The holidays are in full swing and that puts a different twist on your job search. It is true that the holidays are a hectic time of year. And that puts extra challenges on your job search. It seems that . . . .
- no one will take your calls
- you don't hear back from employers, and
- you can't get network contacts to commit to a meeting with you.
So . . . . you may be tempted, in fact very tempted, to alter your daily job search routine, and let holiday shopping, baking, entertaining, etc. replace sending letters to potential employers, following-up on applications you submitted, attending job searching networking groups, etc. And, if it feels no one is getting back to you, then you might as well just shut down your search for now and pick it up sometime in the January. Right?
This ill-advised strategy will cost you time and can cost you missed opportunities. It's a bad decision, based on a misunderstanding of how hiring happens.
Misunderstanding of how hiring happens
Many job seekers mistakenly believe that employers stop hiring during the last couple months of the year. Not true! My best and most poignant example is a client who received their job offer on the afternoon of December 24 - it was around 2:30 pm.
Sure employers become busy with not only holiday company events, but end-of-the-year tasks and requirements that must be accomplished before they can call it a year and go home for their own holiday break! So hiring may slow. But, if they have open positions that are critical to performance in the new calendar year, they will want to fill these before December 31. They are concurrently looking ahead at the upcoming year’s workload and the staffing requirements to fulfill the anticipated workload. With those tasks behind them, they can hit the ground running on January 2.
Add to job seekers’ misunderstanding of end-of-the-year hiring the fact that job searching is hard, and, well . . . . job seekers think they have a case for postponing their search until the new year. Let’s face it: If you’ve been working hard for months with no job offer to show for it, and feeling pretty discouraged, if not defeated, taking time off from your search during the holidays can seem like an attractive option. But, don't do it.
You will benefit by maintaining your search right through the holidays. Here's how:
● Advantage: You have a slightly more open playing field during the holiday season, extending into the first and even second week of the new year. Due to the fact that many of your competitors will drop out of the race due to their mistaken belief that employers don't hire during the holidays, you have less competition.
● Advantage: By maintaining your job search momentum and staying visible inside your network, you keep your own pipeline open and flowing with leads, ideas and opportunities that may just lead to an interview and a job. It takes time to build a pipeline; don’t let yours shut down and face re-building it in the new year.
● Advantage: Following up on positions and opportunities that you pursued can lead to an interview. You may even be able to move the action forward. Your pro-activity may influence a recruiter or hiring manager to take your call, provide additional information, meet with you, or even interview you. You can push the action forward!
● Advantage: Previously hard-to-reach folks may now have time to meet with you. The time is coming soon when employees begin to take their holiday and end-of-the-year “use it or lose it” leave. Without a full complement of team members in place, progress on work projects slows just because everyone whose input is needed isn’t there. So you may be able to schedule networking talks and employer talks with those previously unavailable.
Strategy 1 - Be empathetic with employers at this time of year
My grandmother used to say: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Snarling at recruiters, HR reps, and hiring managers won’t get you very far. Demanding that recruiters update you on what has happened to your application, or expressing frustration about why it is taking so long to decide between the other candidate and you won’t work. Instead, empathize with employers, understanding that they’re not all that different from you; this is a busy time of year for them too.
● If you are following up on an application or interview, empathize by being helpful. Offer to do whatever you can to provide additional information or materials in order to make their task easier.
● If you are trying to talk with one of your targeted employers for the first or second time, empathize by being sensitive. State that you know that is a busy time of year for them too, but you are (remain if a second conversation) very interested in the firm and believe you have a lot to offer. Inquire if they might have some time in their schedule to meet with you. The key is to emphasize you won’t take more than 20 minutes of their time. Many fear an hour-long meeting and they just don’t have the time!
Strategy 2 - Change your game plan.
Continue to contact employers, but change your game plan. Continue to target employers that are likely buyers of your skill and experience set. Contact them by both letters with your resume, and applying for opportunities you learn of. BUT, understand that the holidays offer challenges to employers too (as described above). Understanding how can allow you to interact with employers in such a way that can work to the benefit of you both. Understand too that the status of your search - ongoing or just beginning - will determine the progress you can make at this time of year, as illustrated in the 2 scenarios below:
Scenario 1: Your search is well underway
If your search is well underway, and you are engaged in pursuing jobs for which you have networked or interviewed, you may be able to be able to turn the opportunity into an offer by the end of the year.
● Be proactive in following up with the employer, offering to supply any additional information, to update them on additional credentials you have attained, to meet other members of the staff, or to inform them of your availability for a final interview.
● Express your continued interest in and “great enthusiasm” for the firm and for the position. Stating that this firm is definitely your first choice of employers may gain you some points!
