I'm a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and Founder of ForwardThink Career Coaching. I help job seekers and career-transitioning professionals find satisfying work that they're not only passionate about, but that leverages their top skills and abilities. I work with clients from the beginning stages of career exploration through the job offer, tailoring my services to the..
Ahhh the holiday season. It’s the time when people seem more focused on shopping for gifts, making travel arrangements, and meal-planning for the upcoming festivities than they are on actual work.
But if you think now’s the time to take a vacation from your job search, you might want to reconsider.
Here are 4 things to keep in mind as you look for a job during the holiday season:
#1 – Hiring Tends to Slow Down Over All
It isn’t your imagination — hiring activity definitely downshifts a bit between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. You may notice fewer job postings and a slowdown in communications from recruiters and hiring managers.
Generally speaking, people are trying to wrap things up before they take their holiday vacation. Couple that with office holiday parties, Secret Santa gift exchanges, and an excess of Christmas cookies and other goodies in the breakroom, and everyone’s a little, well…distracted.
#2 – BUT…Many Companies are Still Hiring This Month
It’s true! Even with all the holiday mayhem, there are still plenty of companies bringing in candidates and aiming to make offers for an early January start date.
Ahhhh, the weekend. After a long week of slogging away at a less-than-stellar job, you finally get two glorious days to relax! I mean, weekends are all about spending time with friends and family, running errands, and catching up on all your favorite shows, right?
Well, the unfortunate truth is that if you’re looking for a job while working full-time, the weekend is a crucial opportunity to delve into that job search.
But I get it, it feels unfair. Everyone around you is taking a load off and enjoying themselves. And you’re there…working.
So how the heck do you stay focused and do a weekend job search without feeling distracted, aimless and, well…bitter? Here are a few tips:
Weekend Job Search Tip #1 – Remember this Situation is Temporary
A job search can seem endless. It can feel like a second job — because, well, right now it is. When you’re not working, you’re working on your job search. And while you are working, you’re thinking about your job search. This can be crazy-making!
But take heart…if you’re job searching the right way, this feeling of double duty won’t last long. You’ll nab that great job, and your weekends will be yours again. (Cue the fruity cocktails!) But for now, you need to remind yourself this is only temporary — so roll up your sleeves, and make this thing happen!
Weekend Job Search Tip #2 – Find the Best Environment to Get Work Done
When everyone around you is in weekend mode, it can be hard to separate yourself from all the merry-making. Your friends and family might also (unintentionally) sabotage your efforts by trying to convince you join the fun.
So, you may need to physically remove yourself by grabbing your laptop and heading to a quiet cafe or library. This might mean handing off childcare duties or chores to another family member for a few hours in order to get some work accomplished. It might not be easy or ideal, but once again, if you’re dedicated to your job search, this is only temporary.
At this point you might be asking, if I’m not currently working, do I still have to dedicate my weekend to my job search? Don’t I get weekends off?
Well, that depends on how much you’re getting done during the week, of course. Weekends can be a great time to do volunteer work in your community and attend events that have networking potential.
The key is finding time when you work at your best. Is it early in the morning or late at night? Do you need total silence or some background noise. Can you work for several hours at a stretch or need to take several breaks to stay motivated? It’s all about finding that efficiency sweet spot.
Weekend Job Search Tip #3 – Don’t Waste Your Time on Meaningless Job Search Activities
You’ve got two short days to make the most of your job search. But it’s easy to spend too much time on comfortable tasks that feel productive while avoiding all the hard stuff that can actually move the needle.
Be honest, are you guilty of any of these?
> Firing off the same resume and cover letter — or worse, NO cover letter — to hundreds of job postings each week, because it feels so quick and efficient.
> Constantly playing around with the font style, font size, text color, and formatting on your resume, because if you could just get that right, you KNOW the interviews would start pouring in.
> Asking your close friends and family to tell you if they “hear of anything” and then getting frustrated when they come up short.
If any of these sound like you, it’s time to rethink your job search strategy. Here are some ways to make greater strides in your search:
— Instead of just applying for jobs online willy nilly, spend the bulk of your time on LinkedIn: optimizing your profile, expanding your network, and researching companies in order to come up with a short list that you feel most excited about.
— If you do apply for a job online, try to apply within the first 3 days it’s posted and make sure you meet at least 80% of the requirements, otherwise you might be throwing your application into a black hole. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to the job description is key.
