As a job-seeker, does December bring about thoughts of kicking back, relaxing and taking a long winter's nap? If so, you are not alone. Hiring drops dramatically during the holidays and the majority of people looking for work adopt the attitude that they will take these weeks off and then gear back up after the first of the year.
But this mindset results in a major disadvantage to those who succumb to the belief that "December is dead" as far as their job search is concerned. On the contrary, it gives an enviable leg up to the savvy seeker who chooses to keep their search active. The reason for this? Your competition levels drop dramatically!
Moreover, January and February generally represent the strongest hiring period of the year. So, if you stay active, make your presence known and build connections, you will be setting yourself up to be first in line when hiring takes off.
In truth, December can actually be the best time of year to look for work!
Here are three ways you can capitalize on the season to make real strides in your job search:
1) Make merry while you make your presence known
Opportunities to socialize abound. Parties, gatherings, and industry and community events provide prime opportunities to mix, mingle and make valuable contacts. Although you will want to partake in the festivities, do not forget that you are on display. As an active job-seeker, your goal is to exude a combination of professionalism and personal warmth. So dress somewhat conservatively, watch your alcohol intake, interact with holiday cheer and enjoy yourself.
When asked what you do, you will want to let people know that you are currently in a job search. However, a light touch is always best -- especially at parties and informal gatherings. You can certainly mention a few of the companies you are targeting. But do so in a way that doesn't dampen the festivities by coming on too strong. You could consider saying something like: "Right now, I'm looking at companies X, Y & Z. If you have any thoughts or ideas for me, I'd love to hear them at a later date." Then you can follow up when this type of conversation is more appropriate.
2) Use Season's Greetings to reconnect with old contacts
Holiday cards and newsy letters are not only welcomed, they're expected. Done correctly, they can be a great way of securing new leads and opportunities. After sharing the latest about your family, you can mention your job search and a few of the companies you are targeting. Then, in a low-key manner, you can let your friends know that you would appreciate any suggestions or contacts they might have. You could even follow up when you meet them at various gatherings (again approaching the topic lightly) or contact them after the first of the year to see if they've got any ideas for you.
3) Remember the true meaning of the season and pay it forward
Volunteering not only helps others, it is a great way to move beyond your immediate circle of contacts. In addition to doing good works, you never know whom you may meet and where such opportunities might lead. So pursue as many of these opportunities as you can that will comfortably allow you time for other holiday networking activities.
Also, you will want to recognize that networking is a two-way street. Sharing information, tips and job leads adds to the good will of the season and predisposes those in your circle to want to do the same for you.
Above all, be sure to take full advantage of this very special time of year. Good cheer and serendipity abound in December. People tend to be a bit merrier and certainly more open to reconnecting. So take the time to reach out, share the warmth of the season and keep your ultimate goals in mind. You just might find yourself ringing in the New Year with a brand new job ... and it doesn't get much merrier than that!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!