Unemployment should ease slightly in 2012, but there are a few concrete steps you can take to help land a job in the new year.
(MONEY Magazine) -- The unemployment rate is expected to remain uncomfortably elevated in 2012: 8.5%, vs. 9.0% this fall. Yet recruiters and hiring managers say the job market won't be nearly as bad next year as it's been.
Hiring is picking up in several sectors, led by manufacturers that are benefiting from a weak dollar, and technology firms gearing up to meet growing demand from businesses upgrading their software and systems. Health care remains a hiring stalwart, and even nonprofits, which were hit especially hard by funding cuts in 2009 and 2010, are expected to rebound.
The market should also turn up for skilled workers and top performers, as companies are having a surprisingly tough time finding them. And if you're employed, there's some good news too: 97% of organizations plan pay hikes in 2012 -- modest though they may be.
The action plan: Prove to your boss -- or a new employer -- that you have expertise that's in demand
Fill the market's gaps. The shortage of skilled professional workers is a real opportunity. Think you're lacking a key skill set? Find out if there's a job-rotation program at your firm. And work toward certification or training in areas of need at your company.
"It's not easy to find the time to invest if you're working or job hunting, but that kind of initiative gives you a clear advantage," says Geoff Hoffmann, chief operating officer at executive recruiting firm DHR International.
Cover your gaps. If you're unemployed, you'll have a hard time landing jobs with big employment gaps on your résumé. So work your network -- start with your former employers to land project or consulting work, says Jodi Glickman Brown, CEO of Great on the Job.
Raise your profile. You already know how valuable social media are for job hunting. But they can be used to land a promotion or a better-than-average salary bump as well.
For example, use LinkedIn's new skills tool to peruse profiles of higher-ups and top performers at your firm to see what experience they highlight.
Don't know them personally? See if you have mutual connections to meet in person for career advice. Internal networking is hugely valuable: Hiring managers often prefer internal candidates (they're less costly), and referrals from current employees carry weight.
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