So…while it may feel like a major bummer to spend your weekend job searching, you’ll thank yourself down that line when you get that fantastic offer.
And I’m by no means trying to imply that you shouldn’t take any time for yourself. We all need a little downtime to relieve stress and self reflect. So work that into your weekend or a weeknight as well. It’s all a balancing act!
You there…yes YOU…peering out from behind your laptop. I have a feeling you’ve tunneled down an Indeed/LinkedIn/ZipRecruiter/Glassdoor rabbit hole, am I right?
Don’t be ashamed. Those online job boards can ensnare even the most vigilant job seeker. They seduce you with their endless job postings, making you feel amazingly productive with each click of the APPLY button.
But don’t be fooled! A true job hunt can’t be entirely successful from a laptop alone. Sometimes you have to get out in the big bad world and actually talk to people. Or do some job searching IRL (as the kids say).
So here are some strategies for taking your job hunt offline and learning about potential opportunities:
In-person networking events can take many forms. Some are more traditional, taking place in large conference halls and organized by industry. Others might be small, casual, and completely non-career related.
Meetup.com is a great resource for finding a wide variety of groups and events. You can search by location and browse by an array of types: career & business, social, outdoors & adventure, food & drink, hobbies & crafts, etc.
Depending on where you live, there may be multiple events happening each day, exposing you to people across various industries.
Alumni & Chamber of Commerce Events
It’s easy to forget what powerful resources your alumni association and local Chamber of Commerce can be. Even if your alma mater is in a different location, check with your alumni association to see if there’s a local chapter. It just might be holding an upcoming event. And talking about the glory days of college is an instant conversation starter.
Your local Chamber of Commerce may also schedule industry mixers from time to time. They’re a great way to network with like-minded professionals in your field.
While more career-focused networking events can be really helpful, don’t think that has to be your only option. Because if you think about it, any type of social gathering is a potential networking event. This could be a friend’s dinner party, a neighbor’s BBQ or a nephew’s baseball game. Any opportunity to meet and interact with new people can have positive outcomes.
Volunteering in your community can be a true multiplier. Not only does it allow you to experience a different environment, meet new people, and potentially learn new skills, but you get the satisfaction of doing some good in the world. Volunteermatch.org and idealist.org are two great sites to find local volunteering opportunities.
A Few Things to Note…
Regardless of the type of event you attend, it’s smart to bring personal business cards that include your contact info and LinkedIn URL. Exchanging business cards can allow you to follow up and stay in touch with your new contacts.
Also, don’t worry if walking into a large room full of strangers gives you sweaty palms and marble mouth. You definitely don’t have to be an expert conversationalist to reap the benefits of these events. I find that putting the focus on the other person and asking them questions can take the pressure off.
But be prepared to answer that inevitable, “So, what do you do?” No need to delve into your entire work history, but it’s completely kosher to let them know the kinds of opportunities you’re targeting as well as any specific companies you’re hoping to get to know better. You never know who these fellow event attendees may know and could introduce you to!
So don’t let that silly laptop stand between you and some powerful networking opportunities. Putting in actual face time can be a real game changer in your job hunt.
It’s common to think of LinkedIn as a “one and done” platform. Create your profile and buh bye! From there recruiters should start contacting you like crazy, right?
I wish it were that easy…
What many people forget is that, like most social media platforms, LinkedIn favors active users. They reward regular activity by making your profile more visible to others, allowing you to rank higher in search results. This increased visibility can obviously help you get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers.
But you might be thinking, “What the heck do I do on LinkedIn each week??”
(You definitely wouldn’t be alone in wondering that…)
So here are 5 actions you can take each week to make LinkedIn a regular habit:
LinkedIn Action #1 – Build Your Connections
Just like having a large number of Twitter or Instagram followers can give you more visibility and social proof, LinkedIn rewards users who have over 500 connections.
But that’s only one piece of it. Having a large number of 1st degree connections exponentially increases your number of 2nd and 3rd degree connections. And those are the people who could potentially help you in your job search.
So if your number needs a boost, think through everyone you’re still not connected with — friends, family, current and former coworkers, etc. Use your Facebook friends and Instagram followers as a guide. LinkedIn will suggest people to connect with, and you can also upload your email contacts to send mass invites.
