Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Holidays . . . The Most Dangerous Time of the Year

Holidays, the most dangerous time of the yearThe holidays – the most wonderful time of year. Except when it comes to job seeking. Then they can become the most dangerous time of the year!

Why?  . . .  Because the holidays, fraught with frustrations, temptations, disappointments, and misunderstandings, can lead to the demise of your job search – that search that you have been working on so diligently until holiday activities seem to overshadow your search.

Now, in the midst of major holiday activity, many job seekers may be ready to just give up. As the holiday season has progressed, and as people become more and more immersed in holiday preparations and festivities, thoughts turn from the business of business and more and more to shopping, travel, parties, presents, mailing presents, sending cards, time off, time away . . . you get the idea. And, if you are a job seeker who is still diligently trying to pursue your regular job search activities, it can be really frustrating:
  • You keep trying to push forward but no one responds. 
  • Network contacts won’t meet with you.
  • Employers won’t get back to you.

So, faced with this slow down of their job search, a lot of job seekers just give in and give up.
  • It starts with delaying a few of your job search activities for a morning or a day or two. Might as well go shopping. . .everyone else is.
  • And then postponing them for a week, “I’ll write that target letter or send my daily e-mails to arrange appointments next week. I’m just going to get my cards written this week.”
  • And, then abandoning the search altogether. “I can’t reach anybody. I’ll just get back to this after New Year’s.”
Maybe you do, and . . . maybe you don’t.
The cost of giving in and giving up can be high for job seekers:
(1) Some job seekers do resume their search after the New Year’s holiday has past.
(2) Some resume it but only half-heartedly with their enthusiasm dampened by their experience of the latter part of the year.
(3) And some never get back to their job search.

The cost can be high. Anyway you look at it, choosing to postpone your job search during the holidays is costly. So don’t do it! The cost is lost time and missed pathways to opportunities for some, and for others it is even higher as they never achieve that next rung on their career ladder or turn the corner onto a new career direction because they gave up. I’ve seen it happen.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. And, it shouldn’t if you are truly serious about finding a new position. Here’s what you face that diverts your attention:

1.  The frustrations abound
As we move into the holiday season, just as your thoughts turn to holiday activities and obligations, so too do those of employers, network contacts, and friends. All of a sudden, things
s-l-o-o-o-w down. It starts to seem as if:
  • No one will take your calls.
  • You don’t hear back from employers.
  • Network contacts don’t call you back.
  • Network contacts who do get back to you take longer to commit to meeting with you.
In short, it’s frustrating.

2.  The temptations abound
There are a million-and-one things to divert your attention away from your job search and to holiday To Do’s. And because you’ve always done those To Do’s, they seem like must do’s. These activities that take you away from your search:
  • Shopping, travel, cooking, baking, buying presents, mailing presents
  • Writing and sending holiday cards to people who remain on your list but you can’t quite remember who they are
  • Watching the same old holiday movies that you’ve watched 100 times
  • Participating in family traditions that cost you time, money, and energy, and that you never liked anyway
  • Fulfilling holiday expectations others have set for you and have come to expect of you over the years, except you’d rather not!
3.  The misunderstandings abound
A lot of myth surrounds the holiday season when it comes to understanding employer hiring during the holiday season. Two of the biggest de-railers of job searches are the myths:
  • Employers don’t hire during the last couple months of the year.
  • You can’t get employers to meet with you during the end of the year.
So, job seekers mistakenly assume that they might as well wait until January to resume their search. And as we’ve said,  . . . . . . some do, and some don’t.

What’s a job seeker to do?  DON'T just give in and give up!
So in the face of these frustrations, temptations, and misunderstandings, while it might feel like you might as well just give up on your search during the holiday season, that’s not the solution. That strategy will only wind up costing you time and missed opportunities, or missed pathways to opportunities.
  1. You’ll lose momentum. If you do resume your search, it’ll take time for you to rebuild your enthusiasm, and momentum.
  2. You’ll lessen or lose focus. You may find your elevator speech is less focused and attention getting when you deliver it, if you deliver it all during holiday parties and activities.
  3. You’ll lose time. When you stop feeding your pipeline, and connecting with new contacts in the focused way you did pre-holiday season, it’ll take time to start up the pipeline again and re-connect with contacts in the new year
  4. You may lose opportunities because you stop asking the key networking questions that uncover needs of potential employers.
Change your game plan:  A Better Solution
So, while it may be tempting to lessen your job search activity or post-pone it entirely during the season, don’t do it. A better solution lies in adopting strategies to keep your search alive and active during the holidays. Some adjustments on your part in terms of thinking, understanding, and behavior will keep your search on track and you on an even keel, and prevent loss of momentum or opportunity.

