For many job hunters, the holiday season is seen as a time for taking a break and putting job hunting aspirations aside, under the mistaken notion that companies do not fill new positions, other than seasonal workers, from late November through early January.
The truth, however, is that job hunting is often at its finest during the holiday season, with increased opportunities for power networking and a unique avenue for securing a place at the top of a company’s “call list.”
As companies realize underutilized personnel budgets that if left unfilled will be lost, and as holiday gatherings situate job hunters with the very people who can best assist them, the holiday season can bring into focus a job candidate’s opportunities like no other time of the year.
The fact that so many other potential candidates are putting their job hunting efforts aside during the holidays creates another advantage for the smart job hunter: it clears the way for even greater opportunity with less competition.
How can I take advantage of the holiday season to promote my job search efforts?
The first step is to be prepared. You want to have all your job search tools in place before accepting the first holiday invitation.
Your resume should be up-to-date and ready to submit. I can not tell you how many job hunters have said to me, “I just made a great contact! This is exactly the type of job I’ve been looking for. He/she wants me to submit my resume, ASAP, but I need to get my resume written/updated, first.” While the job candidate takes the time to get his or her information in order, another, more prepared candidate has the opportunity to step up.
You should have a job hunting business card created that will effectively promote your skills and talents, as well as the benefits of hiring you. A job hunting business card can be handed out to potential contacts in situations where presenting a resume would be seen as inappropriate or inconvenient, such as at holiday gatherings. A good job hunting business card will also direct your recipient to your resume in a format that is easily accessible, such as the URL for a resume Web page or an online PDF file.
You should have your response to the following question “What do you do?” prepared well in advance. If you can only answer with a job title and/or company name, then your answer is incomplete. If you are dissatisfied with your current work or employer, and you allow your response to be colored with this disappointment, you will leave your listener feeling ill-at-ease. If your response is filled with hope and a need for rescue, then your recipient may feel unnecessarily burdened.
A response to “What do you do?” should suggest a sense of pride in your skills and abilities, and ought to show how your work is part of a solution, i.e., how it benefits your current employer or the clients the company serves. It should also open the door for continued dialogue. You want to learn as much about the person to whom you are speaking, as he or she may want to learn about you. This is an opportunity to build rapport and foster a new relationship, not gain an audience.
For the unemployed, the response to “What do you do?” should indicate either what you have achieved in the past, and/or what you believe you can achieve in the future. Keep your response positive, and never – NEVER – say anything negative about a previous employer. Even if you believe the person to whom you are speaking is your previous employer’s greatest competitor, what you may not know is that they are also weekend golf buddies.
Accept as many invitations to network during the holidays as your schedule will allow. This includes holiday gatherings, opportunities to volunteer, attending professional association events, participating in the local Chamber of Commerce, and any other function where people gather.
Build an address book of network contacts to whom you can send holiday greetings (cards). This means collecting as many business cards as you hand out. Your holiday cards should be nondenominational and sensitive to various cultures. If you choose to use cards with a pre-printed signature, make sure you write a short, personalized note within each and sign your name. It is also better to handwrite the mailing address on the envelope, rather than using a pre-printed label. Personalization is key. Timing is also important, so mail your cards early in the season.
And finally, avoid the pitfalls of overindulging during the holidays. Eat and drink in moderation, and focus on putting your best foot forward.
For companies and individuals alike, the holidays are a time for revisiting hopes and aspirations, and reviewing past performance. As you begin to make your New Year’s resolutions, and as you begin considering where your career may take you next, appreciate that the holidays are a great time for networking, building rapport and securing opportunities for the next great position.
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Good luck in your job search! Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com – over 18 years experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I’ll be glad to help!