With the hustle-bustle of the holidays, job-seekers may want to ease up on their searches, but that's the wrong approach, experts say.
"It's not the time to take a respite, although you might be tempted to because it's the holidays and your focus is elsewhere," said Anita Dombrowski, immediate past president of the Greater Valley Forge Human Resource Association, a professional group.
In fact, the holidays provide the perfect confluence of corporate timing and job-search opportunities.
On the corporate side, companies are finishing their 2011 spending and completing plans for 2012 hiring budgets. On the job-seeker side, parties abound, with excellent opportunities for networking.
"Companies are putting more substance to budget projections and those projections are coming to reality," said Adam Berman, president of the Philadelphia Human Resource Planning Society.
If companies are hiring, he said, they may be poised to make an offer at the very start of the year. Or, he said, they may be rushing to fill a vacant 2011 position before the budget for it goes away.
Sean Milius, president of Healthcare Initiative, an affiliate of MRINetwork, the national recruiting company based in Philadelphia, said that human-resource departments may have to burn through recruiting budgets by year's end.
"You want to get the body in the chair by the end of December," said Milius, whose company is in Colorado.
Job-seekers shouldn't let up, either, he said. Many people resolve to redouble their search efforts after the new year, intensifying competition. It makes more sense, he said, to look while others are taking a break.
The best way to get a job, experts agree, is to balance Internet searching with deliberate efforts to connect with people who may know people who are hiring.
That's why Dombrowski spent December 2009 in a whirlwind of parties, luncheons, cocktail hours, and holiday gatherings.
"That was my busiest social calendar ever," Dombrowski remembered.
That was also the year that Dombrowski was out of work, one of 600 cut after the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen dissolved in March 2009.
"I was out there networking at every social event," said Dombrowski, now a human-resources manager at Fox Rothschild L.L.P. "I wanted people to remember me."
Just as important, she said, being with people can provide a psychological lift to combat the depression and isolation of unemployment.
Elva Bankins, executive vice president of OI Partners, an outplacement and job-counseling company with offices in Philadelphia, offers the following tips for how to network during the holidays:
Attend as many holiday gatherings as possible, choosing professional organizations as well as neighborhood parties or school potlucks.
Don't be shy about saying you are "in transition."
Make sure you are comfortable with your "elevator speech." That's the 45-second sound bite that responds to questions like "What do you do?" or "What kind of job are you seeking?" It's a summary of your skills and ambitions.
Carry business cards, so you can provide one.
Be careful with your drinking. You never know which person could be the person that could connect you with a job. "It's really important that you be on your best behavior," Bankins said.
Avoid bad-mouthing your former employer. "You may have anger, bitterness, and despair," she said, "but you need to prepare yourself so you come off as positive."
Use the holidays as an opportunity to keep your name in front of hiring managers, recruiters, or contacts by sending a personal nonreligious holiday or New Year's card.
As firms slow down for the holidays, Bankins said, it may be a good time to meet informally for coffee to discuss industry trends or networking possibilities.
"People are in great moods in the holiday spirit," she said. "They tend to be more in a giving spirit."