LinkedIn Action #2 – Share an Industry Related Article…or Write Your Own
Standing out as a job seeker is all about branding yourself as a subject matter expert. Employers want to see that you’re keeping up on industry trends and offering innovative solutions.
So if you go to the home page of LinkedIn, you’ll see this prompt:
You can either share a relevant article or compose your own (which holds more weight of course). You can share these articles with your connections, in groups, and with the public. More eyeballs on your articles can lead to more eyeballs on your profile, more connections…you get the idea.
LinkedIn Action #3 – Join Relevant Groups and Participate
Yes, groups aren’t quite as active as they used to be (mostly because LinkedIn cracked down on spammy activity), but they can still be a great place to connect with like-minded professionals and learn about industry trends and job opportunities. (Click on the Jobs tab within each group to see postings.)
You can search for groups using the main search field on the top left navigation bar. You’ll want to search by job function, industry and city to find the ones most relevant to you. Aside from sharing your own articles, like and comment on other group members’ as well.
LinkedIn Action #4 – Endorse Your Connections’ Skills
There was a time when the Skills & Endorsements section on your profile wasn’t that important. But LinkedIn’s algorithm has put more emphasis on this area, making your profile more visible if you have at least 5 skills listed. And, as you can imagine, a greater number of endorsements helps with credibility.
So, what’s the best way to get endorsements? Well, give them of course! But don’t just do it willy nilly. Focus on the connections whose skills you have firsthand knowledge of. Then don’t be shy about asking those connections to return the favor.
LinkedIn Action #5 – Ask Someone You Know to Introduce You to Someone You WANT to Know
The real power of LinkedIn happens when you’re able to expand your network strategically…which could lead to getting referred for the right job opportunity. But this first requires proper research on your end.
If you see that one of your first degree connections knows someone at a company you’re targeting, ask if they’d be willing to introduce you.
Just make sure you have a plan for how you’ll follow up with that new connection once the introduction is made! Requesting an informational interview is a great way to learn more about their company and possible opportunities.
As you can see, LinkedIn isn’t a “set it and forget it” platform. It’s important to take action on a weekly basis so you’re branding yourself effectively, networking strategically, and increasing your visibility.
That’s when you start to see your efforts pay off…
We have the best of intentions when it comes to job searching. We know we should be working on our resume and LinkedIn profile.
We’re well aware we need to go to that networking event or do more research on prospective companies. And it’s clear we should rehearse those common interview questions.
We even set aside a block of time…we write it in our calendar…let everyone know not to disturb us. But when the time comes…we just can’t bring ourselves to do it!
Everything else seems so much more interesting. There’s that new Netflix show everyone’s talking about. Or our cousin just posted some amazing photos of her Italy vacation that we HAVE to comment on pronto. And look at that…our bathroom really needs a good cleaning.
Before you know it, the hours have passed, and now it’s time to pick up the kids, or make dinner, or meet friends for a movie.
Our heart is in the right place. We truly do want a new job. So why can’t we get ourselves in gear??
The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with us. We’re not hopelessly lazy or incompetent. And we’re DEFINITELY not alone in this.
So what’s the deal?
We can blame our brain. It’s just trying to protect us and keep us safe.
There was a time — ions ago — when we needed to avoid real danger, like a hungry lion or a freezing night. Our brain also dissuaded us from taking unnecessary risks that could lead to social rejection. (After all, getting kicked out of the cave could mean a swift, painful death.)
But today our brain hasn’t quite caught up with the times. It still perceives failure, rejection, and humiliation as lethal. It equates reaching out to someone on LinkedIn or going to an interview with facing that hungry lion.
Our brain would rather we play it safe and stay comfortable. You know, like spending the afternoon on Facebook. It’s just looking out for our survival, after all.
So every time we approach a “risky” activity, like applying for a job, our brain shoots us little messages:
“Too hard! Too scary! Too time consuming! You probably won’t get it anyway! “Go back to Facebook…”
We probably aren’t even aware of this conversation happening in our head. It’s mostly unconscious. All we know is that the hours pass, and we’ve done nothing toward our job search. And we can’t figure out why. We think there must be something wrong with us.
So what’s the answer?
We obviously can’t instantly rewire our brain. And we can’t undo millions of years of conditioning. But there are things we CAN do.
Merely having this awareness will make us feel more, well…normal. We won’t beat ourselves up every time we want to avoid job search activities.
