Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why It's a Great Time to Look for a Job

Posted by Mark Brousseau

You've been on the job hunt for months—maybe even all year—and you're looking forward to the coming respite from search-related stress and disappointment. The holidays are here, after all. And it's "common knowledge" that nothing happens on the hiring front from Thanksgiving to New Year's. You might as well give the pavement pounding a rest and focus on decking the halls for a while...right?

Wong. In fact, says Kate Wendleton, now is exactly the time to hit your job search the hardest.

"Although most job seekers don't realize it, conditions are ideal for them this time of year," confirms Wendleton, president of The Five O'Clock Club (, a career coaching and outplacement network. "While they won't 'officially' tell you, many organizations are planning to hire in January. That means now is the perfect time to put yourself on their radar."

Wendleton knows all about helping people navigate the complicated job market, regardless of the season. Hers is the only career program in which members meet with professional coaches and peers on a weekly basis in a friendly, club-type format. It offers small group career coaching across the U.S. and Canada. And its website——provides hundreds of free articles and audio recordings on job searching and career development.

"It may come as a big surprise, but looking for a job this time of year actually increases your chances of getting hired," Wendleton promises. "You have less competition, and many companies are in a hiring mood. It's the perfect storm—in a good way—for job seekers."

Read on for the case as to why you should keep on keepin' on...and some suggestions from The Five O'Clock Club for how you can maximize your momentum amidst the merriment:

Why you shouldn't wait 'til January:

'Tis the season for your competition to take a breather. Nearly everyone believes the "no one gets hired during the holidays" myth, so the majority of your competition is taking a break while you're still filling out applications. The fact is, it's much easier to out-class and out-perform the competition when there's next to none of it!

"It's amazing how many people retire from the job-hunt battle this time of year and leave the field wide open," Wendleton says. "At no other time will it be easier for you to really distinguish yourself from the pack. For one thing, hiring managers will have fewer résumés to distract them; plus, they'll be impressed by your drive and persistence, because most of your peers are taking it easy."

Managers are planning their post-Auld Lang Syne moves now. Here's a valuable tip for job hunters: January is often one of the biggest hiring months of the year. However, no organization will say that it plans to hire in January—right now, all you'll hear is that there are no openings at present (which is technically true). And guess what? Those upcoming positions won't go to folks who kicked back by the fire with a cup of eggnog—they'll be offered to the people who expressed interest and met with hiring managers in December.

"Right now, organizations are doing their budgeting for 2011," Wendleton explains. "For example, one company The Five O'Clock Club spoke with said they will not do any more hiring this year because they want to keep the numbers looking good, but they will fill those positions ASAP in the New Year, and they might even consider making offers now. Who is going to get those jobs? The folks who throw their hats into the ring during the holidays!"

The business world isn't pressing pause just because the halls are decked. The fact that the annual alcohol-laced karaoke party has been scheduled doesn't mean that business as usual stops. Think about it: The stock market is trading. Stores are still open. Deals are still being negotiated. And—shocker!—hiring managers are still reading résumés that land on their desks. (If anything, the seasonal good cheer will put them in a better mood when they do.)

"No hiring manager in his or her right mind would ever say, 'Okay, it's December, so I can't look at any résumés or communicate with any prospective applicants until January,'" Wendleton points out. "Certainly, this time of year comes with a special set of distractions, but underneath the trimmings, it's business as usual. If there's hiring to be done, it will be done."

Your momentum won't sustain itself through the merriment. Unless your job hunt started last week, you've built up some amount of momentum. You've made contacts. You've gotten your foot in some doors. You've started to prove how wonderful you are. Don't let all of that effort go to waste by slacking off now! If you do, it'll take you weeks to make up the lost ground.

"I can categorically say that the slackening of momentum is one of the greatest job-hunt saboteurs we see in The Five O'Clock Club," Wendleton shares. "When people fail to have lots of things in the works, they concentrate on the one great job that they really want—and they're devastated when they come in second or the company puts a freeze on hiring. Then, it takes them two or three weeks to dig out of the depression...and who knows how many great opportunities have slipped by in the meantime?"

