New Year's Resolutions for your job hunt

The winter holidays mean many things: gathering with the family, eating hefty meals and handing out presents to loved ones. However, the first and last holiday of the calendar year – New Year's Eve and New Year's Day – signify something else entirely for many individuals: a time to set resolutions for the year to come. 

Most people set resolutions that regard their personal health, such as deciding to use a more healthy diet or visit the gym on a more regular basis. However, many others make resolutions that regard the career – or that regard the career they hope to have in the near future. If you're an aspiring finance worker, for example, still on the hunt for your first entry-level job, then you'd do well to frame your resolutions around your job search.

Here are a few standards you could hold yourself to as 2014 begins in earnest. Hold to these resolutions, and you'll find yourself working a career in finance before the winter months come to a close, instead of waiting out the year for a job offer that never comes. 

Check your resume twice
One of the most important parts of every resume has nothing to do with the job experiences and skills listed on it: grammar. For many hiring managers, a misspelling or an awkwardly formatted cover letter is more of a "red flag" than illicit behavior or a spotty work history. An ill-prepared resume gives off the opinion that you don't care about your own work, and lack attention to detail. No one wants to hire someone for a job involving money – such as for accounting jobs, or hedge fund jobs – if they can't be trusted to pay attention to details! So this year, be sure you check and double check your resume for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and eliminate any you find, no matter how small. It could be the difference between booking an interview and being unemployed throughout the course of the year. 

Always write a unique cover letter
Many job applicants presume that a cover letter is not an integral part of filing an application. Other applicants use the same text for every cover letter that they submit. In truth, however, would-be finance workers should be writing a specific cover letter for each individual position that they apply to. 

For example, if you're applying to work a Wall Street job, then that requires a cover letter that stresses very different qualifications – and an extremely different mindset – than it would if you were applying for a less high-pressure accounting job. Each individual position in the finance industry requires a specific set of skills, and a worker who is personally suited to the tasks at hand. If you're re-using your cover letter when applying to different positions, then it is likely a generic letter, by necessity. Writing specific cover letters to accompany each application might eat up a significant amount of time, but it'll also make it much more likely you'll be hired for an attractive finance career in short order.

Consider going back to school
There's one way to give yourself an automatic advantage when competing for finance careers with other applicants: hold a Master's of Business Administration degree. Such an education will show employers that you're dedicated to your given industry, whether you're looking to obtain an executive position at a major firm, or simply want to work technology jobs at a hot new startup.

Keep up with your references, and consider adding new individuals to the list
One of the most important parts of obtaining a job – in any industry – is to have a strong set of references. Even if you give a fantastic, flawless interview, a less-than-stellar recommendation from a former boss can destroy your chances of obtaining the job at hand. So keep in contact with the individuals you list on your reference sheet, and always be sure that they have a stellar opinion of your work. It could make the difference between getting called back for an interview and being left without a job during the coming year.

Stay focused on the finance industry – even when you're not working
Finally, it's important for all individuals, unemployed or otherwise, to keep up with the going's on of the finance industry. So make a resolution to stay more informed in a general sense. Get yourself a subscription to a new newspaper or trade journal, and set aside time on a weekly basis to read articles and listen to programs offered by industry experts. You may pick up a piece of information or two that you can make use of during a conversational lull in your next interview. You never know: keeping up with the news could be the intangible factor that impresses a hiring manager, and finally earns you your dream job.