Friday, December 12, 2014

Jobseeker’s Guide to Finding a Job During the Holidays

There is a myth out there that says that companies don’t hire during the holidays. But it’s just that…a myth. Just ask the jobseeker who was offered a job on Black Friday. Or the one who was invited in for a second interview two days before Christmas.

Putting your job search on hold between Thanksgiving and New Year’s isn’t just a bad idea — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you’re not looking for a job during the holidays, you’re not going to find one.

Employers hire all 12 months of the year. In fact, many new positions are funded to start with a new budget year — which often coincides with a new calendar year. Other hiring managers have hiring budgets that must be spent before the end of the year — “use it or lose it.” Both of these scenarios offer opportunities for jobseekers in December.

The holidays also offer some natural opportunities to network and spread the word about your job search: there are company parties, social gatherings, end-of-the-year professional association events, and even Christmas cards and letters. Many of these strategies are available whether you’re unemployed or if you have a job but are looking to improve your job situation.

Working on your job search during the holidays may also mean less competition from other candidates who put their job search on hold. Many people wait until January — making it a New Year’s Resolution — to look for a new job. If you wait until January 2 to start — or resume — your job search, you’ll have more competition.

It may even be easier to connect with a hiring manager during December as many key personnel are in the office while lower level staff takes paid holiday time off during the month.

Even if you aren’t offered a job in December, you can lay a lot of the groundwork by making connections before the end of the year, making it more likely that you’ll be hired quickly in the new year.

11 Ideas for Job Searching During the Holidays
Here are some specific strategies you can use in your holiday job search.

     Accept all invitations you receive for holiday parties and get-togethers. Whether it’s a social or charity event, dinner party, spouse’s Christmas party, or professional association event, use these opportunities to reacquaint yourself with people who might be useful in your job search, and make new connections. Be sure to follow-up.

     Re-connect with old friends and colleagues. Your network can be a great source of information, job leads, and referrals. Get back in touch with previous co-workers and supervisors, people from high school and college, former neighbors, etc.

     Host your own holiday party. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or elaborate. Hosting your own holiday open house, dinner party, or get-together can help jumpstart your job search (but that shouldn’t be the focus of your party, of course!). However, extending an invitation is a great excuse to reach out and talk with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while! 

     Ask for specific information or help. For example, ask if the person knows anyone who works at “x” company instead of asking if they know of anyone hiring. During the holidays, your contacts might have more time to be of assistance, and they might be in a mood to be generous at this time of the year!

     Volunteer. There are many opportunities during the holidays to give your time to charities and organizations. Some of these opportunities might also help you build your network, make new connections, and bolster your résumé.

     Use holiday cards to connect. If Christmas cards, holiday letters, and e-greetings are part of your end-of-the-year tradition, mentioning your job search (if you’re currently unemployed, or your position is ending) can be a useful strategy. Let people know you’re looking!

     Create a business networking card. Develop a business card that lists your contact information and social media links — especially to your LinkedIn profile. You can use this in lieu of your normal business card — or instead of it, if you’re unemployed.

     Update your social media presence. If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create yours. If you have one, give it a fresh look. Is it time to update it? Can you increase your number of Connections — or solicit additional Recommendations?

     Look for opportunities to get your foot in the door. If you’re currently unemployed, look for temporary or seasonal jobs that may lead to full-time positions.

     Connect with recruiters. Many are trying to reach year-end recruiting goals at this time of the year, and you may have just the skills they are looking for.

     Set a specific goal for your job search. Instead of setting a goal to get a new job, your goal might be to make a certain number of new connections or to schedule a certain number of informational interviews. Making progress on this type of goal will ultimately help you achieve your goal of a new job.

     Make sure you’re reachable. You might be asked to interview at unusual times — for example, the day before Christmas. Keep your phone on — and make sure you’re checking your voice mail and email regularly!

Challenges To Overcome With a Holiday Job Search
Conducting a job search in December isn’t without its challenges, however. While some hiring managers are hard at work throughout the month, others may be on vacation. Some companies also close during the week from Christmas to New Year’s Day.

The holidays can also distract you from your job search. Shopping, vacations, family activities, and holiday parties can all take away time from your job search, if you’re not careful.

