Job seekers shouldn't assume that December is a bad time to find a job, since the holiday season offers some unique opportunities to get hired or connect with employers, experts say.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology, says that while it's important to take time off during the holidays, she also sees it as a good time to get an employer's attention.
"I love the holidays because while when others are slowing down, I'm working harder to differentiate myself, build a personal brand, and make a positive impression," she says. "I think that job seekers can really stand out during the holidays because there is less noise and competition during this time."
Yolanda M. Owens, founder of CareerSensei Consulting, agrees that job seekers need to take advantage of the holiday season.
"Some hiring managers view the holidays as an ideal time to hire and train new employees. There’s less competition for talent, fewer interruptions for training and more opportunities for quality interactions and fielding of questions," Owens says.
In addition, holiday gatherings offer a great opportunity to make some important connections, Miller-Merrell says.
"The holiday season is the perfect time to network and to reach out, wish people 'happy holidays' and check in before the new year. Make a habit of reaching out to four to six people every week and let them know you are looking for new opportunities," Miller-Merrell says. "Be focused on who you talk to because time is short and you want to make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort."
Owens says that by sending holiday greetings to hiring managers, job seekers "come across as thoughtful rather than opportunistic." In addition, that connection with the hiring manager may prompt him or her to give an update on your application, she says.
"Since business and job seeking is slower during the holidays, hiring managers and recruiters often take advantage of the downtime to source and respond to potential candidates," Owens says. "So, your chances of getting a response from a hiring manager or recruiter may actually increase during the holidays."
To ensure your job search during December will be productive and effective, you need to:
- Make it personal. Holiday office parties and other year-end events can make some workplaces more sociable, which gives you a better opportunity to network. Take the opportunity to make personal contact with someone in the company you already work with, Miller-Merrell advises. Besides holiday gatherings, seek out key players via social media to showcase your expertise and brand, she says.
- Avoid channeling Scrooge. It can be stressful to job hunt, and it may prompt you to be less benevolent when your efforts don't bear fruit. But now is not the time to be stingy with your patience or goodwill because the party season offers a great time to make a good impression.
"Get clever with your small talk. Instead of revealing you’re an active job seeker, bring up the topic of hiring trends and see where the conversation goes. You’ll get more information when guards are down and the eggnog is flowing," Owens says.
- Listen. While it's important to be able to tout your own skills and ideas to impress others while networking, you also need to listen more than you speak at holiday functions, Owens says. Doing so may provide leads you wouldn’t otherwise know about.
"Be a fly on the wall and listen for conversations about new or existing opportunities while making your rounds and take mental notes," she says. "Also consider bringing a wingman with you who can serve as an inconspicuous ear on the ground for idle chit-chat on available opportunities. Information on open roles is sometimes easier to obtain through an impartial source than a direct ask from a job seeker."
- Be persistent. While it's true a lot of people take time off during the holidays, it's also true that it's a very busy time for many employers. "My best advice is to follow up and check in on a regular basis. Do so by connecting via email and a few days later following up on LinkedIn or Twitter in a respectful and kind way. No one wants to hire a desperate candidate, but they do want to hire a candidate who is focused, driven, and excited to work for you," Miller-Merrell says.
December is also a great time to job hunt because some recruiters have hiring goals to meet and may be looking for candidates to hire before the end of the year. Or, they may want to set up as many interviews as possible to hit the ground running in 2020. Further, end-of-the-year budgets for some employers means that they may be rushing to hire so that a job isn't eliminated the next year because it's unfilled.
Remember that while other job seekers may be busy shopping or downing too much eggnog, now is the time to use the holidays to ensure Santa delivers something extra special to you this year: a new job.