When we get those little messages, we’ll say, “Thanks, brain! Thanks for trying to keep me safe and avoid doing anything too scary. But guess what, no one has ever died from job searching!”
Rejection, frustration, humiliation, dealing with the unknown — these are all emotions that aren’t very pleasant.
But they’re all part of a job search…
Any time we make a big change and put ourselves out there, we’re likely to experience them. It’s just the name of the game.
The key is getting comfortable with these unpleasant emotions and not letting our brain overreact to them. After all, they’re only temporary.
Because guess what other emotions we’re likely to feel?
Pride, enthusiasm, joy, and satisfaction when we make HUGE strides in our job hunt and ultimately land that great new position.
As we’re completing our LinkedIn profile, if there’s any part that we love to skip over, it’s the summary. This blank field staring back at us can be very intimidating. We think, what do I write here? How much do I write? And how do I avoid writing a stiff, boring regurgitation of my resume?
The fact of the matter is, just like recruiters are only spending 6-10 seconds looking at a resume, they’re not spending much longer reading your full LinkedIn profile. So a focused, well-written summary can make a great first impression and set the tone for the rest of your profile.
Here are some useful Do’s & Don’ts that will help you achieve that goal:
LinkedIn Profile Summary DO #1 – Make your summary a clear, concise snapshot of who you are as a professional
Your summary should start out with a brief branding statement showcasing what problems you enjoy solving and how you solve them. It can include your general title, industry, years of experience, and top skill sets or methodologies. You can also add one or two key accomplishments.
LinkedIn Profile Summary DO #2 – Use a warm and friendly tone
Your LinkedIn summary is basically saying “hello, nice to meet you” to your reader. Think of it like a handshake. So you want to convey openness and authenticity. It should feel a bit more conversational than your resume, so avoid writing in a cold, third-person tone. That means start your sentences with “I”.
But, on the other hand, while you can show a little personality, don’t get too cutesy or overly informal. Think warm and professional.
LinkedIn Profile Summary DO #3 – Repeat keywords from your headline, work experience, and skills to increase search engine optimization (SEO)
When recruiters search for candidates on LinkedIn for a specific position, they’re typing in relevant keywords to see who pops up. Candidates who repeat specific keywords throughout their headline, summary, work experience and skills sections rank higher in search results. So after your branding statement, it’s helpful to list out 7-10 of your top skill sets. And make sure these keywords are sprinkled throughout the aforementioned sections.
LinkedIn Profile Summary DON’T #1 – Don’t include everything but the kitchen sink
It might be tempting to use your LinkedIn summary as an extended bio, taking your reader through a meticulous recounting of every job you’ve had since you were a teenager. But remember, recruiters have to make an informed decision in a matter of seconds, so make their job easier by branding yourself in the most specific way possible. You’ve got 2-3 short paragraphs max to make an impact.
LinkedIn Profile Summary DON’T #2 – Don’t stuff your summary with generic buzzwords
You see it all the time — summaries that start with, “I’m a detail-oriented, results-driven, synergistic, passionate leader who’s committed to raising the bar and devising optimal solutions.”
You think, huh? What the heck does this person do for a living? I guarantee recruiters are thinking the same thing. These overly-used “soft” skills only muddle your branding, so switch them out with relevant hard skills that paint a clearer picture.
LinkedIn Profile Summary DON’T #3 – Don’t leave it blank
Yes, writing an effective, eye-catching summary can be a challenge. You’ll probably deal with writer’s block, do the electronic version of throwing several drafts into the trash can, and experience general malaise.
But hang in there and keep at it! If you get discouraged, check out profiles of noteworthy professionals in your industry to get inspiration.
So, as you can see, your LinkedIn profile summary can be a golden branding opportunity that you don’t want to skip out on. Remember to keep it brief, focused and highly targeted to the types of roles you want to be considered for. Your readers will thank you.
Getting an interview at a stellar company can be quite a thrill, especially after weeks or months of relentless job searching. But the interview process can be fraught with minefields. Knowing exactly what to say, what to wear, and how to act is no easy feat.
So start by avoiding these common interview blunders and you’ll be on your way to a cushy job offer:
Interview Mistake #1 – Thinking You Can Wing It
If your interview preparation consists of glancing at your resume and spending 5 minutes on the company’s website, you’re definitely not going to stand out as a top-notch candidate. So write out and rehearse your answers to common interview questions, especially behavioral and case based ones, so that you’re not caught off guard.
