managers have a very similar sentiment."
In addition to using social media to connect with people who are tied specifically to the job you're seeking, Sutherland-Wong urges job seekers to take advantage of today's virtual networking opportunities by connecting with other people in their industry and attending virtual events.
"Identify who you know and who you don't know, but want to know," he says. And then, "ask for help [and] let your network know what you're looking for."
Ultimately, he says, "a job is one of the most important decisions you're going to make in your life" and following these steps will help you to land the position that is perfect for you.