Job hunting during the holidays is tough. First of all, if you’re out of work, you already know the pressure’s on. Christmas is a psychologically tough holiday to endure when you’re out of work. Meanwhile, once you get past the Thanksgiving holiday, it gets harder and harder to make contacts and gain headway in your job hunt. Key decision makers take time off work, it’s harder to get appointments and interviews, and companies are busy with holiday sales activities, year-end accounting, holiday parties, and the like.
It’s important to keep the initiative, and keep your plan moving forward – especially if you’re vulnerable to depression at this time of year. Having a positive, pro-active approach to your job hunt through the tough holiday period can make a big difference.
Hiring activity slows during the holidays. But it doesn’t stop. And some companies would rather pay a headhunting commission to an employment agency in December rather than January, because they can expense it in the current year, rather than the next. Also, when you do get a December interview, it’s a very good sign, because employers don’t want to waste time during the holidays.
Enroll in Classes
December’s a great time to enroll in any education programs that will help you in your job hunt. Why? It keeps you busy and on task. Furthermore, for 2011, there’s an additional important reason to enroll in any planned education programs now: Any tuition and fees you can pre-pay before the end of the year qualify for an above-the-line adjustment to your income, under Internal Revenue Code Section 222. That means you don’t have to itemize expenses – you can take the standard deduction and still get the benefit of the college tuition tax deduction for qualifying programs, provided you meet the income requirements (and if you’re unemployed, you’re more likely to meet the income requirements!).
Furthermore, even if the education program doesn’t qualify for favorable tax treatment under Section 222, it may still qualify as a deductible expense, if it is directly related to your profession. For example, if you are an IT professional, classes leading to a Cisco or Microsoft or other certification would be a deductible educational expense (but flight lessons would not). Talk to a tax advisor for more information about your particular situation.
Accept those Christmas party invitations. Don’t hang around the house too much. Stay social, and continue to work your network. Chances are good your next job is going to come as a result of a referral from someone you already know, or will meet socially, as opposed to a total stranger who reads your resume over the transom in December. So stay out there, enjoy your time with friends and colleagues – and make sure everyone you meet knows you’re in the market for work! People want to help – especially during the holidays. Let them! Then you’ll be in a better position to help.
If you’re out of work, you’ll probably want to scale back the gift giving this year. But ramp up the card sending! These cards may be the best investment you can make. Because every card you send is an excuse to call a few days later and reconnect with old contacts. Then they will know you’re looking, too – and may have some ideas. Keep a notepad with you, and write them down. Have a system for tracking whom you’ve sent a card to and when, and when you’ll follow up on the phone. Hint: Send those cards early – well in advance of the holidays, so they don’t get lost in the rush, and they have time to talk to you. This effort alone can give you lots of work to do in the first couple of weeks of December. Some successful salespeople will send Thanksgiving cards, rather than Christmas cards. Why? So their card stands out.
Use Employment Agencies
With most businesses, HR is an afterthought – an adjunct to their core competencies. When time gets tight in December, the HR staff doesn’t get the same bandwidth as the accounting, operations and sales staff, in the effort to clear out the calendar year’s activities. However, with employment agencies, the HR people ARE the sales staff, and they ARE operations. Recruiting is the employment agency’s core competency. And so unlike many companies, HR companies such as employment agencies continue recruiting and interviewing through the holidays. December’s still a good time to meet with employment agency recruiters. You may be in the right time and the right place, as other job-seekers “check out” during the holidays and lose their focus. If an employment agency has a hot vacancy to fill, you may be “johnny-on-the-spot” while the competition is moping the holidays away at home.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to “let yourself go” for the holidays. But remember that if you keep pushing, sending your cards, seeing your social contacts and working the system, you’ll have some interviews lined up in January – and you’ll want to be slim and trim for them. Enjoy Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, but stick to your exercise and nutrition plan the rest of the holidays. You don’t want to be showing up to your January interviews popping out of your shirt!
The thing to remember during the holidays is that you are really fighting two battles: The battle against the general hiring slowdown in December, as companies and decision makers have other priorities. You can’t do anything to control that – so don’t worry about it.
The second battle is the struggle to control yourself and your emotions, and the natural tendency to lose focus during the holidays. This aspect of the job-hunt battle, however, is entirely within your power to win.
Even on holidays we are working to get you BEST JOBS!