Check your attitude, too. The holidays are a season of joy and thankfulness, but that can be tough when you’re out of work. However, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude — or at least “fake it until you make it.” Even if you’re not feeling it, “act as if” you are, because employers want to hire positive, optimistic employees.

Also, don’t overextend yourself during the holidays. Be sure to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well.

And watch out for holiday employment scams. In your desire to make extra cash for the holidays, don’t get caught up in job-related scams — like fake mystery shopping gigs, package processing rip-offs, or work-at-home cons. Check out job opportunities carefully, and never accept payments for work you haven’t done yet. And never deposit a check into your account and wire or transfer payments out before the payment has fully cleared (wait at least two weeks).

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back right away. Because a lot of people use their accumulated vacation time before the end of the year, you may find yourself waiting a bit longer than usual for a response to your résumé or follow-up after a job interview. Be patient, but persistent.

If it’s your goal to find a new job in the new year, don’t put off your job search just because it’s the holiday season. A job search that starts in December gives you the opportunity to get hired before the end of the year — or to have momentum and a head start on other candidates once the calendar turns over on January 1.

"I'm just a………"

I've been working with many unemployed professionals who have lost their positions when their large law firm closed.  To a person, no one seems to feel they have any skills, accomplishments, or any other noteworthy "why should I hire you?" information.  I hear over and over again, "well, I'm just a (paralegal, legal secretary, lawyer, accountant)."  When I press the issue, I get a whole lot of……NOTHING.  I am always incredulous, though, because when I start quizzing them about what, where, how, why, when, how much, and how many, most of them wake up and start revealing a little more. Usually, though, unconvincingly.

This is not an unusual phenomenon with many clients.  I think, if someone like me can see the greatness in their work, why can't they? Perhaps it's because I'm a "glass is half full" kind of counselor/coach, which is why it's probably a good think I'm in this profession.

Years ago, in a class with soon-to-be-laid-off teachers, each and every teacher told me, "I'm just a teacher." WHAT?  If we dissect what a typical teacher does each day, we find that there are a multitude of great skills.  Time and classroom management, stand-up presentation skills, writing, reading, facilitating, scoring, pairing, decision-making, organization, intuition, problem-solving, and the list goes on.

So, a while back, I started trying to understand WHY this situation is so rampant among the unemployed.  Could it be depression, anxiety, shame, low self-worth? Perhaps, although my theory is simple this: most people don't think about their talents in a job-setting. They assume they're doing a good job, (after all, they got hired, right?) so they are simply going about their business every day, every month, every year. Unless someone gets an award or is recognized for something, most people just carry on.  This is problematic, though, because then people are unprepared for the unexpected.

A key career management skill (which really means you're always preparing for your next job) is to take stock of what you do, for example, how well you do it, how many people you work with, how much money you've helped the company save, in what situations you've problem-solved and the result, etc. Being able to quantify your accomplishments, your results- and clearly identify specific skills you have which make you employable is going to greatly enhance your chances of success in the future, no matter what the situation.

Top 10 Take-Aways from Career Thought Leaders Conference 2014

With my head full of ideas, I share my favorite take-aways from the recent Career Thought Leaders Conference for job-seekers:
  1. You must grow your own muscles - a coach can assist you, but you have to do the lifting
  2. Recruiting is broken; your own job search isn't. Monster and Career Builder fundamentally ruined the job search process.
  3. Run you career like a business- think more like the plumber: I am the expert you need
  4. Create dragon-slaying stories: "I came,  I saw,  I conquered"
  5. Branding is YOUR responsibility - the narrow your brand, the better
  6. You need the right tools to conduct a successful job search
  7. Tools include: creative, accomplishments-based resume, cover letter, bio, complete LinkedIn Profile AND a referral-based job search strategy.
  8. Black holes really do exist- every time a job seeker posts a resume to an online job posting, the likelihood that it will fall into the big black hole is extremely high
  9. Having a consistent online identity is essential to successful career management, and if you do not know your social media strategy, you might as well give it up
  10. Career coaches are now strategy consultants - hire one!
  11. And.....a bonus: figure out your superpowers, accomplishments and unique value proposition!