Proper Job Search Etiquette Starts During the Holidays

Contrary to popular belief, “the holidays” are actually a golden time to look for a job.

How would you like to wake up on the morning of January 2 with a solid job offer in hand, while the rest of the job seekers are just getting started on their search? Do you think it’s too late for that? If so, you’re almost right. But if you get started immediately, you can get your foot squarely in the door while everyone else is out shopping, drinking egg nog or worse yet, lamenting the layoffs, the Stock Market and whatever doom and gloom news that gets circulated. Contrary to the popular refrain, “the holidays” are a golden time to look for a job, and a number of opportunities will be gone if you wait until after the New Year.

But attitude means just about everything too. This is true if you are working or if you’ve been laid off and are seeking new opportunities. Remember that for most job seekers it’s bad etiquette to appear desperate or needy to any contact or employers. Wendy Calson, an executive in transition says, “When I stopped acting so needy and pestering people for employment opportunities and just found out employers needs and ways to fill them, my search style yielded more return emails and phone calls.” Consider adopting this holiday attitude and core commitment – it’s never too early to develop a positive relationship, renew relationships or build new ones. Matt Zelman, an independent executive recruiter confirms, “Most job seekers during the holidays come across anxious, upset and glum. I don’t want to hire or consider them based on their bad attitude.” So change your attitude before “the holidays” are over. Focus on developing new relationships, and starting and keeping outstanding communication habits.

Perhaps it is true that timing is everything, and at any given time of the year, a window of opportunity opens and closes. How do you know the holidays won’t open the key relationship, contact or online/ offline lead that results in an interview for you?

In fact, the year-end crunch may offer significantly more opportunities than other times of the year depending on your industry, where you are looking and hiring trends. Recruiter Matt Zelman notes, “You hear the headlines of layoffs, but there is a but here. But…hiring managers are often under pressure to fill job requisitions by the end of the year, knowing that their window will close after the first of the year. Companies may have an overt ‘freeze’ that will cease. Recruiters, like other salespeople, are under pressure to fill their quotas.” So are you developing relationships with key hiring managers or just demonstrating through email, online and offline networking how frustrated you are? Now is the time to stay connected, in touch and focused!

If you look at the kind of group think that is out there, what do you suppose most job seekers are doing or saying? Ask them. Most job seekers have already called it quits for the year, resolving to get serious about looking for a job “after the holidays.” Media facts back them up. Read any headline: X Company Announces Layoffs. Who could argue with the headlines? So my advice? Stop looking at the macro headlines. It’s the micro-economy that matters – Yours!

When the masses of job seekers back off it’s an opportunity. This narrows the playing field considerably, and it increases the amount of pressure on hiring managers who know that they need to fill positions during December. Also, most people who are out looking for jobs are easily discouraged by the holiday slowdown myth. If you have a solid plan of attack, you can keep your head above the water and attract people to you. This will give you an advantage over the majority of other job seekers. So, the time to hit the job market is now.

However, to pull this off, you must effectively invest your time. Continue to customize your resumes versus spraying resumes everywhere. You will need to hone in and narrow your focus to the particular types of employers most likely to urgently need you. Link to them. Develop relationships. Dialogue with them. You’ll also need to find a back door, or a quick avenue to accessing a decision maker directly. And you had better have something to say that helps them accomplish their goals. Finally, you’ll need a way to find out about advertised and perhaps even under-advertised job vacancies.

There are a few simple strategies you can use to accomplish these goals.

Have a plan.

Identify your long-term goals and short-term requirements. What are the must-haves about any job offer you will accept? Where do you want this job to lead you? What type of company do you want to work for? How would you like to put your skills to work?

Exude happiness despite negative headlines.

Maintain a positive attitude and demeanor online and offline. Confidence is attractive; being in a slump isn’t. Get excited about the opportunity you’re going to land. That excitement will rub off on the people around you so refine your communication skills online and offline. It’ll make the job search process fun and using proper, professional etiquette makes you stand out amongst the desperate masses.

Develop an online presence.

If appropriate for your level of search confidentiality, create a Ladders, LinkedIn and association profile if you don’t have one already and make sure that all of your information is up to date, appropriate and professional. Any time you learn the name of a hiring manager, look to see if anyone in your LinkedIn network knows that person, and if so, ask for an introduction. Research companies that you apply to on sites like Ladders and develop a gameplan to research each and every one.

Attend networking events, open houses and holiday parties.

Not just any networking events, and not every networking event. You’ll need to figure out which events will be well attended by people who can connect you with decision makers (or, better yet, events attended by decision makers themselves). But don’t carry a sandwich board with your resume on it (unless appropriate)! If you choose to attend any career fairs, be sure to research the names of the companies represented, and find out as much as possible about those companies and their current needs. Social events are times to interview. December is the month for them.

Find the connectors and properly communicate with them.

These are the people who know the decision makers, and who have an incentive for connecting you with them. These may be recruiters, or they may be other employees in the same company. You won’t know who they are at first, but they’ll identify themselves to you if you network effectively. Find proper and appropriate ways to develop relationships.

To act on the time-critical window that opens during “the holidays,” you need to be fully focused on getting to the decision makers directly. You don’t have any time to waste. This is why it’s so critical to narrow your focus and figure out which types of employers you need to talk to. It’s also why you’ll need to target your “elevator pitch” to a very specific audience. If you do this, the wrong people will quickly lose interest, and the right people’s ears will perk up.

Finally, don’t fill out a job application with a company who hasn’t heard of you. By the time you fill out a job application, this step should be a formality after the decision to bring you on board has already been made. You don’t have time to sort through online job postings, in the hopes of finding the urgent ones. There are just too many postings and not enough time. And the kind of opportunity you’re looking for is unlikely to be publicly posted anyway. The front door approach takes a long time. The trick to getting a great job during the holidays is to squeeze in through the back door with proper communication etiquette only.

The job market is ripe with opportunity during the holiday season so work on the micro economy – YOURS.