So, last year was a tough year! You put in extra hours, and bent over backwards at work to retain the job you say is "just not me". Every one around you is "exhausted", too. You think you "need a change". The news media are beginning to tell you the "worst is over" and "things can only get better". Global surveys are coming out that indicate people are not happy or engaged with their jobs.

For instance, a recent survey by global recruitment company Robert Walters found there are a lot of disgruntled people out there, with 40 per cent of respondents in secretarial and business support roles keen to move on and 62 per cent of respondents in sales, marketing and communications expressing a desire to work elsewhere. The survey also suggested the key drivers for switching jobs were career advancement, followed by better pay and bonus structures.

If you can relate to the statistic above, it will be fair to say you've now made a decision to look for that "dream job" you've always wanted - but you may also be worried employers are not recruiting just now.

Here's the good news: the tide is turning, but you need to plan ahead to ride the wave. There are still good jobs out there if you have the right skills, attitudes and above all the ability to think outside the square and show you can add value to a firm.

Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, stated success depends on preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. His statement rings true in attaining anything, including finding that dream job. Getting your dream job will always be competitive, so you need to do everything possible to maximise your chances of success. Whether you are a graduate or experienced professional, the formula to find your dream job is the same. Some of the important things you need to consider are:

* Find out what you want to do, but stop! Before you send that CV out, find out what you really want to do before contacting any employer or recruitment agent. It may seem like cliché but it works; if you don't know what you want to do, who else will? Think about what you enjoy doing and find out if you are good at it. Write down your strengths and weaknesses. Talk to someone you respect and ask them what they think.

* Prepare. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, prepare well. Find out what the opportunities are in the field you want to enter. Make a list of people you want to contact; this must include recruiters, potential employers, family, friends and other contacts you think may be useful.

* Create a good CV. Be creative but professional. If you don't know how to write a good CV, talk to someone who can help you.

The Government funds agencies like Career Services (www.careerservices.govt.nz) to provide free professional advice on your job search.

* Be strategic. Sending your CV to the right recruitment agency and employer is vital for success.

For instance, if you do not have any accounting experience there is no point in sending your CV to a recruitment agency that specialises in recruiting accountants. It's a waste of your time and theirs. You also lose credibility.

* Build your networks. As a large number of jobs in New Zealand are not advertised, it is important you build your networks. Be friendly and professional at all times. Attend events organised by industry bodies and associations. Ring an expert in the field you want to work in and request a meeting with them, just to find out what it's like to work in that field.

They may not have a job vacancy but may know someone who does. Build your networks on social networking sites such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com).

* Look internally. Your dream job might be right under your nose within the company you currently work for.

If you're interested in a certain kind of role, talk to the manager of that team to find out more. Check to see if you have the qualifications or the experience to be successful in that role.

If you're very keen, you can always do part-time study to equip you for that role. It's easier to move within an organisation than to move to a new company.

* Build your expertise. If you're a recent graduate, build your expertise by enrolling for a course or volunteering/interning. For instance, if you're an MBA student then offer to volunteer for a not-for-profit firm that may need someone to write their business plan. You now have work experience and a reference.

This will give you an added advantage over Mr or Ms Posh when you're attending an interview. At KPMG, we value candidates who volunteer for community activities as we encourage all our staff to give something back to the communities we work with.

Keith Dugdale is KPMG's director of global recruitment.