The holiday season is the perfect time to take a breather, relax and wait until next year to restart your job search...NOT. Since many job seekers are taking a holiday break, that’s the very reason why now through New Year’s is a great time to continue your efforts. You'll be more of a standout – a big fish in the proverbial pool of prospective talent.
Early in my career, I believed that I'd get little response, if any, to job inquiries during the busy holidays. I slowed down my search and thought it was a fairly futile effort. But in subsequent years, I realized that it was actually a gold mine of opportunity. People were picking up the phone when I followed up, and their demeanor was generally more friendly and relaxed. There were a couple of times, in fact, that I landed a job during this so-called “impossible time.”
Later, during my corporate management years, this was further confirmed. The time between November 15 and January 1st gave me a chance to read through the most promising resumes and take action. I was less distracted and wanted to mitigate the avalanche of work arriving at New Year's.
These two reasons alone – less competition and more focus from employers – could bring you that job offer...and some real holiday cheer. Here are some job-hunting strategies to consider during the holidays:
• Network Selflessly. During the holidays, you’re going to be out and about more than usual – at parties, shopping, and so on. Instead of launching into a monologue about how great you are, use those opportunities to first ask questions about others. You’re likely to gain more traction as an active listener, whether online or off line. You’ll pick up more information and perhaps some nuances with this approach, just as savvy salespeople listen for clues. Networking is a two way street. Ask how you can help them. It’s very likely that you will later be given the same question, unsolicited.
• Stay Visible. While other job seekers are enjoying some down time, stay visible and available. Now is the time to be extra social on social media. Renew old acquaintances and obtain as many job leads as possible. While you're catching up in social situations, briefly mention that you've been interviewing, and have your elevator pitch ready. And I don't mean a five-minute elevator ride to the tallest high-rise ever constructed, stopping at every floor. It's hard to edit your career down to 15 seconds, but that's an appropriate start.
• Pick Up the Phone. When searching for a job during the holidays you don’t have to be as timid with follow-up, as some of the pressure is off. If, for example, you’re following up on your resume by phone and feel the job is a great fit, the hiring manager may just take your call, especially later in the day. That may be unheard of during the rest of the year. During the holidays, many managers are more laid back; the "cheer factor." However, don’t badger hiring managers any time of the year. And if you do get through, avoid the instinctive reaction, “Wow, I'm surprised I got a hold of you!”
• Don’t Get Too Festive. Your hiring manager may appear casual when the top brass are on vacation, but that doesn’t mean you should let your professional guard down. Keep your antler sweater at home and keep your demeanor professional. (Don’t waltz in with your peppermint latte because you’re feeling festive, comfortable or have a craving.) Remember you’re not at an office party. You only get one chance to make a first impression. And if you are invited to the office holiday party as a way to meet the team - remain in a business mode, no matter how plastered your prospective colleagues appear to be. Find out what you can as you mingle, and try not to be the last to leave.
• Make Sure You’re Strategic. Look before you leap also applies during the holidays. In your zeal to land a job, still, use the holidays as a time to reflect on your true career and job goals before going gangbusters on your search. Remember your favorite projects and passions, as you will thrive in a job that you love, not just the one that pays the most or has the shortest commute, for example.
• Do Your Homework. During the holidays, you can ramp up your research efforts on prospective employers. Find out about who you’re targeting for job interviews via Google and LinkedIn, and through professional associations. Ask your contacts about what and who they know, and then parlay that further into online searches. (You want to determine if your prospective boss is the Grinch who permanently stole staff motivation, a.k.a., a Terrible Office Tyrant!)
• Patience is a Virtue. When following up, know that while things may have progressed nicely during the holidays, the process may stall. There are usually additional layers in the hierarchy involved in a hiring decision who may be away. In a holiday job search, the interaction often continues until “after the holidays.” This is not a setback – you’re already ahead of the game.
By job hunting during the holiday season, you won't feel like a static "ornament" in your career advancement; your proactive efforts can put you ahead of the competition.