The hustle and bustle of the holiday season have taken over. It’s often hard to feel productive this time of year and job searching seems like the last thing on anyone’s mind. But if you find yourself wishing and hoping for a new job, don’t waste your effort on letters to the North Pole. You need to lay the groundwork now to make that goal a reality.
Aside from the usual advice of revamping your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, and calling your references (all things you should be doing), set in motion this five-step action plan to leverage the holiday slow down and the general spirit of good will for your career.
1. Find your happy place
Most people approach job-searching wrong. Job postings/openings act as their guide to the next step of their career. They apply for any and everything that sounds like a fit. This leads to frustration, burnout, and in many cases giving up. Start your job search the other way around. Think about where you want your career to go, the work you enjoy doing, and the type of company that would suit your interests, skills, and temperament. Once you’ve identified those wants and desires, you should have a short list comprised of a few job titles and companies. Now you can focus your job search in a specific direction, which always produces better results. Going for what you really want will help keep you motivated and excited about the prospect of what’s to come.
2. Get on the list
With a clear focus, now’s the time to register user accounts on job search sites and on the career pages of the companies you are targeting. This way you can set alerts for roles that fit your search criteria and when the opportunity arises, you are ready to apply. Getting this out-of-the-way early clears the path for focusing on applications later.
3. Did someone say coffee?
Take advantage of the holiday slow down to pack your calendar with networking meetings, informal coffee dates, and calls to connections. With more and more companies utilizing referrals to fill positions, letting your tribe know you are job searching and what you are looking for, will keep you top of mind when they see an opening.
Make the most of your get-togethers and be respectful of other people’s time by being prepared. When they ask how they can support you, make sure you are very specific about what you are seeking from them. People want to lend a helping hand, but often don’t know how. Don’t be vague. Instead, give names of people you’d like to talk to, companies you’re seeking a contact within, advice you need about shifting gears in your career, etc., and people are more likely to come through with real help. And, as always, remember to be gracious and follow-up on all your meetings with a thank you, whether the contact could assist or not.
4. Get out your gold stars
Setting a broad goal like “land a new job” won’t get you to the desired end result, because it lacks defined action steps. Without next steps, it will sink to the bottom of your to-do list and no progress will be made. You need to treat your job search like any other project and create a well-defined plan. Set incremental goals: e.g., complete resume update by January 1st, send out two informational interview requests every week, register an account at XYZ company by December 20th. Whatever you settle upon, make sure it is measurable, has a firm deadline or timeframe, and you block off time in your schedule to complete the tasks.
Once you outline your targets, set up an accountability system. Put a check-in on your calendar each week and evaluate your progress. If you know you can’t make yourself stick to a plan, get an accountability partner – a friend, family member, or someone you trust, to keep you on task. Sticking to a plan of action will make finding a new job in January a reality rather than a pipe dream.
5. Practice your pitch
Most people can’t wing an interview. The people that try usually end up looking like a deer in headlights and the interview is a total crash and burn. Take advantage of the holiday downtime to research typical interview questions specific to the role you are seeking. Use what you find as a springboard to draft some responses and organize examples from your work history to illustrate your key attributes. If you know that interviewing is a big weakness for you, now is your time to practice, practice, practice! So few people get called in for these coveted spots, make sure that when your opportunity arrives you’re prepared to speak intelligently on your own behalf.
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