I try to post on this topic every year. Many job seekers assume that companies do not hire during the holidays, and they stop looking for work. That's a big mistake. It's true that many companies do not hire during this period, but others are hiring. They need to fill a position now and will not wait to mid-January. Over the years, I've had clients call me on the weeks of Christmas and New Year's Day to tell me they have received job offers.
What's the trick to looking for work between mid-November and mid-January? First, expect to see fewer job posts, but keep looking. Second, use this time to reconnect with network contacts. Share some holiday spirit and catch up on what is happening in their career. Then you can ask them if they have any advice to help you move forward with your career. Third, enjoy time with friends and family. Balance your priorities of looking for work and spending time with those who are closest to you.
Here's one final point to think about. While fewer companies hire during this period, much of your competition is not looking for work. If you're lucky, this a good time to be considered for a job that you would not get when resumes start to fly in February and March. Keep looking for work during the holiday season, and you might find a gift of a new job under your tree.
Persistence is a big part of success. Whether you're looking for a new job or trying to change careers, it's easy to find negative advice. The Internet is filled with experts who can give countless (bad) reasons why you will fail. However, if you're doing the right thing and you believe in yourself, success is almost always possible (See The Dip by Seth Godin).
Thomas Jefferson captured this idea in these words: "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
I was recently working with a client I'll call Mary. She was very worried about having been out of work for two years while she was an at home parent. Following the advice of a resume book, Mary wanted to "hide" her time out of work by talking about volunteer work that was unrelated to her career in sales. I told her that this was a bad idea. Instead, we used one line to inform potential employers why Mary was out of work and what she was doing. The rest of her resume focused on her 10 year career in sales and her many achievements. Most employers will understand that some very good employees take time off to care for children or sick relatives. Rather than telling them about experience that has nothing to do with the job they need to fill. Mary was focused in her job search, and she landed a job in a little over a month.
Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste."
Too often job seekers are in a hurry to make things happen. They want to write their resume in one day. They want to receive a job offer after one interview. They accept the first job that is offered to them. Listen to Wise Old Ben. Take the time to get things right. This doesn't mean taking forever, or using "getting it right" as an excuse for doing nothing. Have a plan and a schedule. In most cases, this means a few days, not weeks or months. Review what you have done, and ask for opinions from people you trust. It's good to have a sense of urgency, but career management is all about making strategic decisions that will affect the rest of your life. Take some time to make those decisions.
Recently, I met with Jake (not his real name), a mid-career sales professional, who said he wanted a basic resume. Jake told me, “The facts speak for themselves.” It’s not that simple.
I want to be honest in representing clients, but it’s important to do so in a way that highlights each individual’s qualifications and strengths. The resume also needs to show qualifications for the job you are applying for. Too often, clients have given me resumes that are very detailed – very factual – about jobs they want to leave behind. A good resume will demonstrate what you can do for your next employer, not the last one.
I worked with Jake, and together we produced a strong document that will speak to the kind of employers he wants to work for. Because we’ve called out some of his strongest selling points, we’ve taken the facts and made them show Jake’s value over other applicants. If you can do that, the phone will ring.
I have a client who is very anxious to leave his current job. He works 60 hours a week and is grossly underpaid. He called me this week to discuss his job search. His problem is not uncommon: How can I find time to look for work?
In addition to his professional duties, my client and his wife have three young children. When he’s not working, he’s often driving a child to some sporting event or a sleep over. He also helps his wife with upkeep of the house, cleaning and cooking. He feels trapped and sees no way out.
I worked with him to set up a schedule for his job search. It’s not set in stone from day to day or week to week, but the target is to devote 10-15 hours each week to finding a new job. Some weeks he many only put 5 hours toward his goal. Other weeks, it might be 20 or even 25 hours. We also set a goal of 5-10 significant actions per week. This means applying for jobs, networking calls, or networking at industry events.
In most cases, the job won’t find you. It takes time, effort, and patience to make the transition, especially if you’re going to find the kind of job you really want. Hold yourself accountable. Track your time and what you are doing. If you are consistent and focused in your job search, your chances of landing the kind of job you want are very good. The first step is to manage your time and make it work for you.
Jim (not his real name) is a client who's having trouble with his job search. He graduated with a degree in Marketing in 1998 and worked in marketing positions for two large firms over the next ten years. In 2008, he was laid off with tens of thousands of other Americans. His job search did not go well. His mother had a contact that got Jim a job in customer service, a position he held for the next seven years. Now, he wants to look for work in marketing, not customer service. He has taken a part-time job in retail that will let him take his time and be selective in finding a position in the field he loves. The problem is his mom. She worked in customer service for 30 year and has broad industry contacts. She is pressuring Jim to take another call in a field he has no passion for. She says he needs to get a job as soon as possible. That advice is terrible. Jim's strengths are in marketing, and he enjoyed great success over his first 10 years in the field. I recommended that Jim does what he wants to do. The easiest job to get is often the worst one to take.
“High expectations are everything.”
My most successful clients have been those who believe in themselves. These people are always looking to take the next step in their career. They are not afraid of failing. They don’t let unfair criticism from a boss or co-worker doubt their ability. The first step to being successful is believing in yourself.
I was working with a very accomplished client today. He’s held roles in senior management in several industries. When he describes himself, he presents his versatility as an asset. The problem is that few employers would need his full range of skills.
His challenge is to learn what the employer needs and present himself as the solution to that company’s problem. How can he do this? Listen carefully, and ask questions. I urge clients that I coach for interview preparation to ask these two questions
- What are the top three challenges I’ll face in this position?
- Describe someone who has been successful in this role?
These questions will let you understand what an employer needs and present your skills and experience in a way that fits what the company is looking for. Put the employer first, and it will be more likely that you’ll receive good job offers.
I love this quotation from Lincoln: "Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today." The worst enemy in a job search or career change is inaction. Whenever you tell yourself that you'll do it tomorrow, ask this question: "What's stopping me from doing it today?" If you have a good reason for delaying action, then you should wait for tomorrow. However, if you keep putting off what you should do today, that will limit your opportunities to find a job. Set written goals and note when you are delaying action. If "I'll do it tomorrow" is a habit, it's one you will need to break to be successful.
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