As the saying goes, it’s all in how you look at it. Adjusting your viewpoints, your expectations, and clearing up some misunderstandings can keep you moving forward, just a little differently. Let’s look at some ways to do this:

The Frustrations Abound: Dealing with the frustrations of holiday job search              
  • It’s frustrating.  As we said earlier in this article, things slow down, and try as you might, you can’t seem to make any headway.
  • Employers don’t call you back.
  • Network contacts don’t call you back.
  • And anyone who does get back to you takes longer to do so.
What to do
  1. First of all, DECIDE that these things are not going to deter you, depress you, or derail your job search. This may not seem like a big step but believe me it will keep you on course. It’s important to decide to keep going on your search.
  1. Second, expect things to slow down. Adjust your expectations. While it may usually take a week for a network contact to get back to you, adjust your expectations to the fact that during this busy holiday season, it make take two or three. Your contact is busy with the holidays too! But, he or she will return the e-mail or call, just a little later than usual.
  1. Third, remember that you are in sales. Sales people expect to make multiple follow-ups before making the sale, and so should you. Since job seeking is a sales activity – pure and simple – take ownership of the sale and realize that it is your job to follow-up with your contact, prospective employer, professional association, etc. So, be prepared to send another e-mail or two or three, or make additional phone calls. After all it is you who want something, not the other way round.
  1. Fourth, most importantly, adjust your attitude, or as we used to say “cool your jets!” If you are frustrated or angry or depressed, get a handle on your emotions. When you finally do connect, DO NOT display any negative emotions, or allude to your disappointment in “it taking so long to reach them.”
Displaying negativity will shorten your conversations with network contacts, and lessen your chances for being hired by employers. As a fellow Employment Manager said one day when we were talking about the hiring of new employees: “I don’t need to hire any new problems; I’ve got enough walking around here right now!”

The Temptations Abound: Dealing with the temptations of holiday job search
As we also said earlier in this article, there are a lot of things during the holiday season to divert your attention from your job search. . . .  if you let them. Shopping, buying presents, sending cards to people you can’t quite remember, fulfilling expectations and participating in traditions that take you away from your search.

Just say NO. Fulfilling holiday expectations others have set for you and have come to expect of you over the years can drain your energy, time, and limited funds.  So decide what is important to you in having a fulfilling and meaningful holiday and participate in those activities. You’ll enjoy your holidays and still keep your search on track!

Let’s take these deterrents one at a time and see how you can change your game plan to deal with them in a way that benefits you and your search.
  1. First and foremost, decide what holiday activities you are going to participate in, and what you are not. For those you choose to participate in, decide to what degree.  Make a list – It can help to see your plan laid out in black and white. Be intentional about this and commit to only those activities on your list. Whether limiting the number of holiday parties you attend, the travel you do to relatives and friends, the presents you buy, or the cards you send, be intentional about what you have the time, money, and energy to do. Set limits and don’t exceed them.
  1. Second, decide on the amount of money you can spend and will spend. Again, make a list. If you can’t afford to buy presents for all the nieces and nephews or travel to both sets of out-of-state parents, don’t. Negotiate new agreements with your relatives or friends on what you can be expected to do this holiday season. And you have the perfect excuse – you are in a job search, and funds are limited or scarce.
  1. Third, send greeting cards. Cull through your list of holiday cards you send and remove those names of folks who you can’t quite recall. However, for the most part, sending greeting cards is a good strategy. For the price of a stamp, you remain visible. Yes, you can send e-cards, but take advantage of this one time of the year where it is appropriate to be seen in a more personal way as you send a hand-written card.
    1. If you have a limited budget, be intentional about where you can maximize a return on your investment. For instance, send cards to everyone in your network, employers you may have made contact with, professionals you may have met cursorily at a presentation, headhunters or employment agency personal you may have contacted, etc..
    2. Make then generic: Select cards that say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”
    3. Include your business card.
    4. Personalize your greeting. Don’t just sign your name. Instead, say you enjoyed meeting them at the (be specific) meeting, or thank them for the benefit your derived from attending their presentation. Close by wishing them a “happy holiday and a wonderful new year!”
  1. Fourth, be intentional about how you dole out your time, and being a bit miserly with it won’t hurt. Sure you want to sit with family or friends and watch your favorite holiday movie or two, but set limits. Evening after evening spent watching all the holiday movies the Hallmark Channel has to offer doesn’t move you closer to your goal. Apprise family and friends (ahead of time) about your need to focus on your goal, and that you’ll be available to participate in these activities, but to a lesser degree than years past.
  1. Fifth, change those holiday traditions that make you crazy! Decide ahead of time what family and friend traditions, that cost you time, money, and energy, you will participate in.
    1. For instance, never liked going to Uncle Ben’s every Christmas Eve for dinner? Change the tradition!
    2. Always thought it was ridiculous to drive 80 miles to your parent’s for a holiday lunch and another 80 to your spouse’s parents? Don’t.
    3. Come to dread cooking and hosting the holiday dinner for 20? Stop it.
    4. As a person looking for a job, you have the perfect excuse to beg off of holiday events and activities that drain your resources . . . and that you may have wanted to change for some time. You can simply say: “I can’t afford it. As you know, I am in a job search this year, and I just don’t have the resources – the time, the money, or the energy – to participate this year!”
The Misunderstandings Abound: Dealing with the myths of holiday job search
As we also said earlier in this article, a lot of myth surrounds the holiday season when it comes to understanding employer hiring during the holiday season. Many job seekers simply believe, or come to believe, that hiring stops during the end of the year. This is not true. Hiring continues for many reasons, but as with other things during this season, it just slows down. But, keep on reaching out to employers and you just may be glad that you did.

