Conventional wisdom holds that December is an awful time to look for a job because, supposedly, employers roll down their hiring windows until January. Consequently, many job seekers take a break from the hunt. But over the last 25 years — in my roles as a Human Resources manager, owner of an employment agency and a career coach — I’ve concluded that December might actually be the best month to score a job.
I’ve discussed the “to look or not to look in December” question many times with my career coach colleagues and they agree with me, noting the end of the year is often capped by a last-minute flurry of interviews and job offers for their clients. According to a CNNMoney article, 69 percent of recruiters surveyed by ExecuNet, an online executive career network, said they place as many, or more, candidates in December as in any other month.
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So as tempting as it may be to kick back and put your job search on ice until 2014, here are 10 reasons to rethink that strategy and rev up your campaign to land work:
1. You’ll have less competition. With so many of your rivals slacking off for the holidays, there will be fewer folks competing for openings. That boosts the odds that your application will get noticed.
2. Your diligence will make you stand out. I know it’s not easy to stay focused on a job search while everyone around you is making merry. But your commitment won’t go unnoticed by potential employers. Just remember: This is one competitive advantage that will vanish come January, when the herd returns.
3. December is a time when many employers are setting aside hiring dollars for new positions. As 2014 budgets get finalized, your application could be near the top of the pile of the first people to be hired next year.
4. Vacancies occur soon after some people receive year-end bonuses and quit. Employers are then often left scrambling to fill these openings. As a former HR manager, I can tell you that trying to bring on new staffers rather than taking time off for the holidays was a royal pain in the neck. I tended to fill those vacancies with more urgency (and a bit less caution) than at other times of the year.
5. Executives and recruiters can be easier to reach in December. They tend to travel less during the holiday season. And if their support staff is away on vacation, you may have more luck booking an interview—the head honchos are likelier to pick up their own calls.
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6. The holiday season offers great opportunities for networking. Between neighborhood potluck dinners, trade group parties and community gatherings, there’s no shortage of events where you can meet new contacts and reconnect with old friends. You might find that one of them was hired recently and can give you a few pointers.
Just be careful to keep social interactions social — for goodness sake, don’t hand out your resumé at a party. If you have a conversation with someone you think might be helpful to your search, ask for his or her contact information and follow up later.
Also be sure to offer some of your contacts to fellow job hunters at social events. Your kindness might be returned some day.
7. The holidays are an ideal time to reconnect with friends, colleagues and business acquaintances. Send paper or electronic greeting cards to any who might be able to offer a lead. Don’t mention your search in the card (other than to give a brief update if the person knows you’re looking for work). But do include your email address, phone number and maybe even your LinkedIn URL, so the recipients can circle back after the holidays to catch up.
8. It’s a good time to seek seasonal or temporary work assignments. Many companies hire extra help to fill in for workers on vacation or because the holidays are especially busy. Take advantage of these temporary opportunities to get your foot in the door, try out new work environments or earn extra cash while conducting your search for a permanent position.
Some nonprofits need more people during this time of year, too. By volunteering, you just might find that your assistance could lead to paid full-time job. Next Avenue has an article to help you convert a volunteer position into a paying job.
9. People tend to be in a friendly, helpful mood during the holidays. Nobody wants to come off as being Scrooge-like in December, so managers are more inclined to agree to informational meetings. As Jane Trnka, director of the Career Development Center at the M.B.A. program of Rollins College told Meghan Casserly of Forbes, “The holidays are quite possibly the one time of year when people are at their most gracious and charitable.”
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After your informational meeting, send a thank-you note. A small gift, such as a box of cookies, to anyone who goes “above and beyond” could be a lovely, appropriate way to express your appreciation.
10. You’ll keep up your job search momentum. If you suspend the hunt, you could have trouble motivating yourself to start looking in January. By keeping your search active throughout the holidays, you'll remain energetic and enthusiastic, two traits employers crave.
I suggest trying to do at least one thing connected to your search every day in December (OK, take off New Year’s Eve). This way, you might find yourself at the top of the list at employers who’ll be filling positions in January.
Cheers to a prosperous New Year — and a new job — in 2014!