Experts foresee the job market being more competitive than ever in 2014. With 10.9 million Americans unemployed, it is important to take a fresh look at your job search strategy. Now is the perfect time to develop an effective plan for success.

How can you set yourself apart from the competition and position yourself for finding the best next step in your career?

Here are seven tips to help you refresh and refocus your job search in 2014:

1. Don’t be a copycat candidate. Job searches are a very personal experience and one-size-fits-all strategies will not help you stand out among the competition. Even though a certain interview tactic or style was successful for one candidate doesn’t mean it is the best strategy for you. Take into consideration your personal experiences, preferences and career goals and use them to position yourself as a unique candidate.

2. Learn to look at job titles differently. Be open-minded about your preconceived notions of job titles. Roles in compliance, human resource, or administration, for example, are often perceived as being boring, career-limiting or otherwise undesirable. Such preconceptions, however, about the scope, strategic importance and long-term potential of these positions are not always true in today’s market. In many cases I’ve seen, these jobs offer exceptional opportunity for influential and attractive long-term careers.

3. First impressions are everywhere. With 92% of employers using social media in the hiring process, the content of your social profile forms an employer’s first impression before you even sit down with for an interview.

You should take special consideration to job-proof your social media profiles. For example, use a picture that represents you as a professional. Don’t rely on privacy settings to keep your personal information safe. Your best bet is to assume everything will be seen by a potential employer, so clean up your content and edit your pictures accordingly. Ask yourself the age old question, “What would my grandmother think of this?”

4. Be prepared to land the job. Here’s one job seeker mistake that’s definitely worth kicking to the curb this year — the idea of an interview being just informational. You should go into every interview prepared to land the job, not just learn more about the organization. You only get one shot at your first interview, and this mistake will get you caught looking unprepared and unprofessional. Instead, always come ready for a formal interview; you will never regret being prepared.

5. Be strategic with social media. Social media is a vast resource for job seekers. The amount of content and connections thrown at you every day can become overwhelming and a time-suck if you’re not careful.

Be strategic with how you use social media to seek out job opportunities. First, know where recruiters and hiring managers for your desired industry spend most of their time. For example, in you’re looking for a job in finance, LinkedIn might be a more valuable social media site to keep updated as opposed to, say, Twitter. If you are looking to land a job at a media company, on the other hand, Twitter is a great resource. Be sure to also connect with the profiles or pages of companies you want to work for to stay up to date on job openings and announcements.

6. Network with your peers. You should aim to network with your peers, in addition to your more senior team members. Find ways to be the person that comes to mind when recruiters ask them who they’d recommend for the job. Your peers can also offer off-the-cuff, honest appraisals about your performance and work reputation when referring you for a job. These connections have the power either to open or close doors and your relationships with them will have a direct impact on which way the opportunity swings.

7. Be realistic. Be honest about what you can realistically offer to a new employer. It’s tempting to apply for a more challenging and prestigious role, but make sure you have both the skills and the commitment to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes shooting for the stars really does pay off! However, this becomes a risky strategy when you promise more than you can reasonably deliver.

Take a candid look at your current lifestyle and think about how it would be impacted by the position you’re considering. Just because the perfect opportunity has come along doesn’t mean it is the perfect time to accept. Holding back from applying for this job right now will prevent you from burning bridges for a role that may be a better fit later in your career.

Looking for a job can often be challenging and frustrating. Taking into account these seven tips can best position you for success in a competitive job market. Good luck and here’s to a successful 2014!

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