Take advantage of the holiday season to advance your job search.
If you think a holiday job search is not worth the effort, think again. Contrary to popular belief, the holiday season is a great time to get a jumpstart on your goals before ringing in the new year.
It may be tempting to take a break during the job search, but don't put it completely on hold.
Here are five reasons why you should continue job seeking during the holiday season — plus some easy strategies to help you make the most of this time.
5 reasons to job search during the holidays
1. Hiring is a year-round process
Recruiters don't stop working during the holiday season, so neither should you. In fact, some employers may be under pressure to fill their open roles before the end of the year or risk losing the budget for that hire. If you discover a new job that's of interest, don't wait until after the holidays to pursue it. Take a moment to tailor your resume and cover letter and submit your application!
2. Your applications will face less competition
While January and February are typically considered the best time of the year to search for work (thanks to companies' updated budgets and sales forecasts), it's also the time when the job market becomes more competitive.
A holiday season job search may have a slower pace, but you're sure to face much less competition. Take advantage of this opportunity to boost your job search while other candidates are preoccupied sipping eggnog and binge-watching holiday flicks.
3. A seasonal position could become permanent
Sometimes a temporary holiday season job can turn into a full-time, permanent opportunity when (1) the company has an opening in the new year, and (2) you've proven yourself to be a valuable member of the team.
Whenever possible, seek part-time positions or contract work that align with or will help you build the right skills for your long-term career goals. Not only could these experiences enrich your resume, but they could also prove to be great networking opportunities.
4. The right part-time job could lead to added benefits
It never hurts to make a few extra dollars during the holiday season. If you opt for a part-time retail position, you might be able to use the employee discount to treat yourself to some much-needed items for your job search, such as computer equipment, interview clothing, or other job-search gifts.
Alternatively, you may be able to use your discount to cross some times off your shopping list for family and friends. Regardless of what type of seasonal job you take, this experience is a nice way to reduce the employment gap on your resume.
5. Your start date may be negotiable
Many job seekers avoid a holiday job search because they don't want to start a new full-time position in the middle of this hectic season. However, you can often negotiate your start date.
If you're leaving one job for another, it's typical to give your employer two weeks' notice. You may be able to push out your start date further if there are Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays when businesses are closed. Don't be afraid to request a later start date as part of your negotiations.
5 tips for a successful holiday job search
1. Take advantage of seasonal jobs
Taking on a holiday job can be a great way to build skills and add merit to your resume. A job like this will show experience, communication skills, the ability to work on a deadline, and flexibility to handle multiple tasks, like during a fast-paced holiday rush. Plus, it's a paid opportunity to gain these things, and the extra money made during your vacation will help with those added holiday expenses.
Another benefit is getting to learn more about a company. Seasonal holiday jobs offer a unique perspective and can tell you more about a company than regular, full-time positions. During the holidays, stress levels are high and managers have fewer resources to accommodate unexpected work shortages. This shows you just how well a manager treats employees and gives a sense of the overall environment.
You'll also have the opportunity to learn the company's values, mission, and commitment to clients — valuable ammunition for any interview down the road.
Related: Pros and Cons of Taking a Seasonal Job
2. Get involved in giving back
The benefits of volunteering is an often-missed gem among job applicants. Taking time to give back to your community not only gives you the chance to help others, but it also builds valuable skills, shows maturity and a willingness to go the distance, and provides an opportunity to add new work experience to your resume.
And the holiday season offers a perfect time to give back in-person or at home. It's the season of giving, after all, and most nonprofits need helping hands and professional skills during this busy time.
In addition to building skills, volunteering also helps you network with other like-minded professionals; working with other volunteers will help you build your professional network. And who knows? Maybe a new connection will be linked to one of your target companies.
Personal recommendations are one of the most powerful tools in networking, so the more professionals you know, the better your chances of networking your way to your dream job.
3. Send season's greetings
The holidays are a great excuse for getting back in touch with your network of contacts. Send holiday well wishes to break the ice and invite valuable connections for a (virtual) cup of hot cocoa to catch up.
