Ah, the holidays -- a time to rejoice, be merry and enjoy a well-earned break until the new year. But if you're job searching, it's also a great time to kick your job search into high gear.
"The holiday period, or last quarter of the year, is an excellent time to secure a new position," says Kim Batson, a career-management coach with more than 10 years of career coaching experience. "Companies are in a hiring mode October through December -- they want to start the new year with the right talent on board before the first week of January." She adds that because so many people believe it's better to postpone job searching until January, there's less competition during the holidays.
So if you're wondering how to get a jump on the competition as well as your resume noticed during the holidays, consider these tips.
Work Holiday Events
Whether you're attending an employer-sponsored party or holiday networking event, make the most of social gatherings by planning in advance. "Set a goal to meet, connect with and learn from three to five people at an event," advises Andrea Nierenberg, a New York City-based speaker and trainer and author of Million Dollar Networking. "Do your research before going so you know something about those you might meet."
Beverly Harvey, president of Beverly Harvey Resume & Career Service, stresses the importance of quality versus quantity when networking at holiday events. "Develop several good, solid relationships instead of trying to develop many relationships that won't be valuable," she says.
Conversations should be focused on the person you're speaking with, not you and your job search. That can come later, after trust has been built. "When first introduced to the contact you want to speak with, show genuine interest in their lives, interests and careers," Batson says.
This is also not the time to whip out your resume. "Do not bring resumes to holiday functions," cautions Nierenberg. The goal is to start building rapport and setting the stage for future follow up.
You can, however, give out business cards that relay your career field and areas of expertise. "Job seekers might want to use a business card that states their personal brand, i.e., 'Sally Smith, Human Resource Director, Specialist in Diversity Issues' or 'Tom Taylor, Operations Manager, Global Supply Chain Efficiency Expert,'" says Batson.
After the event, Nierenberg recommends sending a handwritten, personalized thank-you note to each contact. Batson recommends including a copy of your resume, if appropriate. "Also, because it's a season of gift-giving, it's a nice gesture to send a small gift with your thank-you letter to the most important networking contacts, if it's within your budget," she says.
The holidays are a perfect time to reach out to people in your network and potential employers. "It all starts with relationships -- don't do a mass mailing to everyone," advises Nierenberg. "Take the time to call some people, attend events and parties, and connect with people to discuss job opportunities."
Harvey's advice: "Try to target the decision makers -- it's a very sociable time of the year, and managers are more likely to be receptive to job seekers than at other times of the year."
Harvey suggests creating a new resume version for networking contacts who don't necessarily have a job opening. "Create a one-page resume that highlights your most important skills, qualifications and career history, as well as industries or companies of interest," says Harvey. While this type of resume isn't as targeted as a traditional resume, it allows networking contacts to understand your career field. In addition, listing desired employers and industries may spark your contacts' memories about a related job opportunity or networking lead.
Keep Your Network Going
Nierenberg is a strong proponent of staying in touch with and strengthening your network over time. "Find creative ways to stay on someone's radar screen," she advises. "Set a search engine alert -- research your contacts and their interests, and stay in touch that way."
Harvey encourages job seekers to continue communicating with their network into the new year. "If there's been some change in your status, send an updated resume with a note about your new accomplishment," she says.
You can also implement a method to manage contacts. "It doesn't matter if you're using contact-management software, a spreadsheet, a handwritten chart or an old Rolodex -– do what works for you and keeps you on track with your networking," says Harvey.