Most job seekers think November and December are lousy months to look for work. People are distracted by festivities and family. When potential hiring managers are at their desks, they’re overwhelmed by year-end deadline pressure. Plus, those who have been job hunting for a long time feel like the holidays present an opportunity to take a break.
But Catherine Jewell, an Austin, Texas, career coach and author of the book "New Résumé, New Career," says job-hunters who keep at it are actually more likely to find a job over the holidays. Among the reasons: There’s less competition, the season puts people in a receptive mood, and all those parties and family gatherings overflow with networking opportunities.
“People forget what great resources they have in their current networks,” observes Jewell, who worked in advertising and marketing for 15 years before she became a career coach. Family and friends want to help you, and even if you feel like you already stay in touch regularly, seeing them face-to-face when everyone is in the holiday spirit offers the perfect opportunity for reminding them of exactly what you’re looking for. Be as specific as you can during your conversations, Jewell advises. “Tell them the title you’re looking for, the kind of company,” she says. “You’re asking for information.” If you’re lucky, your cousin knows someone at the firm where you’d love to work, and can provide a lead.
If you’re employed and thinking about changing jobs, or if your objective is to make a career switch, holiday gatherings also offer a chance to ask people about their own work. Be inquisitive. “You’re not pushing your agenda,” says Jewell. “You’re a sponge for data.”
It can be helpful to ask a fellow partygoer what’s going on inside her company. Example: at a luncheon, Jewell met a woman who works for a state agency. Jewell inquired about what was new in the training realm, and the woman said her division was focusing on leadership. Since Jewell does leadership training herself, she realized she’d found a great lead, and she arranged to follow up with a phone call the next week. The connection resulted in a contract for Jewell to provide 28 days of leadership training for the state agency.
In addition to parties thrown by family and friends, there are always plenty of festivities hosted by professional associations. If you can cadge an invite to the office party of the company where you want to work, you might get an inside scoop.
“The bottom line is that the best job leads come from other professionals,” Jewell points out. “They are your entry point to the secret job market, which is only available through contact with people.” Out of the 150 people Jewell has coached this year, she says, 125 got their jobs via information they found through family, friends or business associates. “That’s where the leads are,” she says, “in people’s heads.”
Most job-seekers think that it’s fruitless to call a hiring manager on Dec. 22. But Jewell says that’s wrong. “Many managers have a decreased work schedule during the holidays,” she points out. If they’re not away, they’re more likely to engage with you when you call.
Jewell has some more holiday job-seeking advice that may seem a tad Pollyannaish to the cynical among us. “The holiday time is a great time to count your blessings,” she says. “You may be unemployed, but you still have a home to live in and a family that loves you.” She points out that hiring managers are more receptive to job-seekers who express confidence and an optimistic frame of mind. If you can use the holidays to renew your appreciation of all that is good in your life, that can help you pursue your search with an attitude that’s most likely to get results.
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