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How to use the holidays to boost your job search

It may seem like your job search must grind to a stop this time of year, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

How to use the holidays to boost your job search
[Photo: Mat Reding/Unsplash; Rawpixel/iStock]
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One of the best gifts you can give yourself is a rewarding career, and there’s no time like the present to ramp up your job search. While it seems like waiting for January is a better plan, the holiday season offers some advantages, too.

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“Finding a job during the holidays can prove to be very fortuitous if you are flexible with your time and focused in your efforts,” says Tim Tolan, CEO and managing partner of The Tolan Group, an executive search firm. “Most people are counting down the days to exit from their working environment, yet employers have open job positions they have to fill before the January 1st deadline. Call it a perfect storm if you are in the hunt.”

If you’re moving up in your career, winter is the perfect time, says Peter Boegh, head of HR at ROOM, a startup that offers soundproof booths for workplaces.

“Once we hit spring—and graduation is just around the corner—a lot of HR departments focus on interns or entry-level hires,” he says. “Winter is a great time for more experienced hires to stand out and grab more of your HR rep’s focus.”

Here are a few ideas that can help you with your holiday search:

Get out and mingle

Networking opportunities come to you in droves this season, so take advantage of them, says James Dickinson, PhD, assistant vice president for Career Services at Loyola University Maryland.

“Think of all the gatherings you could attend in the coming weeks hosted by family, friends, or professional groups,” he says. “Get them on your calendar and go. Prepare to succinctly communicate your job search goals and look for openings to share them in conversations at these events.”

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While it’s tempting to try to attend every gathering and event you’re invited to, be intentional with your time, says Sonya Buckley, chief people officer at Hire Dynamics, a commercial staffing company. “Ask yourself who brings value to your personal and professional life,” she says. “Prioritize those people.”

Don’t be shy about asking for help, but be direct and specific about it, says Jill Panté, director of Lerner Career Services Center at University of Delaware. “If you know the people who are going to be attending an upcoming party, look them up on LinkedIn to learn more about their professional backgrounds and the connections they have,” she says. “Now you can be proactive in your conversations as well as the help you seek.”

And if you’re in a position to help someone else’s career over a cup of coffee, pay it forward, says Buckley. “This time of year is when people are more willing to help each other and have the time to do so,” she says. “Share your knowledge and spread the joy.”

Get specific with your search

This holiday season is a good time to refine your job search strategy, says Jeff Lu, head of talent acquisition at the talent platform Beamery. “Rather than applying for whatever few roles are open during that time, candidates should research companies they’re interested in, sign up to their talent networks, get to know their culture and their brand, and identify alignment with their own professional experience and profile,” he says. “Most companies aren’t hiring during the holiday but will likely post new jobs in the new year.”

January is usually the most active time for hiring, and candidates who’ve spent time preparing over the holidays are a step ahead of other applicants, says Lu.

“Preparing doesn’t only mean rehearsing résumé stories and crafting application responses,” he adds. “It means going deep in the research and finding the organizations that are most likely to be the best cultural and professional fit.”

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Develop a list of 10 to 15 target companies, suggests Panté. “During the get-togethers during the holidays, let people know about the employers on your list,” she says. “Many people might be able to make connections to a company name rather than a vague job title.”

Searching for a new job is like having a second job, and it’s hard to find the time to adequately research companies and prepare for interviews. “Use any time you have off—or that lull between Christmas and New Year’s—to get some applications out or just prep your résumé,” says Boegh.

Follow up

If your job search is already underway, take this time to follow up with recruiters and hiring managers. “Many people check out for the holiday, and email volumes go way down from a normal business day or week, so your email will get noticed,” says Tolan. “Always try to use the email messages in a purposeful way, so you don’t waste anyone’s time.”

Ask for job-search gifts

Another way to use the holidays for job search is to ask for helpful gifts. Instead of getting ties you’ll never wear or sweaters you’ll shove to the back of your closet, ask for something useful, suggests Buckley. “Subscriptions to trade magazines, memberships to professional organizations, or gift cards toward a new interview outfit are presents that help you move toward your future,” she says.

But be patient

While holiday networking is a great use of time, don’t expect holiday decision-making, says Dr. Greg Barnett, senior vice president of science at the Predictive Index, a talent optimization software provider. “You may be way up on their ‘nice list,’ but the holidays aren’t usually the time when job requisitions are open or when managers will be making big decisions or enjoy negotiating salary,” he says. “So be patient and use this time to build relationships and spread the holiday cheer. The new job present will likely come at the beginning of the year.”

A successful search is a combination of being clear about what you’re seeking, taking action, and eventually being in the right place at the right time to land an offer, says Dickinson. “Sometimes it happens in the first week of your search, sometimes it’s in the third month,” he says. “Stop worrying about the odds of landing a role during the holidays. If your goal is to get hired, it’s never a bad time to put yourself out there.”