The Holidays: Job Opportunity Knocks (or Jingles)!

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In the USA, the last two months of the year usually become an enjoyable respite from the usual nose-to-the-grindstone work-related activities. We get together with family and friends to celebrate the various religious and secular holidays (Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's, etc.) at parades, parties, dinners, and other gatherings. We also typically exchange holiday greetings with people in our personal and professional networks--perhaps the only contact we have with some of them every year.

Reach out to your network to see if they can help you understand more about specific employers - what it's like to work for those employers, how a specific employer hires new staff, and if they know of any openings with that employer or a different/similar employer.

Be very careful if you are currently employed. Employers aren't usually happy to discover that you are thinking of leaving. So focus on your network outside of your workplace -- not inside it!

More hiring happens during the holidays than in January

Contrary to popular belief, the holidays are a very active time for filling "regular" jobs (as opposed to "holiday" jobs in stores). So while you may ease up on some activities during the holidays, don't give up on your job search! In December of 2013, employers in the USA filled 40,000 MORE jobs than they did in January of 2014. And that happens every year!

Job seekers who waited until January faced more competition (everyone else who waited too) with fewer jobs filled.

Being referred by a current employee is the best/fastest way to land a new job

Countless studies have shown that a job applicant referred by a current employee has almost 20 times better chances of being hired than someone who simply applies without a referral. According to CareerXRoads expert Gerry Crispin, who conducts a survey every year of millions of hires, one out of five referred applicants are hired--as opposed to the one out of eighty applicants who are not referred. Going to the effort of getting a referral helps. And that's why the holidays are the happy hunting season for both job seekers and employers.

According to Crispin, an "employee referral" does not only mean an employee hands your resume directly to the hiring manager. It can also mean that the "employee referral" box is completed in the employer's applicant tracking system (AKA database of applicant resumes).

Party time is time to connect and reconnect

While you are celebrating the holidays at various events and gatherings, be prepared to advance your job search too. There's no reason that job search networking can't be part of the fun! So bring your networking/business cards and a great answer to the "what are you looking for?" question. Also, if you have been unemployed for more than a few days, be prepared for the "Are you STILL unemployed?" question.

Have your mental script prepared if someone asks you what's happening in your life right now. Tell them:
• You are "looking for a new job as a [job title] for an employer like [company name] or [company name]." Resist being vague -- that limits options rather than expanding them. Answers like "I could do anything" are not helpful or true. And simply saying "Anything!" makes you look and sound desperate.
• Add that you would appreciate any leads they may have for you - names of people who work for those employers or who work in that field currently.

Reconnect via holiday cards and messages

In your holiday reconnecting efforts, don't focus only on people you are close to or you meet face-to-face. Studies have shown that people we have "weak" ties to can be our best networking contacts. And if you haven't seen them for a while, you can reach out via email or a holiday card to reconnect with them.

View these people as part of your "weak" network:
• Current and former classmates, teachers, and professors
• Former co-workers and bosses (AKA "company alumni")
• Recruiters who may have placed you in past jobs
• Clients and former clients
• Suppliers and former suppliers
• Neighbors and former neighbors
• Distant relatives
• Others in your local community - parents and teachers you met through your kid's schools, local business networks like the Chamber of Commerce, your place of worship, the Newcomers Club, etc.
• Others is your professional community - people you have met at industry events like specialized training classes, conferences, and workshops
• Other people you have met and liked in your past, but not stayed in touch with

Unless you know someone very well, resist the urge to include your resume with the holiday card. Reestablish contact, and then pick a time to talk or a place to meet over coffee.
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