While you might believe that the last couple weeks of the year are fallow, this season offers unique opportunities for job hunters. Here are some end-of-the-year tips you can implement now:
1. Keep your online network warm. Take advantage of the season to initiate communications with the people in your network. Review your first degree LinkedIn connections and reach out to them.
Make a list of all the people who helped you in one way or another in the last year, even by doing something small. Write a short note and tell them that you've been thinking about them, you're appreciative of their friendship and/or assistance, and you wish them a Happy New Year. Don't ask anything from them, but remind them that they should not hesitate to call on you if you can somehow assist them in the new year.
Use LinkedIn's Signal function (found in the News tab) to see which companies have hired people in your network, and also just scroll through your list of first degree connections in the Contacts tab to see who has been hired or promoted within the last few months. Make a point to reach out to these people, one at a time. Congratulate them (again) on their career progress, and extend your wishes for a productive and wonderful 2013. You might ask to speak with them soon just to "check in" and see how things are working out in their new role/job. When you do, take that opportunity first to listen to them and only then share what you have been up to without specifically asking them to help you in your job hunt. And once again, remind them that you hope to be able to help them and that they shouldn't hesitate to reach out to you.
2. Use holiday parties to network. It is easy to stay out of sight, not wanting to mingle and answer the question: "Are you still unemployed?" However, it is especially important to get out of the house and keep your face in front of family, peers, etc. You should try to keep the conversation focused on them rather than on yourself, and use information you gain about their work and activities as the basis for follow up conversations.
3. Use this time to self reflect. No doubt there are some quiet moments during this "down" time of the year. Go off by yourself somewhere, with a pad and pen. Write down all the things that you have been doing to get a job, to network with people, to master social media, and so forth. Figure out what parts of the job hunt you are really good at, and which parts need improvement. When you can identify what you need to do to become a more effective job hunter, you can then begin to create a plan of action. How will you go about improving your resume, enhancing your networking skills, or preparing for job interviews? What resources do you need, and how can you get them?
4. Figure out what you don't know and how you can learn it. Sometimes it is clear that you need to take an extra course or two, gain an additional certification or credential, or otherwise research a new position, company, or field of expertise. Cassi Fields, a Ph.D. psychologist who owns and runs Limited Exposure Theory Corporation in Washington, D.C. explains: "Oftentimes, job and promotion seekers have little knowledge of what the desired position entails."
Fields suggests that whether you're looking for a new job or to gain a promotion, you should seek to become a "pro-active protégée." You can do this by seeking out a mentor and asking people to teach you, and to give you the information that you will need to get ahead.
5. Keep your own spirits up. While this time of year should be filled with seasonal joy, it's all the more difficult for those feeling joyless. If you've had a long period of unemployment, are frustrated with your job hunt progress, or see your financial resources dwindling, it is easy to become down and depressed. Even in these circumstances, you retain control over certain things, and when you exercise that control you'll begin to feel better about yourself and your situation. People don't hire people they perceive to be depressed, overly anxious, or needy. They hire people who are optimistic and have a "can do" attitude.
Hiring managers don't--and shouldn't--see themselves as the answer to your problems. Instead, you must be the answer to theirs. Bearing all this in mind, remember the value of the adage, "Fake it till you make it." Use this time of year to put some spark back into your smile and spring into your step. Jettison unsuccessful routines, meet new people, and remember that with the new year comes new possibilities.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.