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New year, new career

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(ARA) - As the old year comes to a close and the new year begins, many people evaluate their current situation and set goals for the future. For some, career goals top the list. If you're looking for a new job or even a new career, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work, because getting on the path is going to take a lot of work.

If you were planning on scouring the want ads, you may have to adjust your thinking. "If you see an ad for a position posted, it's almost too late," says Becky Bates, director of career services at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Bates suggests you tap into the "hidden job market" and get to that position before it's posted. That means networking.

"Let anyone and everyone know you're looking for a position," advises Heidi Nolta, assistant director of career services at The Illinois Institute of Art - Schaumburg. "Even if it's your Aunt Sally, you have no idea who knows whom, so don't be afraid to ask your friends and family."

"Go to networking functions that cater to your field and go alone, because you won't be able to hide behind your friends," adds Grace Shurley, career services advisor at The Art Institute of Las Vegas. Shurley suggests you stand or sit in the middle of the room and get out of your comfort zone, because you're not likely to make new contacts within it. Notla advises you to volunteer at those events, checking people in; it guarantees you'll meet almost everyone who walks through the door. "Your goal should be to get a two-inch stack of business cards," says Shurley.

Make sure to have business cards wherever you go. If you don't currently have a job, have a simple business card made with your name, profession and contact information, says Shurley. And while you're at it, make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and start Tweeting, suggests Nolta. "Follow the companies and industries you are interested in so you can get the latest information about them."

If you're not employed, be willing to take something that may not be an ideal fit but gets you out there, advises Shurley. "And don't be afraid to start at the bottom if you're launching a new career; that entry-level job can open up a lot of opportunities," she adds.

Whether you're employed or not, make sure you're updating your skills, says Bates. If new software is introduced in your industry, learn that software. Find workshops and tutorials that can help. Nolta cautions that potential employers could test you on new software to make sure that you're up to speed.

"A job seeker is self-employed and the biggest mistake you can make is not holding yourself accountable," says Bates. She suggests you make a strategic plan and map out activities for every day of the week, whether it's a job fair, sending out resumes, researching a company or calling potential employers. "Job seekers should consider getting that job, a job in itself."

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