For many of us, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, as the high energy Christmas carol proclaims. But as a job seeker, maybe you’re thinking “not so much” as business goes on hold through these holidays.
“But who wants to hear about my job search while they’re out shopping?” you may ask. Let’s turn that frown upside down and take advantage of holiday cheer, parties and annual meetings, work slow downs, and especially the giving spirit. Rather than putting your search on the back burner, a smart networker will make this season work.
Networking isn’t so much about asking people to help you find a job as it is about building mutually beneficial relationships while learning about and from others. So here are some strategies for accomplishing that even in the midst of the holiday season.
Professional meetings Most professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business groups have holiday-themed meetings. And for the holidays, many of these are free to non-members. There may be a short business portion of the meeting and then members just enjoy the holiday spirit. Make that your first meeting. Get in front of people you don’t know when they’re having a good time.
Easy to do until that dreaded moment when you think “Yikes, how do I start a conversation?” Use the season! How about “Ready for the holidays?” or “Are you taking vacation for the holidays?” or “How are you doing with your shopping?” Be ready to gradually move the conversation to more professional issues from there. And remember to listen more than you speak. Think of your interest in your new contact as a gift.
Parties A big company party can be the perfect opportunity for you to explore possibilities, even within your own company. Re-connect with former colleagues, ask what’s happening on their team and see what opportunities may be opening up. Then be ready to act either during December down time or in January when people are thinking more about the future.
Be determined You always want to be very positive about your job search, even if sometimes you’re quite worried. So make this your mantra: “My goal for the new year is to land a great new job where I can really contribute ____.” When you’re meeting new people, you want to have conversations about opportunities.Yyou can get down to specific openings much later.
Holiday visiting An old Christmas tradition was going from house to house on Christmas Day. Take a 21st century approach to this and instead try lining up two or three “visits” a week with colleagues, old friends and new contacts. Suggest a casual meeting for a little holiday cheer during which time you can exchange ideas about your job search. Morning coffee or hot chocolate is probably a safer strategy than martinis after work but be ready for whatever works best for your friend.
Fill the down time While others in the job market may chalk up December to “down time, nobody’s around,” you can make it work for you. If late November to January 2 really is down time, that means people may be more available for networking meetings. Try it. And if you’re coming up with few options, take a step back and invest that time in developing or refining your plan for the new year. What’s your goal? How many meetings (informational and job interviews) have you had and how many more should you be targeting? What’s working and what’s not?
The giving spirit Remember that most people really do want to help… you just need to ask for it in the right way. For a busy, employed person, the question “Can you help me find a job?” is off-putting. Instead, ask about that person’s job, their career moves and advice they might have for you. Then ask “Who else should I be talking to?” This approach positions the person as an advisor working with a colleague, a relation that is beneficial to both parties. And on that note, remember to also be giving back to them. Be ready to offer your expertise and help in return.
Most of us are familiar with the saying “don’t burn any bridges.” How about making that more proactive by thinking “do nurture those bridges.” Keep your current relationships active and keep adding to them. And by doing so in the holiday spirit you’ll be giving yourself a powerful gift.