We’ve arrived at the final quarter of 2012. After several months of grandstanding by the politicians, we still have a sluggish employment market.Being the optimistic person that I am, I believe that we will see a gradual increase in job openings beginning in the first quarter of 2013. The holidays tend to bring out the best in people and the New Year always signals a fresh start to one’s business and life.What can you do to put yourself in position for your next gig? You can do the things that will keep you at the top of the list when an opening arises. Is it going to be all fun and games? No, especially if you’ve been looking for a while. However, this time of year gives you several great opportunities to find hiring managers and business owners that are in a more receptive mood. Many of them have worked out plans for next year’s business goals and will be looking for those that will help them make 2013 a great year.Here are three steps you can take from now until mid-January to put yourself in a great position for the upcoming job openings -1. Target Your Ideal CompaniesI hope that you haven’t been sending your resumes out willy-nilly. If you have, it’s time to focus your job search on firms that match your skills, talents, and also you personal goals.If you’ve been searching for a while, I can understand your desire for any position that you can get. However, if you take just any position that’s available, be sure to prepare for your next job search now because you will likely become restless with your new position once the novelty wears off.Everyone has skills that are transferable from one industry to another, so you have choices in the companies where you’d be a great fit. Do some serious research and make a top 10 list of companies that you’d love to work for. Use social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Also check the company’s website to get the information you’ll need to narrow your focus. When a position opens in one of your choices, you’ll be able to go in knowing you’re there for the long haul.2. Get Personal With The Powers That BeOnce you have your top 10 list, make it a priority to get to know a few people currently working for those companies. This involves more than simply talking to someone for five minutes at an event and exchanging contact information.To truly become the one they think of when they need to fill a position, you need to stand out from the masses. One great way to do this is to meet one-on-one with your contacts and get to know them as a person.You can meet with your contact over breakfast, lunch or coffee. Be sure to tell them it’s an information interview and try to schedule at least 45 – 60 minutes for the meeting. You’ll need that much time to ask the questions and, in turn, reply to the same questions from them.During the meeting, find out what business and personal goals they’d like to accomplish in the next 12 months. What do they believe are their most significant accomplishments? What do they do for fun when they’re not working? If you find that you share common interests or that you (or someone you know) can help them accomplish their goals, you may find that you’ve made a new friend that they’ll remember when the right opportunity arises.Why would you want to do this? Because they’ll remember that you took the time to get to know what’s important to them. The rest are out there exchanging business cards at events, handing out resumes that may or may not be read, and neglecting the important step of building rapport with them.If it were you, which potential job candidate would you be most likely to remember?3. Keep Your Spirits UpI know that it’s difficult to stay upbeat when you’re looking for a job during a slow market. Don’t make a tough situation worse by being miserable. Take some time to focus on your spiritual needs.Keep company with those that make you smile. Read something uplifting everyday for at least 30 minutes. Many organizations are holding free workshops and seminars that you can attend in person or online. Attending these events with other forward thinking high energy people can help you maintain your positive attitude and also help you make new connections.This is also a great time to truly appreciate the small things in your life. Do you have a loving spouse, a supportive family, and close friends that you can rely on? Have you taken in the beauty of the changing colors of the leaves, and actually felt the crispness returning to the air?Couple your appreciation with a healthy dose of gratitude for being alive and the ability to be in the job hunt with all of your skills and talents. You’ll soon find that being positive and upbeat is easier and better for your well-being than going through your days in misery.Looking for a job is a challenge in the best of times. Doing so now is a “character building experience”. Help you search along during the next few weeks by using the three tips that will help you stand out from the crowd and keep you in the hunt.