Email season's greetings to recruiters with whom you've previously worked and employers who have interviewed you in the past to update them on your recent job-search activities and reiterate your interest in working with or for them in the future.
If you're targeting an industry that typically slows down this time of year, you can take advantage of this down time to conduct informational interviews with your network during the job search, over the phone, in person, or via Zoom.
Related: The 8 Best Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview
4. Turn events into opportunities
Large, in-person networking events may not be possible this season, but that shouldn't stop you from reconnecting with personal and professional contacts and meeting new people in your desired field. There are plenty of virtual events taking place this holiday season between friends, family, and those in your chosen profession.
Check out your industry's trade associations and sites like 10times and Eventbrite for online holiday mixers, virtual job expos, and other industry events to attend.
When meeting up with small groups of friends or family members, be prepared to deliver a modified version of your elevator pitch to suit the occasion and audience. For example, will those in attendance understand your industry's jargon, or do you need to speak to your job goals and qualifications in broader strokes?
5. Treat yourself
Take advantage of the holiday sales to upgrade your job-search tools. These could include anything from accessories for your home office, to new interview clothing, to a professionally written resume or a LinkedIn profile makeover.
Are your loved ones asking you for gift ideas? Skim through this gift guide for job seekers and identify the items that would best benefit your job search.
5 ways to use the holidays to prepare for your job search
Of course, not all job searches are suited for the holidays — and that's OK. If it isn't the right time to start applying for jobs in your field, you can still use the opportunity to prepare for an active job search in the new year.
At the beginning of the holiday season, brainstorm a list of activities that will set you up for a successful job search — this will help you stick to a schedule and make the upcoming job hunt less confusing and frustrating. Here are a few tasks you can tackle over the holidays to set you up for job-search success in January:
1. Define your career goals
What are your objectives? Do you want a new job with a new company? Do you want to move up in your current environment? Or are you looking to entirely change careers? Determine your needs and desires, and use them to write a small list of career goals for the new year. You're 10 times more likely to accomplish your goals if you put them in writing.
2. Brainstorm a list of potential employers
Now that you've determined your goals, take time to think about what job characteristics are important to you. For example:
Do you want to work remotely or would you prefer to work onsite? Are you willing to move?
What are your salary requirements?
What type of company culture are you seeking?
Are there specific values, such as a dedication to inclusion and diversity, that matter to you?
Are there particular benefits you're looking for an employer to offer?
Once you've considered your priorities, create a list of potential companies and roles that will work for you. Then you can determine a timeline that will help you accomplish the tasks necessary to get to your goals.
Show prospective employers that you've been making good use of the holiday season to learn a new skill, gain a certification, or become better acquainted with an in-demand piece of technology in your field. There are many resources available today that allow you to upskill from the comfort of your home.
4. Work on your resume
Holidays offer more free time and opportunities to work on personal projects. Instead of sleeping too late, wake up an hour earlier to work on your resume and cover letter. Start with your base resume that you can tailor for each new application. Remove old positions and education (if more than 15 years old), and consider new accomplishments and notable contributions you've made at your current job.
If the prospect of editing your resume is a little daunting, consider hiring a professional resume writer to help you.
5. Audit your online brand
These days, it's not enough to have a professional-looking resume; you also need to advertise your candidacy online. Prepare for a post-holiday job search by cleaning up your online personal brand.
Start by Googling your name, as it appears on your resume, and review the results. Determine if there are old accounts that need to be deactivated or updated to reflect your current activities and career goals. Make sure the accounts you want employers to find are consistent with your resume, from your current job title and employer's name to your contact information and recent achievements.
If there are accounts you don't want recruiters to find, modify the account name to something other than the name you use for job seeking and increase the security settings so only your close friends and family can view your profile and activities.
This is also a great time to revisit job boards you've used in the past and update the accounts you want to keep with your new resume and current contact information, and deactivate those that are no longer relevant to your search.
And as you conduct your holiday job search, make sure to still give yourself time to unwind, enjoy holiday treats, and celebrate what you're grateful for this season.
Editor's Note: This article was updated in December 2020. It was originally written by M.A. Smith.
Make sure your resume is ready for the holiday job search with a free resume critique.