As the winter holiday season begins to glimmer on the horizon, you may be wondering how to handle your job search. Should you rev it up or put it on hold? Will the pace of hiring pick up as companies press on to achieve year-end goals? Or, conversely, will hiring stall as everyone gets caught up in the busyness and festivities of the season?
In the tech and engineering fields, the search for top talent really never ends. The historically low unemployment rates in these sectors, and the constant evolution of technology, mean that companies often struggle to find qualified candidates for their open roles. For this reason, just about any time of year is a good time for tech and engineering professionals to seek new opportunities.
But, there are a couple of significant advantages to looking for work during the holiday season. First, competition for open roles might be lower as other job seekers find their own searches derailed by holiday festivities. Second, the social events that are part and parcel of Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, the Lunar New Year, and New Year’s Eve are perfect opportunities to network.
That’s not to say that finding a new job during the holiday season will be as easy (or fun!) as opening a present from Santa Claus. You may need to overcome some obstacles, including general seasonal stresses and reduced office hours at some companies. But with a strategic approach and a positive attitude, it’s possible to land a new and exciting job during the holidays.
Start As Early As You Can
While you absolutely should continue looking for work right into the height of the holiday season, October is a peak hiring month before a slowdown begins in November. That slowdown will gather momentum as the year winds down, so the earlier that you start your search, the better your prospects are.
Some businesses re-evaluate their staffing needs in September and ramp up their efforts to meet their hiring objectives and fill headcount before the end of the year. In some cases, a company may have a “use it or lose it” policy in terms of budgets for new hires. As a result, new positions may be posted and the hiring process for all open positions may be expedited.
Businesses that hire seasonal workers will often begin their fall hiring in September as well. While seasonal hiring is often associated with the retail sector, that upswing does include hiring within e-commerce. The e-commerce field relies heavily on tech professionals including:
- Front-end engineers;
- UX designers;
- UX researchers;
- SEO specialists;
- Business analysts;
- Project managers; and,
- IT managers.
Seasonal work is a terrific choice for contract workers. For those seeking long-term employment, remember that seasonal work can lead to permanent job offers.
Seasonal hiring begins in September and is heaviest through October; however, it does continue throughout the holiday season until January.
Focus On Key Job-Search Tasks
The importance of perfection has always been stressed when it comes to looking for a new job. We’ve all heard time and again how important it is to have a flawless resume, a well-written cover letter, a strong personal brand online, polished professional clothing for interviews, and well-rehearsed interview answers.
But because you must move quickly to take advantage of year-end hiring initiatives, there isn’t always time to polish everything to perfection. Instead, carve out time to focus on a few key tasks.
Refresh Your Resume
Hopefully, your resume is up-to-date and formatted to a current acceptable standard. If so, 15-20 minutes is all that’s needed to review it for any glaring errors and add in any recent changes. Perhaps you have a new email address or website presence. Or perhaps your current role has shifted, with new responsibilities and a change in job title that needs to be reflected on your resume.
Look it over with a keen, critical eye to see if there is any redundant or dated information that you can delete. Remove references to old jobs, skills, and certifications that will likely not be relevant for the types of positions you intend to apply for.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has some notoriety among highly sought-after tech and engineering professionals. Recruiters use the site extensively, hoping to tap passive candidates. If you’ve been keeping your “Open to work” button turned off in an attempt to avoid cold emails from recruiters, now’s the time to turn it back on. Keep in mind that you can adjust your settings so that this signal is only visible to recruiters on the site. This is especially helpful if you are currently employed and don’t want your employer to know you are looking elsewhere.
In addition to letting recruiters know you are open to new opportunities, you can optimize your profile by:
- Using a current, professional profile photo;
- Choosing a cover photo that expresses your personality and captures interest;
- Creating an engaging headline that tells your story; and
- Browsing through the other sections to make sure they are up-to-date.
Reach Out To Your Network
You’ve heard it before: Your network is invaluable when it comes to a job search. A LinkedIn survey found that, globally, 70% of people reported that were hired because of their connections. The importance of your network is particularly high as the year winds down to a close and hiring managers are working quickly to fill open roles. Reaching out to your own contacts or to mutual acquaintances that you’ve garnered introductions to will likely produce better results.
People in your network might know about opportunities that aren’t publicly posted. They might be able to introduce you to a hiring manager or get your application prioritized as resumes are reviewed and interviews are set up.
While asking for help can be difficult and connecting with your contacts can take time, connecting with your network can actually save time in the long run. You won’t be wasting time applying for positions that have been already filled or ones where there are too many applications for yours to stand out.
Maximize Holiday Networking Opportunities
The holiday season, with its abundance of social activities, can boost your networking initiatives.
Professional associations, alumni associations, and your own various social groups may have holiday celebrations that you can attend, where you can let people know about your job search. As well, reaching out to people individually at this time of year can be done very organically, since many of us catch up with each other at year’s end. It’s the perfect time to renew a social connection, asking that person how their year went and telling them about your own achievements and goals.
A piece in the Harvard Business Review suggests sending holiday cards, emails, or messages to your contacts as a way to network at this time of year. The author recommends approaching the note like any other holiday greeting and adding a statement saying that you would love a chance to catch up, especially if it’s been a while since you last connected in person. Make a concrete suggestion, such as meeting for lunch or coffee within a specific timeframe. With everyone in the holiday spirit, it’s quite possible that your greeting will be returned in kind and your offer accepted.
Take Advantage Of Limited Competition
As the holiday season grows closer and hiring slows down, many job seekers pause their searches. Busy with their own holiday activities and believing the misconception that hiring completely grinds to a halt at this time of year, many people take a break
from job hunting. This is especially true for people who are currently employed and have income that they can rely on until the new year.
Although opportunities may be lower in the depths of the holidays, competition is lower as well. Still, if your perseverance doesn’t result in interview offers, don’t be discouraged. As Anthony Gaenzle aptly points out:
Many employers will review resumes and set up interviews through the holiday season with the intention of actually offering the job in January. Whether for budgeting reasons, or just because they don’t want to train a new employee before their own holiday break, this trend is reason enough to continue applying during the holidays.
Keep applying throughout the holidays no matter how lukewarm the response seems to be. Your dream job may materialize in just a few weeks down the road.