Holiday spirits may be high, but December is no time to hit the pause button on a job search, experts say.
Al Peteroy, a senior consultant with Ambit Energy, talks to job seekers at the Occupy A Desk job fair in New York’s Zuccotti Park, earlier this week.
Many job seekers take a break from the hunt in late November and December, figuring that employers are distracted by holiday parties, vacation plans, and end-of-year assignments like closing out the books, says Jane Trnka, executive director of the career development center at Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School of Business. In addition, some unemployed people simply want a respite from the often-demoralizing work of looking for a job.
But Ms. Trnka and others say the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be a is perhaps the most productive time of the year for a job search precisely because the competition declines so much.
Rob Weiner, a New York market director for Glenview, Ill.-based Combined Insurance set up a table at a job fair last week in midtown Manhattan but said the turnout was disappointing because so many job seekers are taking the holidays off. He has about a dozen sales openings, he said. Fifty people had stopped by before the fair’s end. “Normally we’d see triple that number,” he said. Of the people he spoke with, he planned to set up interviews with two.
Job seeker Irina Rybitskaia, 52, an engineer who was hunting for a position at the same fair in Manhattan, said she wouldn’t attend events like that one if she didn’t think anyone was hiring. Ms. Rybitskaia, who was laid off from her $56,000-a-year government job in January, said she looks for work “every single day,” including during the holiday season.
Another reason to look now: Large companies often have “use it or lose it” hiring budgets they need to spend by the end of their fiscal year, which for many firms coincides with the calendar year. “We’ve had facilities [such as hospitals] call us and say, ‘We have $100,000 to spend for recruitment and if we don’t use it this year, we don’t get it next year,'” explains Sean Milius, CEO of Management Recruiters of Colorado, a health-care focused affiliate of MRINetwork. Money might go toward signing bonuses and relocation packages, Mr. Milius says.
Keep in mind, too, that companies sometimes start big projects in January and need to staff up in advance. Ms. Trnka herself was in that position three years ago, when she was hired in December by Right Management, a career transition firm, for an assignment that began early the next month.
And, by all means, say experts using use holiday parties to practice the golden rule of job-hunting: network, network, network. Whether at your neighbor’s Kwanzaa party or your uncle’s New Year’s Day open house, try to get introductions to people who might know about relevant job openings.
But don’t get carried away. “If I showed up at a cocktail party with three copies of my resume in my pocket, it probably wouldn’t be received very well,” Mr. Milius says. But a job-seeker can follow up appropriately; sending an email five to seven days later, he suggests, requesting a coffee or lunch meeting or saying you hope to inquire in the future about job opportunities.