Let's face it, being unemployed can be difficult this time of year. But, rather than falling into a funk, make the season work for you by thinking proactively and taking a positive approach. Many employers will put on their hiring hats and preview the candidate pool prior to January so they can hit the ground running once the calendar page flips. Job seekers tend to let their guard down, waiting for the New Year to kick off and assuming everything is on hold. That makes less competition for you, as 2013 holds promise with improved economic conditions and renewed optimism for job growth. Be prepared. Develop new professional relationships, pump up skills, re-assess strategies and rethink possibilities. Only you can make it happen.
Many fabulous networking opportunities present themselves during the holiday season. Whether it's a Christmas pageant, a neighborhood gathering or church sponsored social, take advantage of these occasions. Don't use an in-your-face approach, but do carry business cards. When appropriate, hand one out. Venture away from your circle of friends and introduce yourself into new conversations. Do you know how to respond when asked, "What do you do?" Develop a 30-second commercial and practice it. Never begin with "I'm unemployed" or "I don't have a job." Instead say, "I'm an accountant or I'm a carpenter, I've worked in the industry for several years. I'm open for new opportunities." Be aware of your body language. Make eye contact, shake hands firmly, smile and show confidence. Check your appearance. Are you appropriately dressed, neat and clean? Look in the mirror before you leave the house. First impressions count.
Update your resume, clean up your contact list and polish your online profile. Upload a more recent profile picture and add any skills you've acquired during 2012. Explore new professional networking websites. If you haven't yet created an online profile, do so. Decide who you will re-contact this coming year. If it's been a year since you've spoken to key people, another contact is appropriate. Categorize business cards, delete old emails and make files for correspondence you wish to keep. In short, get organized.
What worked for you this year? What didn't? If a certain approach failed, why? There's no better time than the New Year for a review. When January arrives, companies everywhere will brainstorm with their employees to improve processes, and you should, too. Think of it this way: You are the CEO of "Me, Incorporated." Your goal is to market your product - you. How can that process be improved? Seek out the answers and make changes. If you need to beef up your profile, check out the community college schedule. Is there a new technology that would set you apart from other candidates? Take stock and then take action.
The holiday season offers prime opportunities for making a difference for others, which will make a difference for you. Volunteer. Help serve meals at a church, offer to drive an ill person to the doctor's office, pick up groceries for a confined neighbor or wrap gifts for a charity. Helping others will give you a new perspective and it could even change your life. There is no greater joy than volunteering and it has changed many career paths.
If you've worked in a temporary position for the holiday season your foot is in the door. Before you remove it, check for promotional opportunities. Are there positions within that organization that are suitable for you? If you've been a good employee, the employer would prefer to hire you rather than somebody else. Why? Because you are already trained and familiar with the company culture. If you ultimately need to move on, ask for a letter of recommendation or an online endorsement. Never burn a bridge.
Lastly, remember to enjoy the season. It's okay to get your nose off the grindstone once in a while and give yourself a break. There are affordable activities to enjoy, even on a shoestring budget. Take the kids to see the neighborhood Christmas lights, write holiday cards, dust off the snowshoes for a jaunt in the woods, visit a lonely friend or write a letter to a veteran who won't be home for Christmas. Whatever you do, allow yourself down time to take in the holiday spirit. It will perk up your mood but, most of all, because you deserve it.
Happy holidays to all.
- Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional who has worked in the employment field for more than 20 years. She is a trainer coach and job developer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.