12/9/12 - Five Festive Reasons To Job Hunt Through The Holidays
Career coaches and recruiters agree: people searching for new employment often go into hibernation mode during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. And it's costing them the job.
"There's a tendency for the unemployed to feel so stressed during the holidays that they find themselves unable to enjoy the season," says Jane Trnka, director of the Career Development Center at the MBA program of Rollins College. In frustration she sees candidates putting off their job hunt for six whole weeks—a mistake that for many could mean the difference between a paycheck in Q1 or another season out of work.
Instead of putting on the breaks this time of year, proactive job seekers will get out their holiday best and make the most of the many unique employment opportunities the holiday season provides. "The holidays are quite possibly the one time of year when people are at their most gracious and charitable," Trnka says. "For prospective job candidates, that's not something you want to miss out on."
As it turns out, and contrary to popular belief that hiring slows down during the final weeks of the year, December is a key month for recruiters and human resource departments tasked with anticipating staffing needs in busy Q1. Kathy Harris, a managing director at Harris Allied, a staffing firm with specialization in the technology sector says she's experiencing higher than average activity this year as budgets are approved for 2013 hiring. "It's really busy for this late in the year," says the staffing expert on the uptick in interview activity her firm's experiencing. "Companies are still hiring and we're seeing more and more positions opening for the first of the year."
All that activity has made Harris the belle of the holiday ball. "I'm the most popular girl on the block," she says—her inbox and voicemail have been flooded by requests from clients, acquaintances and former colleagues hoping to catch up for holiday drinks—and to pick up a little employment advice in the process. "It's smart, it really is. This is the time of year when people are at their most social, their most magnanimous, and conversation is naturally positive. That's a win-win."
Sending holiday cards to employers of interest is a painless way to stay on the radar of critical hiring managers, says Trnka. "We're always telling folks to send thank you notes and to follow up after interviews, the holiday greeting card is the natural extension of that relationship." Both Trnka and Harris say correspondence is best reserved for established relationships—companies you've interviewed with in the past, those in your extended professional networks—but agree that cards provide a perfect opportunity to keep connected into the New Year.
We live in a digital age, of course, so Harris adds that we'd be remiss to pass the opportunities for sharing holiday greetings via social networks. Her company sends best wishes to its LinkedIn networks and she suggests job seekers do the same. "I like sending holiday greetings and getting them, I think everyone does," she says, but warning the overly eager from an important faux-pas: no complaining about the job hunt or overtly asking for a job in these greetings. "The most important thing of these cards is that they are positive."
Networking Around The Christmas Tree
A holiday party or industry networking event is simply another place to network, says Harris, so brush off your ugly sweater and fill your pockets with business cards as these events peak during the final weeks of the year. If you have an acquaintance at a company you're interested in, don't shy away from attending their corporate party as a plus one—it's an opportunity to get acquainted with key people and company culture in a relaxed setting.
One thing you shouldn't bring? Your resume. "Remember that just meeting people and building relationships is the best form of networking," says Trnka. Asking for a job or hustling an HR recruiter by the cocktail table is most definitely bad form. Your best hope should be making several personal connections that might help your prospects in the weeks to come. "Have a good time, then follow up with a coffee or a cocktail—that's how you build those connections to leverage into a job."
Harris is clear: the most important people to speak with while searching for new employment aren't recruiters or hiring managers, the best resources are people who have recently landed a job. If you know someone whose recently been through the job hunt and was hired, she says, "Use the holidays as a reason to take them out to celebrate. Buy them a drink and ask for their advice. What was their interview like? How did they organize their resume? Their hard-won lessons are invaluable."
Speaking of cocktails, Trnka says the holidays also provide opportunities to set up informal meetings with key players at companies you're interested in. "Over the holidays people tend to be more relaxed and can often have more time in their schedule to meet with you," she says. Prepare for the meeting by conducting research on the leader and company, and have questions to ask, keeping the tone professional—but light.
You may not have sugar plum dreams of a LinkedIn Premium membership on the top of your Christmas list, but Trnka says asking for employment-related gifts is a great way to stay engaged through the holidays—as well as to encourage friends and family to consider your employment a family affair. "Searching for a job can really add up for the unemployed," she says. "Maybe you need a new suit, maybe you could use a commuter pass or gas money to get in and out of the city for interviews. If friends and family can help out it makes everyone feel like a part of that journey."
For younger job seekers the best gift to ask for from older relatives with more work experience might be the gift of a key introduction to an executive, adviser or mentor. "Being introduced to a player in an attractive company is a gift that can keep on giving through the holidays and beyond."