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Why now could be the best time to make a career move — and the 3 tips to consider first

Karen Gilchrist

There's no time quite like the New Year to shake things up and set yourself new goals.

For many, that can mean pursuing a different role at work — or looking for a new job entirely — and this year could be a better time for it than most.

With unemployment in the U.S. at its lowest level in years, job seekers stand to benefit from a greater number of job openings. That, added to a typical surge in recruiting budgets at the start of the year, means that now could be an opportune time to try for your next career move.

"It is very much a candidate's market at the moment," Paul Wolfe, senior vice president and global head of human resources at jobs site Indeed, told CNBC Make It .

"While the competition may seem tougher at this time of year there are a number of factors working in the job seeker's favor," he continued, citing candidates' improved negotiating position.

However, a job move is not something to take on lightly. CNBC Make it spoke to a series of experts to find out their best advice on what to consider before taking the plunge.

Know your motivation

First thing's first: When thinking about applying for a new job, evaluate your current situation and figure out why you're looking for a change. That could be because of the company culture, the work itself, your compensation or something else entirely.

"Make sure you know why you're making the move and it's not just about making a New Year's resolution," noted Kareem Bakr, head of the New York arm of U.S. recruitment firm Selby Jennings.

Then it's useful to look back over your career history and identify the aspects of work that are most important to you, said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at jobs site TopResume. That will help you focus on finding the right new position, rather than leaving your current employer, she continued.

"When deciding if a job is right for you, ask yourself: 'Am I truly interested in this position and how it fits into my long-term career plans, or am I just trying to get out of a job I hate?'" said Augustine.

"Searching for work is time-consuming and nerve-wracking; the last thing you want to do is rush your job search and take the first job that comes along, only to find yourself equally miserable in six months and looking for a new job all over again."

Do your research

Once you've worked out your motivations, you can start looking at what other opportunities are on the market. That will not only inspire you, but it could give you good negotiating power, noted Bakr.

"We advise candidates to go out and shop around and give things a try," he said.

For example, if you come across an attrition role — i.e. a recently vacated position — the employer may be more eager to fill it, giving you greater scope to negotiate on pay. Meanwhile, if it's a newly created position, employers may be more likely to keep the post open for longer.

However, Bakr cautioned against using a job hunt as leverage to negotiate new conditions with your current employer, noting that they will be especially astute to those kinds of tactics at this time of year.

"From an employer's perspective there is a wariness about candidates shopping around to negotiate a counteroffer" said Bakr.

"Be aware that a counteroffer would be just keeping your seat warm," he continued. "Every year we see people being replaced a few months later in April."

Don't hang around

If, after figuring out your motivation and doing your research, you decide that a job move is right for you, our experts agreed that you shouldn't waste any time in getting your resume out there.

"At Indeed we tend to see job searches spike in early January as job seekers have time on holidays to explore new opportunities," said Wolfe, noting that fellow job-seekers will be doing the same.

Bakr went a step further, recommending getting started "before the New Year even hits" so as to beat the crowds.

"It really is the earlier the better in terms of getting your name out," said Bakr.

"Most people end up looking to make a move once they receive their bonuses," he continued, referring to the annual Christmas bonus period. "Then what happens is there is a mad rush with people getting their CVs out there. You want to be sure you don't miss the boat."

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