Scenario 2: Your search is just getting started
Just beginning? Beginning your search activity near the end of the year will put you ahead of the crowd who plan to begin their job searches in the new year - a really popular “New Years Resolution.” However, you can get ahead of the crowd by doing your prep work now!
There is a lot of preparatory work in getting a search underway and these last couple months of the year are a good time for a job seeker to do that.
● It takes a month or two to prepare your marketing materials - Resumes being one of these.
● It takes time to re-connect with your network, update them on your status and plan to seek a new opportunity, and to request/gain referrals to new network contacts.
● It takes time to get applications submitted. In sales jargon - it takes time to “open and feed the pipeline.”
You can accomplish all this and more if you begin now. Doing so means you will be well positioned to hit the ground running in the new year.
Strategy 3 - Network, Network, Network!
Holiday get-togethers abound! Take advantage of these networking opportunities to meet everyone you can possibly can. Don’t prejudge their usefulness. You never, never know where an opportunity will come from.
● Attend – “business cards in hand” – and get known! You can gain visibility and add to your list of network contacts.
● Go to everything you’re invited to, and even things you’re not.
• Wrangle an invitation to a holiday party, association event, and even a company holiday party.
• Friends, families, neighborhoods, and groups hold parties and events. You may be surprised who your family and friends know and can introduce you to.
• Professional organizations and professional societies substitute holiday parties and networking events for their regular monthly program format.
Strategy 4 - Send greeting cards!
Don’t overlook this simple avenue to remain visible. For the price of a stamp, you remain visible. Yes, you can send e-cards, but take advantage of this one time of year where it is appropriate to be seen in a more personable way as you send a hand-written card via the USPS.
● Send holiday cards to everyone in your network, including employers.
● Make them generic: Select cards that are appropriate and non-offensive to your audience. Select cards that say, for instance, “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”
● Include your business card.
● Write a few words to personalize the card. Get the biggest bang for the buck by personalizing your greeting; they'll remember you! For instance, you can say you enjoyed meeting them at the (be specific) meeting, or thank them for the benefit you derived from attending their presentation. You can state that you were impressed by them and even though you did not receive an offer, you hope your paths will cross again. . . . You get the idea. Close by wishing anyone you send a card to a happy holiday season and/or a wonderful new year.
Strategy 5 - Re-group
If you’ve been at your search for a while, “Audit your own performance” to see how you’re doing and what you can change about your approach as you go into the new year. If you have been searching for 3 or more months, take some time to corroborate what you’re doing well and look for areas for improvement.
● Set aside a block of time in which you can devote your total attention - NO INTERRUPTIONS!
● If possible, find a “job search buddy” with whom you can talk through your review. It’s best if it’s someone who understands the process of what it takes to find a job today, and the way you are going about your search.
● Review your Career Strategy - Marketing Plan. What responses have you received from your target companies? It's not a bad idea to again look up your target companies; revisit their current work as well as to learn about any new work areas or directions projections, etc. that might be in need of your skills.
● Review your resume - Not a quick read but a through review. Read it out loud, and take a step back and view it from the perspective of a target company or employer. Use what you’ve learned from your search to gauge if it . . .
• REALLY shows what you want to do and
• “Sells you” as the candidate to do it. If not, revise and refocus.
● Review your interviews; serious networking meetings count as interviews.
• Note the top 5 or 10 questions you have been asked and make note of your answers.
• Gauge if your answers were the best responses in order to showcase your skills and experience, if not, decide how to best word them.
Strategy 6 - Change those holiday traditions that make you crazy!
Change doesn’t make you popular. But, it can make you saner. Think of all those holiday traditions in which you feel forced to participate and that you’ve come to resent. This is your golden opportunity to change them!
Choosing to stop, or change your degree of participation in, long-time family or friends’ traditions is hard. But, as a person looking for a job, you have the best excuse, actually a sound reason, to beg off of holiday events: "You can’t afford it. You don’t have the resources - the money, time, or energy - to participate this year - that’s it!" It’s time for you to start some new ways of engaging in the holidays. Here’s how:
● Think about what you really like about the holidays, and identify what you don’t.
● Don’t suddenly spring your new-found knowledge on family and friends. Talk it over with your own nuclear family or close friends with whom you will be spending the holidays, and inform them of what you would like – and plan – to do.
● Now this is the hard part - Inform those family members, friends, and acquaintances whose expectations you will not be able to fulfill this year of your situation. You might say, “You will not be able to participate this year due to your job search and your limited resources." And . . .Stand firm. Use the broken record technique: No matter what Aunt Susie or Uncle Stan says, your response is: “I can not afford it this year.” “I can not afford it this year.” “I can not afford it this year."
Now, . . . .
With these “Holiday Job Search Strategies” in mind, you may find you are able to keep your search going – or take steps to begin one – and enjoy your holidays all at the same time.
I wish you great success and a Happy Holiday Season!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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