business

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. . . to Land a Job

The holidays are the time to postpone job searching, right? After all, no one’s hiring. Half the time, no one’s even there, right?

Wrong! While, yes, in December, some workplaces slow down to an eggnog-soaked stagger, the holidays actually may be the very best time to job-search.

Why? In many workplaces, next year's budget and goals have just been approved, and hiring managers are trying to fill slots for the first of the year. Or, if there’s lingering ’09 budget to burn, an employer may be more open than usual to creating a slot for you, if only on a project basis. Knock 'em dead in that temp job, and you’ll have an inside track on the next permanent position. (Alas, these days, ever-fewer positions are, in fact, more than longer-term temp jobs.)

Also keep in mind that some workplaces offering year-end bonuses usually lose employees at year-end.

In December, hiring managers are less likely to be on business trips and in long meetings and more likely to be at their desks to receive your phone calls. And if you leave messages or emails, you're more likely to get responses. The holiday spirit makes employers more likely to grant you such job-seeker gifts as an informational interview or a receptive ear to your pitch.

Perhaps most important, most of your fellow job seekers think the holidays are more for gift-searching than job-searching -- so if you're job hunting in December, you’ll have less competition than at any other time.

Here are my favorite tips to make the most of holiday job-searching:

At holiday parties, while spreading good cheer, spread the word that that your grinch of an employer had the nerve to send your job to Bangalore -- and that what you really want for Christmas isn't a gift card you'll probably misplace or end up using to buy some crap you don't need; it's a good job. Say it in a relaxed, not desperate or angry tone. Ahead-of-the-pack tip: Throw a holiday party with a guest list liberally laced with people who could help you land a good job. Not much of a party thrower? Invite your best-connected people to get together at a restaurant or watering hole.

In your holiday letters and cards, don't be shy about mentioning that you're looking. These days, you have plenty of company. Add to your holiday list your past employers, coworkers, customers, vendors, etc. -- that is, those that like you. Such people are particularly likely to shepherd you to a potential Santa Claus.

If you're heading out of town for the holidays, try to schedule an informational or employment interview there. You'll be perceived as more special, coming from far away, and employers may view the opportunity to meet you as a one-time opportunity.

Unless you really need the money or need to get out of the house to break out of your torpor, don't take a seasonal job -- delivering packages, retail sales, customer service, etc. Such jobs pay poorly, few if any of the hordes hired for the holidays get offered permanent decent jobs, and spending 40 hours a week on that dead-end job robs you of the time and energy you need to land sustainable employment.

Allow yourself time for pleasure – after all, a job search is draining. So what would it take to keep your spirits up? Ice skating? Seeing your relatives? (Be sure they're more a source of joy than of angst.) Volunteer to help the less fortunate? (I'll admit that my holiday volunteer effort is pretty small: On Christmas Day, I accompany on the electric piano, a bunch of lousy Christmas carolers as we visit the wards in a veteran's retirement home.) What cause would you feel best about volunteering for?

They’re all better ideas than trying to shop your way to contentment. That doesn't work even if you have a paycheck coming in, and it certainly won't work if you're unemployed. After a momentary shopper's high, you'll likely get depressed – especially when the credit-card bill comes in.

Marty Nemko is a contributing columnist for Kiplinger and has been named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Find more than 500 of his other published writings free at www.martynemko.com.

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