Even though this time of year may inspire more interest in holiday shopping and decorating the house than job hunting, experts say the holiday season is an excellent time to get hired or at least get on the right company's "nice" list. Take a look at the top five reasons the holidays can be a particularly lucrative time for job-seekers and the best ways to get your application in before New Year's Eve.
1. Holiday parties
"The holiday season offers plenty of opportunities to connect with people in person — holiday parties, volunteer programs, recognition events and more," says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "Take advantage of these opportunities to step away from your computer and connect with people face to face."
No matter the role you're seeking, Christy Palfy, a recruiting manager at Progressive Insurance, says to let people know you're looking, even, friends and family.
"There will be plenty of get-togethers that offer a great opportunity to introduce yourself and make it known you're looking," Palfy says.
Even if you're partying with people in differing industries, don't be afraid to make your desires known.
"You should still mention it," Palfy says. "You never know who people may know, and you may find out there are roles open you never even knew existed."
Also, don't restrict your networking to professional or industry events, McDonald says. Your best leads may come from non-work gatherings like your children's school event or your neighbor's holiday party.
"Remember that people tend to be more willing to help those they've met in person, so make the effort to connect in person," he says.
2. Less competition
During the Holidays, many job-seekers may be less engaged at work and more focused on their family and friends, and that means you may end up in a pool of fewer applicants and therefore up against less competition than other times of the year, says Piera Palazzolo, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dale Carnegie Training.
"It's absolutely a time for you to take advantage of the fact that there are fewer people applying in general," Palfy says. "We see a slight decrease in applicants in general, and that means less competition overall."
Those who are unemployed or unhappy in their jobs often use the holiday season in the worst way possible: as an excuse to fly under the radar and hibernate. Instead, this is the time to "take charge" in your job search, says Tom Gimbel, president, and CEO of LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing firm.
"The pool of people pursuing open positions is significantly smaller during the holiday season, and smart job-seekers should capitalize on this smaller amount of competitors," Gimbel says.
3. Things are slower at the company where you're applying, too
When the "gatekeepers" are away, it's an excellent time to get through to hiring managers and do some research on the company you're interested in, says Mark Anthony Dyson, founder of the Competitive Resumes consultancy and The Voice of Jobseekers.
"This is a good time to find out information about the company. Call the 1-800 customer service number and build a rapport with the representative that answers the phone," Dyson suggests. "Many times they can be helpful with finding out information you normally can't get during peak seasons, such as hiring manager names, departments of interest, basic research of the company, and more."
If you've already submitted an application to a company, Gimbel says this season is the perfect time for follow-up with people who have the final say on hiring decisions.
"Typically it's hard to reach these decision-makers, but during the holidays, many administrative staff members request time away from the office. This is the time to take advantage; call the company and ask for the hiring manager directly," he suggests.
4. Holiday cards and emails
Reaching out to wish someone a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas or Happy New Year is a great way to re-establish connections and make a friendly inquiry about available jobs and opportunities, Palfy says.
"Reconnect with past professional contacts with a holiday card or email, ask them to get coffee," Palazzolo says. "The holiday is the perfect time to touch base and catch up with your network."
It really comes down to "letting your contacts know you're out there" Palfy explains. Even if you're just connecting on social media, you're still making that effort to be more visible. This is especially important if you're following up on a lucrative holiday party meeting.
"Go on LinkedIn and reinforce that connection you made with someone at the holiday party or networking event," she says. "Just something simple will work: 'Hey it was great talking to you, I hope to stay in touch and add you to my network.'"
5. Be flexible
If you are unemployed and looking for work, don't shy away from a temporary or project work that's available during the final weeks of the year, McDonald says. Even if you have your heart set on a full-time position, remember that temporary roles lead frequently to full-time job offers.
"Lots of attention is given to jobs in the retail sector for the holiday season, but offices have plenty of needs as well, particularly in the accounting and administrative support areas," he explains. "Demand is strong for several reasons. Companies need to close the books, clear backlogs, get ready for projects in the new year, address spikes in business and cover for vacationing or sick employees."
The holidays may also present the perfect opportunity for taking informational interviews, Gimbel says, and these meetings can make a candidate stand out as someone who is "hungry for knowledge" and has a strong work ethic.
"Even though these meetings may not result in a job offer during the holiday season, a job-seeker will be farther ahead than most come Jan. 1."