How to Improve Your Career During the Holidays

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Sure, the holidays are a great time for kicking back.

Taking it easy.

Chilling out with friends and family.

It’s a time for that extra glass of wine, that additional slice of pumpkin pie and that extra hour of sleep – and there’s nothing wrong with exhaling and enjoying the holidays.

But what if you could have all that and improve your career standing over the normally dormant holiday workplace season (that is, if you don’t work in the retail sector)?

You can, with a few easy steps, according to Ford R. Myers, a career coach and author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring.

Myers is a self-admitted contrarian when it comes to when to apply – and when not to apply – energy toward your career. November and December are actually “excellent” times to clean up your career path and especially to set the stage for a successful job search, he says.

Why the holidays? Because your competition for jobs and better positions is distracted.

"Many job-seekers don't realize how important it is to keep their search fully active during these months,” he says. “There is little to no competition. Companies are completing their budget planning for the next fiscal year, so it's a great time to get in front of hiring managers. And many executives have to fill openings early in the year or they may lose the budget for that position."

What steps can you take to leverage that competitive advantage? Try these suggestions from Myers for openers:

  • Start connecting. The holidays are great for social occasions and community networking opportunities that can get you on a favorite employer’s radar screen. Check for professional associations offering holiday parties over the next six weeks. Typically, these outings are relaxed and managers are highly approachable. Take full advantage, Myers advises, but be professional about it. "Do not bring a resume to these events,” he says. “Rather, create a simple, tasteful business card with your name, phone number and email address to give to people. A business card will leave a better impression than a resume at these events, which are more social in nature at this time of year."
  • Get charity-minded. To put yourself in a clear, positive state of mind, offer to volunteer over the holidays. You’ll be helping out the less fortunate (which is reason enough to do so) but also be giving yourself a “renewed sense of purpose,” as Myers puts it. Check out websites such as VolunteerMatch.org to find a volunteer opportunity in your community.
  • Make a few calls on Black Friday. Myers says managers do show up at work on Black Friday – and they are open to hear from you. "I have a colleague who was starting a business,” he says. “She used the day after Thanksgiving to make both follow-up calls and cold sales calls. She found that whoever was at work that day was not only available for a conversation, but was grateful to speak to someone." Even if many people are away for the holidays, those who are at work “may have more time to speak with you.”
  • Send a card. Go ahead and send holiday cards (or online cards) to career networking contacts, hiring managers and professional job search firm mangers. It’s all about staying on that radar screen, Myers says. But do it right. "When choosing a holiday card, pick a seasonal, nondenominational theme that works well with people of all religions. If you're using paper cards, put a return address on the card so the person can reach you. Also, don't write about your job search in the card. And mail the cards early in December so yours will be received in time for people to invite you to their holiday get-togethers.”

Take advantage of those relaxed – at least temporarily – career contacts in your life this holiday season.