Little did I know that my high school cross country coach was giving me my first foray into strategy and psychological warfare. Our school, unlike our competitors, was built on the face of a mountain with sheer slopes. We’d do timed sprint drills up hills with 45-degree angles. He taught us to start slow, gradually pick up the pace, and sprint through the crest into the flatter areas. Those who lack the pleasure of intense hill training hit the base of it hard, then gradually lose steam, and are at the slowest as they near the top. In races, when they were at their worst, they’d see us at our best sprinting by undaunted. The effect was startling as they watched us pull away. More importantly, it widened the gap between us and them going through the finish line; that was our competitive edge.
The seasonality of the job search is no different. The masses want to hit the job search hard at the beginning of the year until the summer or right after the end of summer up until the holiday season. I’m here to tell you, that if that’s your plan, prepare to be smoked by your competition who’s harnessing this edge because your job hunt is a race.
When executives tell me they want to wind down their search because holidays are slow or everyone is overly busy, little do they realize they are following a typical cultural bias. Many candidates also use the holidays to perpetuate an existing laissez-faire attitude. Much the same way individuals use the concept of New Year’s resolution to delay making a commitment now until sometime in the future for something they know they needed yesterday. The good news for you is that since so many candidates believe this time of year is a “bad time” to continue the job search, fewer are aggressively searching. Therefore, more opportunities will be available for those who choose to continue searching. More so, it’s an opportunity to stand out competitively since you’re making yourself more vigilant, available and visible.
Not all businesses slow during the holidays.
Some industries are even ramping up during the holidays. Additionally, many organizations are setting strategies and have their budget for the New Year before they leave for the holiday break. That’s difficult to do if they have a key position open. Therefore, a significant amount of hiring does take place in the last quarter of the year. This can often motivate an otherwise slower hiring process to expedite it simply so that the organization has someone in place on day one of the New Year. So, looking in January is looking too late for jobs at these companies.
I encourage executive and board candidates to take several key steps to prepare themselves to take the lead and stay ahead of the curve. Here are a few tips:
1. Focus on the companies that tend to have people working until the final bell. At this time of year, you might prioritize your prospective opportunities differently using how available that particular company, hiring manager, or executive search consultant seems to be.
2. Reflect. What’s important to you in a company you are looking to align with? In your next role: 1) What are you looking for? What do you want more or less of as compared to your past positions? Then research the companies that reflect your goals.
3. Dig deep and get clear your personal brand and value propositions. What’s your competitive differentiator that no matter who your competition is, where they came from or what they did, you know you can do better than them? If you’ve completed The You In Value session with one of ExecuNet’s value proposition coaches such as myself, this is a perfect opportunity to practice and role-play communicating your value proposition anytime, anywhere and with anyone. This will support you when communicating with recruiters, your network, and interviewers.
4. Sign up for a resume review with one of ExecuNet’s coaches. It’s a complimentary benefit for all of our members and is content dense.
5. Complete or refresh your LinkedIn profile, your resume/CV and use a career coach to help you with strategy setting. Our coaches are all senior-level, highly qualified coaches, executives, and recruiters who know what is working for executives in today’s job market. They are the best in the business.
6. Invest in your network. The holiday season is the time of year where it’s natural to connect with others through phone, holiday cards, emails, gift-giving, parties, holiday events, etc. Each conversation now can lay the groundwork for the New Year by cultivating relationships and enhancing your visibility and credibility. Once you’ve connected with people, it’s common to share what’s going on in each other’s lives. At this point, it’s appropriate to mention that one of the things that are going on with you is that you’re actively or passively considering a career change. Be sure to let it come up organically as you plant the seeds. Conversations of today may bear fruit in the future. As a word of caution, connect not because you want their help but because you genuinely value your relationship with them and want to share your wishes for the holidays and the New Year.
7. Send out holiday wishes to recruiters. It’s a great way to stay top of mind. Most candidates don’t add recruiters to their holiday card list, so it’s unexpected. Although a recruiter might not have a job for you today, they might tomorrow. Therefore, you need to sustain a strong relationship with a few recruiters throughout your career.
8. Volunteer within your company or at a nonprofit organization that’s meaningful to you. It’s a great way to grow your network.
9. Give LinkedIn recommendations. Reach out to colleagues who worked for you, who you worked with, or who you worked for and wish them a happy holiday. Give them a thoughtful recommendation and ask for one in return. This boosts your profile and allows you to branch the subject of your job search.
Therefore, enjoy the holidays, but continue your job search, reflect on who you are and what you want to accomplish, and update your marketing collateral during the holiday season.
Your 2020 job search starts before the New Year, not after it.
That way you have momentum and speed through the toughest part of the race when everyone is struggling to find their second wind. You will be well-positioned when the traditional January job market boom begins while everyone else begins or re-starts their job search.
If this resonates with you, and you’d like support in how to navigate a holiday job search, contact me!
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