What you can do to improve your job search:

The Five O'Clock Club says that there are three stages to a job search: 1) being in touch with six to ten people in your target market on an ongoing basis, 2) getting those people to actively express interest in having someone like you on board, and 3) inspiring them to discuss real jobs with you. The following strategies will help you get to Stage Two (which means you're approaching the right people and positioning yourself correctly)—and once you're there, Five O'Clockers promise, Stage Three will take care of itself.

Reconnect with the year's contacts. You've sent out cards and good wishes to friends and why not extend that tradition to all of the job-search contacts you've made throughout the year? Send a card or email thanking each person for his or her help, wishing them a Happy New Year and include an update on your situation. You never know when the right memory might be sparked!

"Reconnecting with the year's contacts in a friendly, well-wishing way will remind them of who you are, what you do, and what you're trying to accomplish," Wendleton explains. "One of your main goals should be to stay on the radar of as many people in your network as possible. It takes hard work and discipline, yes, but as was the case recently for one Five O'Clock Club member, a friendly email can prompt a contact to forward your résumé to someone else, which might lead to an interview...and a job."

Expand, define, and redefine your targets. You may have a short—or long—list of companies on which you're focusing, but that list isn't definitive by a long shot. The last thing you want is a skimpy or sloppy group of targets that lacks breadth and depth. Plus, you never know when you might discover a new company you never knew about that's an ideal fit.

"You can expand your list of targets by revisiting what your skills and strengths are (maybe there's something you've overlooked!), brainstorming with friends, and doing more internet research," suggests Wendleton. "Many people are amazed to discover, after months of job hunting, an organization that isn't rich or famous but is nevertheless a great place to work."

Focus on avenues you've neglected. Everyone has a preferred method of getting meetings, whether it's through ads, search firms, networking, or direct contacts. During the next few weeks, focus on the avenues you normally skimp on. You'll probably identify new hiring trends, new contacts, and new positions. And (as we've established) now's the ideal time to get your name out there.

"Many people neglect networking and direct contacts, because they're the most labor-intensive," Wendleton shares. "If you fall into that category, challenge yourself to launch a targeted mail campaign this holiday season. Imagine what the impact might be if you send out ten intelligent cover letters per week, and then make follow-up phone calls a few days later. At the very least, you'll be a familiar name to a bevy of hiring managers."

Don't withdraw from your support network. Five O'Clock Club members attend a weekly meeting in order to receive support, advice, and help in their job searches. If you belong to such a group, don't use the holidays as an excuse to skip meetings. One of your primary goals should always be to make sure your search is moving forward.

"Accountability and outside input are crucial in helping you stay on track, and they also ensure that your job search doesn't lose originality and momentum," Wendleton says. "If you don't have a support network and are worried that you'll slack off despite your best intentions, ask a friend or family member to serve as a sounding board and check in on your progress."

Accept those party invitations! You might be tempted to become a hermit because you don't want to field questions about "what you're doing right now" or "how your job search is going." To some extent, that's understandable, especially if your situation hasn't changed in a long time—but avoidance is the wrong attitude to have. This is a party time of year, so get out there and network! Tell people you're looking for your next situation, and be sure to tell them the kind of job you're looking for.

"Take advantage of as many opportunities to meet new people as possible, and be ready to share your 30-second pitch on what you're looking for," advises Wendleton. "And if it's appropriate, ask for a more formal meeting at a new contact's office in the near future. Also, remember that those who are in a direct position to hire aren't your only allies. If you favorably impress a project manager, for example, she might mention you to her boss...and bingo—you've got an interview."

"Remember, keep adding to your job-search to-do list...and check it twice," concludes Wendleton. "There's absolutely no reason why you can't start out the New Year with one resolution already crossed off your list—a job you're excited to accept."

What do you think?

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