Think the holidays automatically mean a lag in your professional advancement? Think again! If you’re committed to moving and shaking your way into a new job, now’s as good of a time as any to get ahead of other candidates—in fact, using the dead hiring period to your advantage may actually be the best time to get ahead.
In order to help you take advantage of the typical lull in business and slow down in hiring, we tapped into Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., seasoned career coach and founder of Carlota Worldwide to get her best tips on getting a brand new job just in time for the new year. Here, we’re laying out four smart ways to use the dead hiring period of December to get ahead of other candidates and advance your career.
Check in with your college/grad school
Joining your college/grad school alumni associations to see what resources they have for people who are job hunting may not seem like the best way to get ahead, but you’d be surprised by all the nuggets of information and leads that may actually help you in the long run—even if it’s been years since you graduated.
“Before you roll your eyes, you might be very pleasantly surprised,” explains Zimmerman. “Nowadays, many schools are offering free coaching and free resume help. Not to mention, your best way into the companies you’re interested in, is through your fellow alumni.”
Zimmerman suggests joining the associations—and the groups within the associations aimed at your gender, background and industry. “At many associations, once you’ve identified a concise list of companies you’re interested in, you can call and they will give you the contact info of fellow alumni who work at those companies and are willing to help. No one’s promising you a job, but presuming you’ve got the relevant expertise, and an organized pitch, your odds are 100 percent better than many candidates.”
Get real about which companies interest you
Have you really thought about which companies you’d like to work for? Think of the missions you most resonate with or the projects you’d like to be a part of and identify a list of the companies that tick off those boxes.
“For each job and company, you should be able to answer what specific job you’re interested in, why, and what you bring to the company,” explains Zimmerman. “These are basic interview questions, but you might be shocked at how many people go into interviews shrugging, ‘Well, why not?’”
Instead of going after companies with abandon, use this time to research the companies, the people who work in the division(s) you’re interested in, and then write out 3-5 talking points: Your relevant educational and professional background. Projects you’ve led.
Problems you’ve solved. Ideas you have. Use the dead of winter to bring your professional aspirations to life by researching and rehearsing your answers.
Try to schedule informal interviews
“As a coach for 12 years, I’ve helped countless clients turn these opportunities into jobs. Assuming you have joined your alumni association(s), and researched the companies, and gotten names, now’s the time to reach out to people and pick their brains.
You should be able to sum yourself, your background and search up in a very succinct manner,” say Zimmerman. “And don’t forget to convey your passion for the company and job!”
Go into the interviews with the idea of creating a professional connection—and if they’re willing, ask for any advice they may have. Do they have special experience that helped them get into the company’s doors? Would they do anything differently? Is there a specific contact they’d recommend connecting with?
Afterwards, Zimmerman suggests sending a thank-you card, not only to show your appreciation but to keep your name at the top of their mind. “You might think it’s corny but when someone who is polite and prepared reaches out, and conveys their interest and has smart questions…well, what good company wouldn’t want to hire them?”
Practice, practice, practice
We’ve all become so accustomed to catching up over Zoom—so using this period to practice your virtual interviewing skills should be pretty simple.
“Do you have a friend who’ll hop on Zoom with you and ask you some questions? Dress up, prepare your background and take it seriously. The more comfortable you are, the more fluent you’ll be in the actual interview,” says Zimmerman.