Searching for your dream career is more of a marathon than a sprint. After that promising first lap, things can start to become overwhelming very quickly if you aren’t prepared. Applying to position after position leaves you low on morale and high on self-criticism. Then before you know it, the finish line is in sight and you aren’t equipped to reach it.

A negative mindset can make it all too easy to become intimidated by other applicants, the position and even your interviewer, but improving your employability is about more than a change of attitude. In fact, it’s even simpler than that. Rather than focusing on the skills you don’t have, start by looking at what you can offer a potential employer.

Create A Credible Profile

Sometimes it isn’t your experience that slams doors, but how you explain it. A great resume attracts great employers, it really is as easy as that. Telling a recruiter that you have over 20 years experience is a good start, but keep that wealth of knowledge succinct for them to read. Bullet point format is best, as it allows a person to skim your application and digest the information quickly – on average recruiters spend no longer than 6 seconds before making a decision.

Start by taking inventory of your professional profiles; this includes your current resume and other digital personas. While LinkedIn is a great platform to compile your employment history, it’s used by over 433 million people – so you’re unlikely to stand out with that alone. Social media accounts are your best friend in the job search, used by 94% of recruiters to source candidates. Search through your accounts with a fine-toothed comb to make sure any experience mentioned is relevant and provides a point of difference. If you freelance in a client-based position, then offer a testimonial from a happy client to build trust and a credible reputation. If you’re a graphic designer, then share your folio on platforms like Behance, which are tailored to your industry.

Volunteer To Show You Care

A block of unemployment in your work history is sometimes unavoidable and unfortunately never a good look. When you’re out searching for a job it feels like you’re doing all you can, but there are other methods to improve your employability and keep your resume active. Volunteering is often undervalued by candidates, but when voluntary experience is considered by 41% of employers to be as important as paid work, there really is no excuse.

A while back, I had a friend who decided to do a complete 360 and change her career. She went back to school and then graduated into the nursing profession. Although we were all overjoyed by her newfound passion, jobs can be hard to come by and she struggled for over 6 months to find employment, despite her academic credentials. In this instance, she benefited from a spur-of-the-moment decision to volunteer at her local hospital and use this to get her foot in the door for a paid position. It goes to show that no matter your age, experience or aspirations, volunteer work is a viable tool for improving employability.

Taking on unfamiliar work in the volunteer sector also demonstrates strong communication skills and creative problem-solving, both of which are found to be less common and more desired by employers, as found in the Bloomberg 2016 Job Skills Report.

Expand Your Skill Set

In this digital age, rapid advancements continue to redefine the parameters of a ‘standard’ skill set. Your core skills, including numeracy, literacy and handle on technology, are no longer what an employer is looking for, they’re something you are simply expected to have. The point of difference between candidates is becoming increasingly obscure as recruiters continue to look for specialised attributes that are relevant now.

It is crucial you equip yourself with the right tools to not only keep pace but stay one step ahead of your field. Leadership qualities are highly valued by recruiters and strongly associated with a life of learning. Enrolling in an online short course, internal workshop or hour-long seminar will help to expand your skill set and differentiate your application from the masses.

What recruiters love to see on your resume more than anything are personal pursuits and projects that reflect your career and character. Studies, hobbies and experiences that show you’re passionate about your industry are the perfect opportunity to inject some fun into your application without going overboard, and improve your overall employability.