With gifts to be wrapped, suitcases or weekend bags to be packed and last-minute trimmings to be bought, its no wonder scores of women will take a break this month from their job search.
This is misguided. In fact, December can be a great time to both reach hiring managers, and capitalize on unique networking opportunities. Of recruiters surveyed by executive career network ExecuNet, 69% said they place just as many candidates in December as they do other times of the year.
The key to getting in front of them? Keeping your brain “job-search” mode.
“The holiday season doesn’t have to be your job search’s slow season,” says Lynda Speigel, owner, Rising Star Resumes and Wall Street Journal contributor. “You should also make the most of every social activity you attend by making new connections and following up afterwards with a targeted email that reminds your new contact of where you met and what you do.”
Be Diligent About Time Management
Chances are, if you’ve been knee-deep in a job search or career change, you’ve got your schedule down cold. Whether that’s getting your workout in before sending the kids to school and focusing on culling LinkedIn for new networking opportunities or blocking out two hours after lunch for informational phone interviews, you’ve likely found by now that if you prioritize what you most need to do job-search wise, it will get done.
Still, even the most disciplined among us can get sidetracked by last-minute tasks. Amy Adler, president, Five Strengths Career Transition Services, suggests making an appointment with yourself and adhering to it much like you would a parent/teacher conference or doctor’s appointment.
“It’s so hard for women in particular to find time to care for their own needs,” she says. “By scheduling time on your calendar—literally blocking it out and planning for it—you can spend an hour or two a week to make the job search-related calls you need to make, research companies, apply for positions, and whatever else you need to do to ensure your job search is on track. Remember, your appointment with yourself is as important as your appointments with other people, so take those schedule times seriously, and don’t let other distractions get in the way of your focusing on what you need to do to advance your job search.”
Look For Opportunities In Unlikely Places
Just like the rest of us, hiring managers need some time off. When they take it over the holidays, this is not an excuse to wait for them to return after the New Year to explore opportunities and gain insight into their firms. Instead, use the networking skills you’ve developed over your job search to ferret out folks on teams who get overlooked in favor of those on the executive or C-Suite level.
“With so many hiring managers away, this is a great time to chat up the gatekeepers who have access to decision-makers,” says Spiegel. “Networking on the administrative assistant or direct report level is often overlooked, but invaluable.”
You can find these people by out of office notifications or via an executive’s LinkedIn profile.
Always Be Networking
If you think holiday parties are times to catch up with neighbors over a glass of wine, think again. These can be ripe with folks in a festive mood and therefore more likely to be generous with their contact list.
When asked what’s new, an opener might be, “This is an exciting holiday season for me because I’ve decided to pivot back into the workplace,” says Susan RoAne, Keynote Speaker and author of Best-seller How To Work a Room® and The Secrets of Savvy Networking. “People will ask questions, share their stories, want to know what you’re interested in doing.,” she continues. “Prepare your answers.”
An easy way to reconnect with former colleagues, mentors, college friends or bosses? Send them a holiday card to let them know what you’ve been up to, being sure to mention your job search, then follow up with them in the New Year. You can also use this method to reconnect with recruiters or hiring managers you interacted with during the year.
If you’re able to, create more networking opportunities for yourself by being politely proactive.
“Any event can be a chance to meet someone new, so if you’re going to a friend’s after-work party, get that VP’s name and email her sometime after the party,” says Adler. “Remember that time your sister mentioned her husband’s co-worker? Now’s the time to investigate that networking connection more deeply. Are you interested in your cousin’s company? Maybe you can be his guest at his company’s holiday open house. No matter what tactics you choose, remember that networking at any point in the year is as much about giving as it is about receiving, so be open to any new contacts who reach out to you as well.”
While these efforts may not result in a December job offer, by maintaining your job search, you will be ahead of the competition come January.