Interview Mistake #2 – Not Researching the Company
Employers want to know that you want to work for them specifically, not just anyone. So do your homework and learn as much as possible about the company’s products, services, mission statement, and other noteworthy pieces of news such as a recent award or office expansion.
Interview Mistake #3 – Not Researching Who Will Be Interviewing You
Whether your interviewer is an HR assistant, peer-level employee, or head of the department will likely determine the types of questions you’ll get. Research this person (or people) on LinkedIn to get a sense of their professional background. Any common ground may be fodder for the pre and post-interview small talk.
Interview Mistake #4 – Conducting a Phone Interview at Work
As you can imagine, doing a phone interview while whispering from your office or a nearby conference room is a major no-no. So schedule the interview at a time when you can physically leave your office and conduct it from the privacy of your car or home.
Interview Mistake #5 – Conducting a Video Interview In a Poor Location
I once heard a story of a candidate conducting a video interview with laundry hanging in the background. Yikes! So make sure you’re in a quiet setting that’s well lit with a simple background. Sound matters too, so test your mic before you start.
Interview Mistake #6 – Showing Up Late to an In-person Interview
Don’t make a bad impression right at the start. Since you’re going to a new location for the first time, allow plenty of time for traffic, getting lost, parking, finding the right building, etc. And it’s best to walk into reception 10 minutes early so that you have a little time to decompress and get focused.
Interview Mistake #7 – Being Rude to the Receptionist
Think the receptionist (and other employees) aren’t paying attention to how you act before and after your interview? Think again! It’s crucial to be friendly and considerate to everyone in the office, regardless of their title.
Interview Mistake #8 – Wearing Inappropriate Attire (Too Casual or Too Formal)
There used to be a time when everyone wore a business suit to every interview. But unless you’re in banking, law, government, or another traditional industry, that’s not the case anymore. But that doesn’t mean you can walk into an interview in jeans and a t-shirt, even if the staff does. Play it safe by wearing business casual in this environment.
Interview Mistake #9 – Looking Disheveled
Not thinking through your wardrobe choice ahead of time might lead you to quickly grabbing clothes that are stained, wrinkled or torn. So allow plenty of time to look sharp before you walk out the door. And throw a comb, tissues and breath mints in your bag just in case.
Interview Mistake #10 – Appearing Overly Nervous or Anxious
Employers know that interviews can be nerve-wracking. (And trust me, it’s common for interviewers to feel nervous too.) But if your jitters get in the way of you showcasing your accomplishments, it becomes a problem. So watch these habits: speaking too fast, poor eye contact, fidgeting, pen tapping and hair twirling.
Interview Mistake #11 – Using Too Many Filler Words
Dovetailing on the last point, sometimes nerves or not rehearsing your answers can lead to lots of um’s, uh’s, like’s and you know’s. Recording your answers as you practice at home may help lessen this issue.
Interview Mistake #12 – Giving Brief, General Answers Without Enough Specifics
The interviewer is trying ensure you’ve solved similar problems in the past and therefore will be qualified to take on their department’s current issues. But if your answers are vague and don’t provide enough concrete details, it’s hard for the interviewer to assess your fit for the role. So make sure to highlight impressive metrics and other relevant evidence of your achievements.
That said…quantity doesn’t equate to quality! Strive to provide the necessarily details in a concise, linear fashion. Think about organizing your answers using the PAR format: Problem, Action, Result. And practice, practice, practice till you get your answers down to 1-2 minutes.
Interview Mistake #14 – Not Answering the Question Asked
Maybe the interviewer asks you to talk about a specific instance from your work history, and you speak generally about the future. Or they inquire about a particular skill, and you talk about a different one. Yes, dodging questions may work for politicians, but it won’t score you any points in the interview. So listen carefully and answer the question at hand to the best of your abilities.
Interview Mistake #15 – Not Asking Questions at the End of the Interview
The interview isn’t over when they’ve ask their last question. Now’s the time to gain more valuable information on the role and company to make sure it’s the right fit for you. But one caveat — avoid asking about benefits, perks, working from home, or anything that screams “what’s in it for me??”
Interview Mistake #16 – Bringing Your Parent, Child or Dog to the Interview
Ha – think this has never been done? Read enough recruiter blogs and you’ll be in shock. It goes without saying that no one can get you the job but YOU.