Contrary to what many job seekers may think, the holidays can be the best time to get employed. "Many job seekers make the mistake of putting their job search on hold during the holidays on the assumption that 'no one's hiring in December,' " said career consultant Naomi Kinert, owner of Career Focus in El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Given the number of job hunters who get distracted or discouraged at year's end, she noted, "those who stay in the [job hunt] game will have less competition" and potentially better odds of landing a permanent paycheck. The holidays can be a good time to catch recruiters, hiring managers and others at work. "Oftentimes, work slows down a bit, the office is quiet and someone who normally wouldn't have time may have a few minutes to talk or respond to your calls or e-mails," said Kinert.
Use the time to request an informational interview, get your resume in front of hiring managers, or just seek advice about the company. Not everyone is comfortable on the business social circuit, but holiday gatherings can put you in front of people who can help.
Some job seekers want to hunker down behind their PCs, which is the reverse of what they should be doing: getting out there and socializing, says Kinert.
"Don't be embarrassed by your situation," said Kinert, who recommends having a 30-second standard greeting that's positive and informative. When asked about your job, for instance, say: "Most recently I was with Intel in Folsom, where I did XYZ, but my whole department was downsized. So now I'm excited about new possibilities, either at VSP or HP or ABC company."
Serving meals at a church shelter, helping build a children's center or handing out canned goods at the food bank can put you right alongside a CEO or hiring manager of a company you're interested in, adds Helen Scully, president of Scully Career Associates in Folsom, Calif.
Even during the holidays, create a structure to your day and follow a schedule, suggests Scully. "Set some tangible targets: 'At 8 a.m., I'm going to start looking, take an hour for lunch, finish up at 3 p.m. I'm going to set up five face-to-face meetings a week.'"Another tip: Find a "job-search buddy," someone to encourage you and to commiserate with. It doesn't have to be someone in your same field, but someone to help you stick to your goals.