Veterans, Don't Quit Job Searching During the Holidays
By Peter A. Gudmundsson
"I guess that I will have to take the holidays off."
"It is impossible to conduct a job search during the holidays when no one is working."
How often have you heard one of these comments from someone engaged in a job search? Like so many assumptions about career transitions, this conjecture is unequivocally wrong. The ill-informed conclusion that job search activity is suspended through holidays is based on many factors, chiefly a misunderstanding of the role of networking in career development.Veterans, like all job seekers, need access to opportunity through people. Far from a bust, the holiday season is actually the best time of year to develop contacts and relationships.
The key to effective job searching is insight and access to information, people and processes – what most people call "networking." In the days leading up to and following Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's or any of the many three-day holiday weekends throughout the year, access to professionals becomes easier for job seekers for three main factors.
1. Attitudes: During holiday periods, many professionals and hiring managers procrastinate their daily tasks by focusing on administrative tasks, such as organizing files, cleaning out old emails or updating computer software. Conducting an informational interview with an "outsider" would be a very pleasant way to spend an hour. Plus, during the holidays, people tend to become contemplative and more articulate about "big picture" issues like their own career development and organizational impact. They will be more eager to find time to meet with a self-aware job seeker who asks good questions.
As time slows down, a hurried 20-minute interview might stretch to an hour – or more – of vital insight into a role or company. These are critical insights that drive an effective search.
2. Impressions: When a job seeker displays initiative in setting up informational interviews during the holidays, she communicates that she is resourceful and hard-working. A small amount of pity might even come into play on behalf of the networking target. The manager might say, "Wow. She is so serious about her career that she is contacting me on the Friday afternoon before the holiday. I want to find the time to meet her."
Because work slows down during these periods, managers will take the time to get to know you and your potential much better than if they were harried and short-of-time. Again, job searching is all about networking quality and quantity.
3. Availability: While it is true that many people schedule vacation time during holidays, most offices maintain at least 50 percent force levels. For transitioning veterans who travel home for a leave period, this is an excellent time to meet in-person. Conducting a long-distance job search is never easy, so veterans should seize an opportunity for face-to-face meetings whenever possible.
Of the many obstacles of an effective job search, the negative inner voice that enables inactivity is the most nefarious. Especially around the holidays, the narrative of hopelessness and rationalization becomes too great for most to resist. Smart job searchers use the holidays for another great opportunity: To develop social capital, research opportunities and position themselves for future success. Give yourself the gift of career advancement this year by working smart through the holidays.