Let’s, look at the two biggest myths surrounding holiday hiring.
  1. Myth #1: Employers don’t hire during the end of the year. Not true! My most poignant example of this is a client I worked with over the course of several months who received her offer of employment on the afternoon of December 24 – around 2:30 p.m.
    1. Sure, employers become busy with not only holiday-company events but end of the year tasks that must be accomplished before than can take their own holiday breaks. So hiring slows down.
    2. But, if they have open positions that are critical to performance in the new year, they may need to fill these before December 31. They are also concurrently looking ahead to the new year’s workload and staffing to fulfill expected workloads.
    3. So, keep contacting employers who have needs and/or open positions as well as following up on positions for which you have already applied or been interviewed for. It could mean an offer of employment for you . . .either this year or early in the new year.
  1. Myth #2: You can’t get employers to meet with you during the end of the year. Again, employers are people too and have their own holiday and work obligations, but don’t give up trying to connect with them. In fact, the holiday season may offer some advantages to those job seekers who keep on searching, as follows:
    1. Previously hard to reach folks (this is true of employers as well as network contacts) may actually have more time to meet with you during the holiday season – odd but true. Things slow down in companies during this time when employees begin to take time off. Without a full complement of team members in place, progress on work projects slows. So, a manager whose normal day may have been filled with meetings, may have holes in her or his schedule simply because colleagues are not there to meet. This may give him or her time to meet with you.
    2. The playing field opens up. Many of your fellow job seekers do drop out of the race during the holidays believing the myth that hiring does not take place during this time. As you know, that is NOT TRUE! The fact that the competition lessens can to your advantage.
    3. Your pipeline continues to flow. By maintaining momentum and visibility, you continue to uncover leads, ideas, and even opportunities to pursue.
    4. Network, Network, Network!  You know all those holidays events you're invited to -- family gatherings, neighborhood  holiday events, company parties, association holiday events, friend's open houses -- attend them all . . . business cards in-hand.  When asked "How are you doing?" inform everyone that you are in a search, and deliver an abbreviated version of your 'L'vator speech along with a business card.  Then, back at home, follow up with a holiday e-mail or hand-written holiday card.
    5. For an ongoing search: Follow-up can move the action forward. By following up with employers with whom you’ve made contact or interviewed, you may be able to move the action forward. Your pro-activity and seriousness may influence a recruiter or hiring manger to take your call, provide additional information, meet with you, or even interview or hire you! NOTE: Ensure your follow-up is polite and empathetic to the employer’s hectic end of the year activity, but do so. It can make all the difference.
    6. For a new search: Just gotten your search underway in the last month or so? Or just beginning one? Utilize this time to get a jump on the new year by planning your strategy, developing the needed marketing materials (of which a resume is only one), and networking with contacts as well as employers who may have some time to offer an informational interview. You’ll start the new year off on the right foot and with a jump on the competition who are just getting started.
The holidays may be the most dangerous time of the time for many job seekers who just give up on their searches but they don’t have to be. By adjusting your expectations, continuing to work at your search, and working smart, you can make the holidays an enjoyable time of year as well as a productive one for you search and your career.


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