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Don't stop job search during the holidays

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — They don't generate many headlines, but there are folks getting hired these days. Even during the holidays. • Brandon Persinger is one of the lucky ones. After enduring two layoffs and more than 12 months of unemployment, the Elk Grove, Calif., resident recently landed a full-time IT consulting position. • It's not the same salary or prestigious title he once had, but Persinger is happy to be gainfully employed. • "I can't tell you how great it feels to have a paycheck again," the 55-year-old former IT manager said. • Contrary to what many job seekers may think, the holidays can be the best time to get employed. • "Many job seekers make the mistake of putting their job search on hold during the holidays on the assumption that no one's hiring in December," said career consultant Naomi Kinert, owner of Career Focus in El Dorado Hills, Calif. • Given the number of job hunters who get distracted or discouraged at year's end, she noted, "those who stay in the (job hunt) game will have less competition" and potentially better odds of landing a permanent paycheck. • As the holiday season gets into full swing, here are some seasonal job-hunting how-tos:

Make the calls

The holidays can be a good time to catch recruiters, hiring managers and others at work. "Oftentimes, work slows down a bit, the office is quiet and someone who normally wouldn't have time may have a few minutes to talk or respond to your calls or e-mails," Kinert said.

Use the time to request an informational interview, get your resume in front of hiring managers, or just seek advice about the company culture and opportunities that might be available.

And always conclude any job-related conversation on two notes: An appreciative thank-you for taking the time to talk. And a request for recommendations of other people who could be helpful.

"You always want two or three other names to connect with ... to build a chain of contacts," Kinert noted.

Meet and greet

Not everyone is comfortable on the business social circuit, but holiday gatherings — from professional association meetings to chamber of commerce mixers — can put you in front of people who can help.

Some job seekers want to hunker down behind their PCs, which is the reverse of what they should be doing: getting out there and socializing, Kinert said.

"Don't be embarrassed by your situation," said Kinert, who recommends having a 30-second greeting that's positive and informative. When asked about your job, for instance, say: "Most recently I was with Intel, where I did XYZ, but my whole department was downsized. So now I'm excited about new possibilities, either at VSP or HP or ABC company."

These social occasions can lead to what's known as a "planned happenstance," she said. "If you choose to not attend an event, you've decreased your chances of running into someone with that great lead on a job."

But don't show up with a stack of resumes, said Ford R. Myers, a Philadelphia career coach and author of Get the Job You Want Even When No One's Hiring.

Instead, bring a simple business card with your name, phone number and e-mail address. "It will leave a better impression than a resume at these events, which are more social in nature," he said.

Volunteer your time

Helping others can help you in more ways than one, say hiring coaches.

Serving meals at a church shelter, helping to build a children's center or handing out canned goods at the food bank can put you right alongside a CEO or hiring manager of a company you're interested in, said Helen Scully, president of Scully Career Associates in Folsom, Calif.

"One of my clients volunteered on a political campaign recently and got introduced to someone at the Capitol who was hiring," she noted.

Even if it doesn't lead to a job, helping others, especially during the holidays, can lift your spirits and boost sagging morale.

Be smart online

Job websites like CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com are good places to post your resume, Scully said, "but you have to refresh it every week, because many recruiters only search for the most current resumes."

To find openings, she recommends a "power job search" site like Indeed.com that aggregates listings from multiple sites.

If you're active on a professional networking site like LinkedIn, use it effectively. Recruiters comb the sites for job candidates, said Scully, so be sure your profile includes key words that indicate the type of position you're pursuing. If you're a school counselor looking for nonprofit work, for instance, highlight your interests and experience, such as grant writing.

One of her clients recently received an unsolicited e-mail from a San Diego company that spotted his resume on LinkedIn. "His expertise and qualifications caught their eye," said Scully. She also suggests getting recommendations from respected colleagues and clients and reading newspaper business sections to find new, growing companies.

Stick to a schedule

Even during the holidays, create a structure to your day and follow a schedule, Scully suggested. "Set some tangible targets: 'At 8 a.m., I'm going to start looking, take an hour for lunch, finish up at 3 p.m. I'm going to set up five face-to-face meetings a week.' "

Another tip: Find a "job-search buddy," someone to encourage you and to commiserate with. It doesn't have to be someone in your same field, but someone to help you stick to your goals.

If you attend a holiday business gathering or workshop together, "break up and see how many people you each can meet in 20 to 30 minutes," Kinert said.

Send holiday cards

Whether it's an electronic or a paper card, send a holiday greeting to everyone on your networking list, said Myers, the career book author.

Pick a nonreligious card that's seasonal but professional, he said. Don't write about your job search, but include a note acknowledging the person's advice, support or friendship.

Persistence pays

After one year and one week of unemployment, how did Persinger, the recently hired IT professional, do it? Persistence and dogged determination.

Working from his home computer, Persinger kept a detailed spreadsheet listing every position he applied for, including hiring manager and interview status.

Online, he regularly visited specialized job websites, such as tech-focused Dice.com and O-Net Online. He also searched sites of companies he wanted to work for.

Using LinkedIn, Persinger kept in contact with former colleagues, as well as friends and acquaintances who might be aware of potential leads.

And whenever possible, he'd use a personal touch.

"My typical followup after every interview is to send the hiring manager an e-mail, thank him for his time, highlight some points we discussed or answer some questions more fully," Persinger said.

His advice to fellow job seekers: "Don't get negative or discouraged. Don't burn any bridges and don't give up on any outside leads. Nine times out of 10, it's your connections that'll get you a job."

Don't stop job search during the holidays 12/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:26pm]

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