Every year as the holidays approach, most jobseekers and career changers make the mistake of halting all their efforts. They believe there is no point in pursuing new opportunities during the holidays, and that nobody is making hiring decisions until January, so “why bother?” Many decide to do absolutely nothing from mid-November to the second or third week in January!
Making these kinds of assumptions about the holidays is, again, a huge mistake!
When it comes to the holidays, I suggest you become a “contrarian” – and do what all the other job seekers are not doing. Since most of them are taking an extended break, this opens up real opportunities for you!
The reality is that the holidays are an excellent time to develop and create new contacts for your job search or career transition. Many companies are completing their budget planning for the next fiscal year. This is often the best time to get in front of hiring managers to create a position for you next year. Many managers have to fill openings early in the year or they may lose the budget for that position. Also, once year-end bonuses are paid, a predictable percentage of employees will leave their jobs, creating new vacancies!
Here are 10 career-savvy tips for the holidays from Ford R. Myers, President of Career Potential, LLC, an executive career consulting firm based in Radnor, PA:
1. IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
Business is all about establishing relationships – and relationships are developed in social settings! During the holidays, most people are naturally more convivial and generous in spirit. There is simply no better time to solidify existing relationships and forge new ones!
2. TUNE IN TO THE NETWORK
There are many networking events in November and December – in your social life, in your community, and in your professional circles. Think of all the companies having holiday parties. Many charities have their last fundraisers of the tax year in November and December. Book sales, holiday fairs and other celebrations make this the best time of year for productive networking!
3. SMALL TALK REAPS BIG BENEFITS
Most professional associations have a holiday party for their December meeting, with a more informal atmosphere than the formal presentations held throughout the rest of the year. Do not bring a resume to these events. Create a simple, tasteful business card with your name, phone number and e-mail address. Be prepared to make interesting small talk to establish new contacts. Ask the people you meet about themselves, their work, and their interests. Remember, everyone’s favorite subject is “themselves!”
4. CONVERSATION STARTERS AND STOPPERS
Prior to a social or networking event, prepare at least three neutral questions you can ask, such as:
* How do you know the host, the company, etc.?
* What made you decide to come to this event?
* What other organizations in this industry do you belong to?
When you find it’s time to move on and talk with someone new, you’ll need some phrases to help you transition during the event. Here are some good “exit lines:”
* I’ll let you go now, so you can continue circulating around the room.
* I’ll stop monopolizing your time so you can meet some other folks.
* It was great speaking with you. I’ll follow up as we discussed.
There are more volunteer opportunities around the holidays than at any other time of year. This is a good way to help other people, feel good when you need a boost, have a renewed sense of purpose during your search, and meet other professionals. Volunteering also gives you something interesting to discuss with the new people you meet!
6. CALL PEOPLE
Use the day after Thanksgiving to make both follow-up calls and cold calls. You’ll find that whoever is at work that day will not only be available for a conversation, but will be grateful to speak to someone! If there are people who you’ve been having a hard time reaching, be sure to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
7. SEND HOLIDAY CARDS
Pick a seasonal, nondenominational theme – usually a depiction of a winter scene is best. This is the time to send cards to everyone on your “career list,” including executive search firms, Human Resource professionals, and hiring managers with whom you have interacted over the past year. Don’t write about your job search in the card. Send your cards early enough for people to remember to invite you to their holiday get-togethers, and to send you a card in return! Be sure to include your contact information with the card, so the recipient can also reach you.
8. ‘TIS BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
Remember the old saying popular at this time of year, “Tis better to give than to receive.” This is certainly true when you’re attempting to connect with people during the holidays. The fastest and most effective strategy for getting help is “give to get.” Ask the people in your network if you can be of help to them in any way, or if there is anyone who they might like an introduction to. Become a real “connector,” and in turn, you will become “connected!”
9. PLUG IN AND TURN ON
Technology has come a long way. Use the holidays to connect and reconnect with people on business networking web sites, such as http://www.linkedin.com, http://www.ryze.com and http://www.ecademy.com. Connect with local businesspeople in cyberspace and then take your connection “live” with a face-to-face meeting. You can also use these web sites as a great system to follow-up and keep in touch!
10. BECOME AN OPPORTUNITY MAGNET
At holiday time, some jobseekers tend to become overly negative or cynical during what they perceive as a “lull” in their career transition. Don’t fall into this trap. Get into positive action precisely when others are “giving up” until early next year. Think and speak positively, and you’ll become a magnet – ready to attract, interview, and “hire” your next employer.
If you’re currently in career transition or looking to move-up at your organization, these strategies should give you a new perspective on the holidays! Instead of “taking a vacation” from your career development activities, take full advantage of this overlooked opportunity to make real progress in your quest. Then, you’ll really have something to celebrate!
Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2006, Ford R. Myers and Career Potential, LLC.