Updated: December 2020
Timing is everything when it comes to the job search. Even if you’re the perfect candidate for the job, you’re bound to experience the effects of bad timing during the holiday job search. In this post we’ll share all of the seasonality timing traps you need to be aware of, what to expect during hiring slowdowns, and how to maneuver your job search during the holidays.
How seasonality affects the hiring process
Seasonality is a reality in the job search. There are times when hiring managers and HR are focused on aggressive hiring. There are also times where you will find yourself quite engaged in the hiring conversation and process. However, during the holidays is not one of these times. Regardless of how much you may want a job, it’s important to be aware that the hiring entity controls the timing around this process. And the hiring timing will always be affected by things like holiday office hours, vacation days, and so on. This is true even if you have the best contacts on the inside, vying for you to be hired.
What the hiring process looks like on the inside
A great mentality to adopt during your job search is that of the hiring side’s perspective. What the hiring manager, HR rep, or recruiter is thinking should drive your branding, engagement, and interviewing. Therefore, it’s important to take a closer look at the hiring process. Depending on the role, your hiring timeline may vary. The more senior you are, the longer the hiring process will take. The reason for this, is that your salary is no small chunk of change and they can’t afford to get the hire wrong. Therefore the hiring entity is going to interview as many people as needed to make the best decision. The hiring organization will also need to gather the thoughts of all the key players – the people you will be interfacing with. And these people may need to have multiple conversations with you to get a solid read. Now multiply all those conversations by more candidates and we’re talking a lot of internal coordinating and scheduling! Now add holidays and vacation schedules to the mix. If you’re interviewing during a time where folks are out of office, that will only add to more delays in the process.
Be aware of these slow hiring months
Since interviewing and hiring is dependent on people in the office, it makes perfect sense that some hiring times might be slower than others. The months/seasons in which you will likely experience slower hiring are: spring, summer, and winter holiday months (November, December). Spring can be affected by spring break schedules at schools – and parents taking off to be home with the kids. Summer slowdowns should be no surprise and definitely require a unique strategy. Nearly everyone gets out of dodge during this key vacationing season. You probably have noticed your current employer’s office becoming significantly quieter during summer. So the summer slowdown is to be expected. Things tend to pick up after Labor Day but will then come to another slow down as we near November. Thanksgiving will lead into Christmas and before you know it, we are in January! Holiday parties, shopping and vacation time will consume all of the December schedules. So the winter holidays are also not an optimal time to expect hiring upticks.
How the holidays can affect the job seeker mindset
I love the holiday season and I’ll admit I am fully guilty of maxing out my activities and mental prep when it comes to rounding out the end of the year. However, it wasn’t so long ago that holidays were less enjoyable in my world. Holidays meant family time and family time meant a slew of questions from relatives and inevitably, questions about my job… If you love your job, sure, this can be an exciting part of the holidays but I recall having to apply the “forced smile and positivity” routine around these questions due to a job I dreaded; basically faking my way through these conversations. It’s hard to express passion when you don’t feel it. Right? And of course this becomes increasingly more difficult if you are unemployed or struggling in your search. Quality time with family can be a real joy and not something you want to take for granted. Despite your career rough patch, try and prepare yourself mentally for family gatherings. Use some basic hope boosters to help generate positive mindset. You may also need to set some clear conversation boundaries up front. Confide in those closest to you that the holidays will be challenging and ask that they avoid the dreaded job topic until after the holidays.
Leverage family gatherings for subtle networking opportunities
Holidays can also be a great time to network. Being surrounded by family can have its perks where networking is concerned. Use the family gatherings as opportunities to test out some of your informational interview questions. Learn as much as you can about your relatives’ jobs as a part of personal research. Explore the career paths of those closest to you and rule out those that are not appealing. You may discover that you have a new found interest in a new career direction. Also, you never know who someone might know. And, your interest will certainly be appreciated by the relative with whom you’re inquiring – perhaps even enough to warrant an introduction to their network.
How you can take control of the slow job search seasons
You can’t control the timing of your job search. In most cases, hiring timing is totally contingent upon the hiring entity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little strategic prep work during the slow periods. November and December, can be great times to start doing mental prep for January. What do you want to achieve in the year ahead? Where do you want to be? You can’t just wake up on Jan 1 and tackle a plan that doesn’t exist. November is a great time, to start your brainstorm around where you want to be. It could be a life goal or a career goal but it’s important to start thinking goals. This may help you avoid the temptation to obsess over the low application response rates during the holiday season. It will definitely help you stay in control of your career.
Try this process for career planning during a slow job search
Taking a step back to career plan can seem counter-productive during a job search. However, sometimes the absence of job prospects or application responses, is a great time to reevaluate where you’re headed. Here is what I recommend for someone who is experiencing a slow search and minimal application responses:
1. Have an honest conversation with yourself
You know where you are in your career. If you don’t, it’s time to have that honest conversation with yourself about whether or not you’re where you want to be. It’s a simple conversation that consists of answering the question: “Am I fulfilled in my work?” In other words: “Is this what I want to be doing for the rest of my life?” If it’s not, you may want to check out this checklist on figuring out what you want to do in your next career move. Even if you don’t want to have that conversation, you can bet it will come up in the coming holidays… So just have it with yourself now.
2. Create a NEW plan
If you’ve already had this conversation and you’ve been trying to work towards your goal without any success, it’s time to reevaluate your plan. Ask yourself, why you aren’t where you want to be and how you can change even 1 thing, to start making traction. Without a plan or a clear set of next steps, you are likely to find yourself in the same spot next year. Identify a career plan that works and use it to set some achievable goals for moving forward.
3. What’s your next (bigger and better) step?
And, if you have done the above and feel you are living out your passion each day. I would challenge you to see what more you can do for others. (Because it’s not all about you, right?). We can always do more and there are always those in need. Push yourself to enhance your dream career by giving back. Empower others to reach their goals just like you have.
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