Every year I like to remind readers that the annual dip is coming in the hiring season. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, hiring tends to slow. Companies still hire, especially those who need to put an employee in place quickly. However, some companies will put hiring decisions off until the new year. Others will hire more slowly because of vacations and time off related to the season.
Am I saying you should stop looking for a job during this period? Absolutely not. Keep looking, but do so with the proper expectations. You will probably see fewer job postings that interest you. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your competition will often stop looking for work because they think no one gets hired during the holidays.
Companies that need to hire will do so. Keep looking. You might be in for a holiday surprise: a new job.
The business website Wall Street 24/7 offers a list of the best places to work. Such lists are always subjective, but they also show that some companies make an effort to treat their employees well. When you are looking for a new job, think about what employers are offering and how that will impact your satisfaction on the job. Make a list of what you are looking for: pay, benefits, vacation, and chance for advancement. Your job when you are interviewing and discussing an offer is to determine if this employer will be a good employer for you.
My clients frequently worry that their computer skills are lacking. In most cases, they don’t need to worry. Here’s an easy test. If you’re seeking a job similar to your most recent jobs, you probably have the right kind of computer skills. You might not have used the same software, but you performed a similar function. As a second test, collect 10 job posts for the kind of positions you to want pursue. Check the computer and software skills that employers require. If they seek experience in a program you don’t know, research that software. In many cases, you have used something similar.
Think of computer skills as your tool box – what tools do you need to know to do your job? Once you have a good answer to that question, you can decide if you need to pursue training. Community colleges often offer reasonably priced computer classes. The Internet offers several online training services, some of which are free. If you need to brush up your skills find the option that works best for you. Don’t let a lack of computer skills be an excuse not to pursue your job search.
I’m working with a recent MBA graduate in her late 20s. She loves Chicago, but has no ties to the city. Her family is spread across the country, and she is single with no children. Most importantly, she is open to relocation, which gives her a big advantage in a job search. Rather than having to find a job in one city, she can go anywhere to find the job she wants. I recommend that clients in this position choose two or three cites where they would like to live.
The next step isn’t to hit the job boards. Instead, the best first step is to learn about the business climate and companies in those cities. Try to find the kind of companies you want to work for before you go back to the job board. Go to the websites of your preferred companies to learn more about them and explore open positions. Use LinkedIn to see if you have any networking ties in those cities.
Finding a job – like sales – is a numbers game, but the game is best played if you have a strategy. If you’re able to relocate, find a place you want to live and then test your ability to find a job and build a career in that city. Moving might be the first step in finding your ideal job.
How much time should you budget for a job search? Experts I believe in say a good rule of thumb is 3-6 months. That sounds like a lot of time to find a job, and, for many people who have bills, it is too long. What I recommend for those people is a two stage job search. First find a temporary or part-time job to provide income. That process can take a month or two, and it can involve doing the type of work you do not want to do. However, that job will be a bridge to the job you want. The second step is to manage your time so you can look for work while you are working. People with a job face the same dilemma. It is never easy to find a job. To be successful in finding the job you want, you need to put in the effort, focus, and time that is need to reach your goal.
Have a happy 4th of July.
I was helping a recent graduate today, and she made the mistake many of her peers make by saying, "I have no experience." It is important to treat professional skills and knowledge learned in school as something an employer needs. Avoid referring to classes or teacher, which only underscores that you were a student. Instead, in both your resume and during interviews, present skills and knowledge as qualities that you can apply on the job. If you're stuck on what you have taken from your degree, get together with some friends and talk about how you can apply what you did in school to what you will do on the job. Another good source of information is job postings. Collect 5-10 job posts for the kind of job you will be seeking. Highlight what the employer is looking for and match it to what you have learned. Don't look back. Look forward. Practice showing an employer how you are ready to go to work. That's your first job.
Clients frequently tell me that they are frustrated when they apply for jobs and hear nothing. Or they get upset when they don’t get any word after interviews. My advice is simple: Why do you want to hear that a company doesn’t want to hire you? The only news you should care about is if a company wants to interview you, if they want further interviews, or if they want to make an offer. Any other contact is bad news, which you don’t need. Stay focused on what is most important: Getting hired.
One of my clients, let’s call her Jane, has recently had four rounds of interviews with a company she really wants to work for. The interview process has covered over a month, and in that time Jane has not applied for another job or done any networking. When I asked her why she’s been so passive, she said that she wants to put all her effort into getting the job she wants.
There’s one problem with Jane’s strategy: What if she doesn’t get the job? Every job search is different, but to get a job quickly, it’s important to stay focused and keep applying for new positions and networking. Jane has wasted over a month. If she doesn’t get the job she’s currently interviewing for, she will have to start her job search from scratch. It’s important to keep momentum going until you’ve received an offer you want to accept. Even if you are confident that a company is going to offer you a position, keep pursuing other opportunities. You have nothing to lose. You can always turn down interview. Better still, you might receive a better offer.
I recently met a prospective client who had significant managerial experience. He was frustrated because he had applied to several jobs and never received a call back. I asked to see a sample of the type of jobs he was applying to. In almost every case, they were entry level or had nothing to do with the managerial experience that was presented on his resume.
This client’s experience is typical of one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make. If you aim low in the kind of job you apply to, but keep your resume focused on higher level experience or skill, don’t expect a call back. Most employers will consider you to be overqualified and will expect you to jump to a new job at the higher level as soon as one becomes available. Applying in this way will become frustrating, and soon you will think no one will want to hire you.
What’s the answer? Apply at the level that fits your skills. Show employers why you can fill the role that is open. If you decide to “down shift” and attempt to get a lower position, write your resume so the employer can see how you can fill the role that is open. I would still expect most employers to see you as overqualified, but at least you will be showing them your qualifications to fill the open role. My advice in most cases is to play to your strengths. Don’t look down.
I agree with most career experts that networking is the best way to look for a job. Networking can open doors to jobs that are not advertised. On the other hand, for every job attained by networking 1.5-2 jobs are found by applying to jobs posted online. There is a myth that such jobs aren’t real. If that were true, companies like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder would not exist. The key to a good job search is to have multiple ways of looking for work. Start with network and applying to jobs online. I also recommend targeting specific companies that fit your goals and skills. If you’re a high income/high skill worker, it might be prudent to add recruiters to your list. Whatever methods you use, keep your job search forward and moving forward. Nothing beats persistence.