published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Is this the year you change careers?

When you evaluate your current situation and set goals for the future, do career goals top the list? If so it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Why not make 2012 the year you get your new career underway?

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.

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. Nolta 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 2-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.

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