As the holiday season bears down on us all, the pressing questions for the job hunter/careerist are: Should I take a break? Is anything really going to happen in the job market before the New Year? Don’t I deserve to take a bit of a respite from this brutal process and relax by the fire with eggnog?
Well, yes and no. To be sure, taking some time during the holidays to enjoy the delights of the season and appreciate those around you is an excellent idea. This is certainly NOT the time to pull out the plastic and run up a tab with the retail industry, but having a sensible, enjoyable holiday time with family and friends is something you DO deserve.
That being said, please allow me to make a case for maintaining a certain level of activity between now and the waning din of the noisemakers on the first day of the New Year.
1. There is no better time to network.
The holidays represent an extraordinary number of opportunities to see and be seen by family, friends and folks from all over. It would be foolish not to consider all of this “face time” as a resource to increase your “Positive Visibility.” Please understand the importance of your attitude and approach, however. Nothing can put the damper on a festive gathering more quickly than someone who is pumping the crowd for job leads, or who has the “deer in the headlights” look of someone whose career is stalled! Be sure to focus your contact with others in a positive manner, seeking information, advice and referral to investigate and consider alternatives. Remember that most individuals truly would like to help, but are at a loss on how to be of assistance. Allow them the luxury of simply giving advice rather than 1) feeling pressed to deliver that killer contact for you or 2) staring through you to someone, anyone at the other side of the room. My experience has been that, in such cases, most people will choose Door Number 2!
An additional word of warning: be sure that your solicitation of “next step” options and advice is not the first question on your list, nor is it the only item of conversation. Ease into these topics. Ask how they are doing, what is new in their lives. Show honest interest and concern for them as people, not as networking contacts. Also, help them realize that you are in the investigation mode, not desperate for a pay stub or a lead to that next great promotion.
2. Many decision makers are at home, not on the road.
One of the challenges of job search and networking is navigating through the maze of individuals who need to participate in any decisions being made. In mid-August, for example, it is often difficult to get the right people in the same room (or even in the same state) long enough to give their opinions, since Smitty is at Myrtle Beach and Ms. Jones just left for New England. This is not as true during the holidays!
Many people will be staying nearer to home, traveling less and becoming more accessible. Although staffing issues may not be at the top of the holiday list, there are still decisions being made, perhaps even more quickly due to the availability of decision-makers. In addition, the end of the year is often the time when budgets are being reviewed and finalized, and new business plans are starting to take shape. Remember: The best time to get connected is always the present!
3. Your competition may be reduced.
This is one of my personal favorites! Many of your fellow seekers may decide that this is simply not the time to think career at all (for all of the reasons we recounted earlier) and mothball their power suits until the New Year. As a result, there is high potential that your competition for employment opportunities will dwindle. Why not take advantage of this “thinning of the field” to forge ahead? As others decide not to take any action until early next year, your well-placed voicemail, LinkedIn update, tweet or short e-mail may improve your standing. After all, in the wild and woolly world of careers, you need to work every opportunity to your advantage!
4. Most individuals are more open to being helpful at this time.
Admittedly, this will not always be the case. Certainly I would not recommend an intense networking contact at the checkout counter on Christmas Eve! It is true, however, that many are more full of the “milk of human kindness,” more willing to share and provide honest insights and assistance to a well-placed question or request.
5. Pace yourself!
Now that I’ve made my unassailable arguments for burning up the snow-covered pavement with your career development, I want to introduce the other side of the issue – it IS the Holidays! Be sure to take time to care for you and yours, to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings. And perhaps, even sip a flagon of eggnog at least once in front of a crackling fire! Sounds good, doesn’t it!
Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and yours!