No time for holiday break in job search

This year has been a nail-biter for many job seekers. Lots of people have dealt with unforeseen career challenges, from layoffs to restructuring. Luckily, 2008 is winding down, leaving plenty of time to put your feet up on the desk and wait for 2009 to roll in with better forecasts, more job openings and the promise of wealth. Right?

Not exactly.

If you had a difficult year, you might benefit from a short break or slower pace. But it would be a mistake to shut down a perfectly good job hunt with three weeks remaining in the year.

Momentum plays an important role in a job search. You reach out to companies. Follow through. Keep those lines of communication open. And what happens? It snowballs. Your network grows. People talk to each other. Your name comes up in conversation. A new opportunity falls into your lap.

Sure, the holidays are around the corner. But employers still answer the phone. They read e-mail. They accept resumes, make appointments, and consider candidates for future positions. The world hasn’t stopped. Why should you?

Plus, this month offers an added advantage for serious job seekers. Most people give up looking for work in December. They get distracted by holiday shopping, house guests and rainy weather. By stepping out of the job market, even temporarily, these folks make room for savvy job hunters like you. The less competition, the better.

Wherever you are in your career — employed or unemployed, executive, supervisor or front-line staff — I suggest that you barrel ahead with your job search. Even if you’re tired. Even if your confidence level is low. Even if you can hardly imagine yourself carving out another cover letter to a potential employer. Sit down at the desk and tap away at the keyboard. Hang in there. Keep the momentum going.

Here are a few job search tips to help you navigate the final weeks of 2008:

Expect a slower pace, but don’t succumb to it. It may take employers longer to return your phone calls and e-mail messages this month. Don’t let that stop you. Send your resume and a persuasive, nonformulaic cover letter. The sooner you develop relationships with hiring managers, the faster you will land a new job. Also, when hordes of job seekers decide to kick-start their careers in the New Year, you’ll be a step ahead.

Use extra time wisely. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs between phone calls or interviews, improve your time management skills. Make an appointment for yourself, say from noon to 1 p.m., and then use every minute of the allotted hour for job-searching activities.

Can’t think of anything to do? Revise the top section of your resume. Prepare to answer tricky interview questions. Read the newspaper for information on local companies.

Take a short break. Again, I don’t suggest abandoning your job search for the season. However, if you feel exhausted or down-in-the-dumps, a short break can nudge you back on track.

Share quality time with family and friends. See a movie. Go bowling. Do something, anything, that makes you forget about your job hunt for a little while. Take a long, deep breath. Now, dive back in.

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