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.
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.
Henry Ford said, "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."
This quotation is great advice for any involved in a job search. Whether your checking jobs online or setting up a networking meeting or preparing for an interview, the job search is often a solitary activity - "no one is looking." The only way to be successful is to hold yourself accountable to work through the silence and rejection that comes with looking for work. If you want a good job and a career with a future, pay attention the quality of how you look for work.
When I ask clients to name their strengths, they often point to broad qualities or skill sets, such as, leadership, communication skills, and flexibility. Too often that’s where they stop. The trick to good personal branding, networking, interviewing, and resume writing is to take this kind of strength and project it to the different audiences you interact with. For example, a senior sales professional and an office manager both need good communication skills, but they are different. Sales representatives present, negotiate, and train to sell. Office managers negotiate to buy products and train employees in job skills. They might also lead meetings. Whenever you are promoting yourself as a professional, think about the person or group you are addressing. What do they need to know about you? What is their biggest concern? Give them what they need to know, and they will give you the kind of respect that opens doors.
One of my clients recently said people won’t need resumes soon. He had read “something on the Internet” that said employers would “find” 80-90% of employees on LinkedIn or through profiles on job boards. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to a passive job search, waiting for a job to find you rather than looking actively to find a job.
I don’t buy the claim that there will come a time where most hiring will come through recruiting. There are two problems with this approach. First, recruiters would spend a lot of time having to weed through people who are in jobs and don’t want to move. Second, what would happen to salaries? If employees knew employers had to come to them, they could ask for more money. Under the current employers have the ball in their court. They can set the terms of employment, especially if the person they are interviewing is unemployed or anxious to leave his or her current job.
My biggest problems with stories like the one my client read is that they give the wrong idea about how to look for a job. Executives and professionals at the top of their fields should work with recruiters. They are most likely to be found on LinkedIn. For the rest of us, a good job search must be active. Following the great advice of Richard Nelson Bolles, I recommend using at least three ways to look for work. For most people, that means networking, responding to posted jobs, and pursuing jobs with companies that you most want to work for. LinkedIn is a great tool for doing all of these things. Think of it as a resource for an active job search. If someone finds your profile and calls you for an interview, that’s a bit of good luck. Don’t count on it. Stay active and manage your career. That’s the best way to find a new job.
Too many people have the wrong idea about how to look for work. They update their LinkedIn profile and wait for a call. They send their resume to some recruiters, and then they wait. It's time to stop waiting.
Career coaches have a name for the kind of job search that relies on waiting: the passive job search. Workers on all levels -- entry to executive -- find a new job faster and get more offers when they perform an active job search. This method requires that the job seeker take charge and look for the job him or her self. It's hard to make the contacts needed for networking or spend nearly an hour to fill out an online job post, but that's the best way to reach employers and market your skills. Track what you've done to move your job search forward. When you get stuck, try to find new ways to locate and contact potential employers. Looking for work is hard and often frustrating. However, if you follow a passive job search because it's easy, the only thing you might achieve is waiting for the phone to ring. Get active.
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.
Clients often tell me how much they hate networking. They don’t want to ask anyone to help them find a job. I agree with them for a very different reason. No one wants to be asked in such a direct way. I recommend that you start your networking campaign by identifying people who know your work and want to help you. This group can include relatives and friends. Try to meet with your network contacts for lunch or coffee in a space where you can be relaxed and have a conversation.
Start by explaining your situation and what you are looking for. If you are changing careers, be sure that you talk about how your new role will be related what you have done in the past. Now is the time to start networking. Begin with this question: “Based on your experiences with me, what advice would you give me in starting this job search?” Listen carefully and take notes. Some people will be slow to respond. Try to warm them up by asking follow up questions that remind them how they have worked with you or how they know about your skills.
If a network contact mentions a company or a person, then it is fair game to ask for a favor. Don’t start by pushing a resume. Find out if they know anyone at the company they’ve mentioned or if they would introduce you to the person they know. Remember that your contact is doing you a favor and try to follow their advice.
Networking is never easy, and it is often frustrating. At the same time, it is often the best way to have access to jobs that you will never find online. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you, but, at the same time, remember to help them. Networking is a two street, and – with a little luck – it can lead to a new job and better career.
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.
Last month I recommended using holiday parties and family gatherings as a time to light the fires for networking. Now is the time to follow up. Make a list of the people you’ve met over the past few weeks who could help you advance in your career or find a new job. Set up a time to meet them for lunch or coffee.
At the meeting, don’t make it all about you. First let your network contacts know that you appreciate their friendship and support. Then let them know what your current goal is and ask for their advice: “Based on your knowledge of my career, what do you think I should do?” Listen to what they say and take notes. Ask follow up questions on any point that is not clear or needs more information. If a contact says you should look at a certain company, find out why she thinks that company is right for you. Ask if she knows anyone at that company. If she does, ask if she will make an introduction or if you can use her name in a cover letter. Most importantly, never let a networking meeting end without finding out how your contacts are doing and if there is any way you can help them.
Networking is always a two way street. Look for ways to help others, and they will remember you and want to return favors. Start your New Year on the right foot – Get your network humming.
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