Is It a Waste of Time to Job Hunt During the Holidays?
I was looking for a new job, and the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays were right around the corner. Friends and other job seekers told me that this was a terrible time to look for work. Companies were basically closed down during the holidays. No hiring was done. No interviews were taking place, and everything was on hold until the new year.
But that meant putting my job search on hold for almost two months and I really could not afford to do that. I was just getting up a head of steam to tackle job search tasks with enthusiasm after working on my resume, planning a marketing approach, and developing an interviewing strategy, and I didn’t think it made sense to just sit and wait for the next year to roll around.
I figured that my mentor could give me some perspective on this question and what I might do to make the most of the holiday season. He’s worked with hundreds of people, and no doubt dealt with them over the same holidays. I was sure that he would have some tips on how to deal with the holidays in my job search.
I called him to be sure he would have time during these busy days, and he said that he could squeeze me in. I met him at his office and posed my question. He assured me that the holidays are not wasted time. So I asked him what I should do?
He told me that part of what my friends were telling me was true.
Companies do not do a lot of hiring during November and December.
That does not mean they don’t do any, but not a lot. But he also told me that did not mean that those weeks of turkey and Christmas trees were not important in my search.
Companies use those weeks to get plans ready for the new year. Many company budgets are calendar year budgets, so after the new year they have new budgets, positions to fill, money to spend. During November and December responses to ads are evaluated, initial contacts are made, phone interviews may be conducted, and face-to-face interviews are scheduled for January.
So I asked him how I could use those weeks most effectively. And he told me that it is a great time to make those initial contacts. Stay in touch with the ads that you qualify for and get responses in for those opportunities. He told me to be sure that my resume is polished and ready to go, and that I know how best to write those cover letters and contact emails.
He also said that those weeks are perfect times to use my networking skills. He told me that most job seekers don’t really understand how to do networking most effectively. He said that most really create barriers instead of building bridges, they ask for what people cannot give and so eliminate on-going cooperation. So I asked him how I could avoid doing the same thing.
He went on to tell me that most people I will talk to really would like to help if I ask them in the right way. He said that most networking conversations go something like this:
You decide to contact a friend, let’s call her Joanne. You set a time to meet with Joanne at the coffee shop. During the first few minutes of your conversation you remind her of what you did on your last job, and that you were laid off during a 30% downsizing. Then you ask Joanne if she knows of any companies hiring people for this kind of position. My mentor indicated, that is where most people make their mistake.
He told me that most people will not know of any positions in any specialties other than their own. That made a lot of sense. So he said that by asking if they know of any jobs, you’re asking them for something they cannot do. A better approach is to say something like this:
“Joanne, as you know I was a Technical Writer at the Zoomba company for more than three years. I was let go about six weeks ago in a 30% company downsizing. I really enjoyed working there, but am eagerly looking for a new opportunity and I could use your help.”
The magic word in that entire conversation is the word “help.” My mentor reminded me that people want to help. So all I have to do is ask for them to help in a way that they can. He told me there are several things I can ask them to help me with.
What kind of job searching help can you request?
First, I can ask them to help by reviewing my resume. Anyone can give feedback on my resume, and by reading my resume they will know much more about what I do than I would ever tell them. They will then also have my contact information if they want to reach me later. If I strongly mention that I could really use their feedback on my resume, they will read it and in so doing will have a good idea what I am looking for and will have their ears open for those kinds of opportunities. He said that I should not expect them to do this on the spot, but that I should leave a copy of my resume with them, or email it if I am talking to them on the phone, and then tell them I will get in touch with them in a week or so to see what they have to say.
Second, he said I can ask for any advice they would like to give me on my search. Most people want to give advice, and many have been through a job search themselves or have friends that have, so they are very willing to share their thoughts of ways to go about it. He said that I should listen to what they have to say, and thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts. Later I can evaluate the value of their advice, and then decide if there is anything that I can really use.
Lastly, he told me that I can then ask for referrals to three or four other people that they think would be willing to review my resume, give me advice, and also give me additional referrals. Most will be willing to do so because of the way that I have approached them. They won’t fear that I am going to either embarrass them or ask their referrals for things they can’t do either. Then I simply approach these referrals in the same way that I contacted my friend, except that I use my contacts name as the way to build the warm bridge to this new person.
Make effective use of the holiday time of year…
I can let all of the people that I talk to know that I feel I will be better prepared and more effective by getting feedback and input from as many people as possible. This will help me to conduct a job search that will move me to a new position in an expedient time frame.
He also reminded me that these holiday weeks are excellent times to be conducting informational interviewing. That is, contacting people to learn about companies, industries, trends in the marketplace, leaders, and other things that will give me information I can use in my search to find opportunities that may not be public knowledge yet.
He told me that I can also use this holiday time to do target marketing research on companies I would be interested in working for. I want to find out as much about the companies as I can, most importantly the needs, problems and future plans of the company or department where I would be working. One of the most important things I will need to find out is the name and contact information of the person I would be working for, and use the information I discover to make contact with this person, whether they are looking to add staff or not.
He also reminded me that I would probably be seeing people during the holidays that I may never see at any other time of the year. Parties, get togethers, church events, social gatherings all bring people together over the holiday season and it is a great time to network with them as you catch up on what is going on in your lives.
As I reflected on what my mentor told me, I conclude that networking, responding to ads, target marketing, informational interviewing are all productive job search uses of this festive season.
Yes, the holiday season can be a productive time. That is what my mentor helped me to understand.