Many job seekers are tempted to slow down the search (or pause it altogether) during the winter holiday season. But career experts say that taking a break from your job search during the holidays is a mistake — because hiring doesn't stop.
At the end of the year, some companies rush to fill job openings that might otherwise be removed from next year's budget. Still other companies will be looking ahead. "Jobs that might have been on hold until budgets are in place will become available in January," says career expert Kimberly Bishop, author of Get Down to Business and You'll Get the Job.
Roy Cohen, an executive coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, agrees. "There's a belief that recruiting shuts down during the holidays," he says. "That's a myth — so when other people take off from their job searching during the holidays, you're at an advantage should an opportunity surface. It's all about numbers and odds."
In fact, the holidays provide some distinct advantages and special opportunities for proactive job seekers. Here's how to make the most of your holiday-season job search:
Judi Perkins of FindthePerfect Job.com says, "When I was a recruiter, the holidays were one of my busiest times and I was often on the phone either side of Christmas day." This means you should be prepared to interview at unusual times, to allow for a recruiter's or hiring manager's busy holiday schedule.
Do volunteer work
All sorts of philanthropic organizations ramp up activities during the holidays — and volunteering can be a great way to network, gain skills and fill the gap that unemployment might otherwise leave on your resume.
"You'll meet other volunteers — great people who, by nature, will want to help," Cohen adds. "You'll feel good, too."
Look into temporary positions
Many companies have end-of-year crunches — at the same time that many workers want to take time off — so they look to staffing agencies to fill gaps. A temporary job can be one way to get your foot in the door at a new company.
Seek seasonal jobs
"The most obvious opportunities are in retail sales or retail-related positions, Bishop says. "There are a variety of part-time and temporary jobs that range from sales and customer service to merchandising, stocking, greeting, gift-wrapping and playing a role in special in-store events.
The hospitality industry also offers opportunities. "Hotels, restaurants and caterers have more events and parties, so they need to staff up," she says.
Use holiday social events to network
You don't want to make every conversation about your job search — but letting people know how they can help you is crucial. "Have your pitch — who you are, what you want and why — ready and perfect," Cohen advises.
And try to keep things positive. For instance, when you tell people you're looking for work, also tell them how you've been productive with your time off.
Reach out to your contacts
The holidays are a great reason to reach out to friends and acquaintances as well as to reconnect with people you may have fallen out of contact with. "Send out a holiday greeting, but add a little extra in your message," Cohen suggests. "Email or snail mail the card to everyone in your job search universe. It should be upbeat — that you continue and are committed to search for a great job and know that it is only a matter of time and timing." And be sure to express your gratitude to all those who have reached out to you during your search, he adds.
(If you don't know which holidays a contact celebrates, "Happy New Year" is a safe sentiment.)
And remember that the holidays are a time for giving. Find ways to help the people in your network, and they'll be likelier to help you in the future.
Recommit to your job search
Start the year off right: Make an appointment with yourself to determine your goals for the coming year. Then schedule some time to update your resume, practice your interview skills and polish up your personal brand.
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