Last week, one of my friends confided that her severance was almost gone. “I know I need to start looking for a job, but I might as well wait until January to start,” she said.
Au contraire. I went on to list all of the things she should be doing right now. Yeah, I know (and she knows) it’s highly unlikely that she’s going to land a job this month, mere days before the holidays when everyone is drafting their out-of-office signatures. But that doesn’t mean that all job search work must be abandoned until the new year. Whether you’ve been entrenched in a search since Labor Day or are just beginning one, I promise there’s a (relatively) pain-free way to keep at it during the holidays.
Read on for five things you can do now that will place you in prime position come January when everyone is business as usual again.
1. Take Job Description Notes
The job boards may be looking a bit bleak right now, but even if your dream gig isn’t jumping out at you, there’s a strong chance that some of the available positions you’re coming across are a close match to what you’re actually looking for. They may not be the jobs you want to apply to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold some value.
Read through the descriptions closely, paying attention to requirements and responsibilities. These two subheads are chock-full of useful information that can aid you in prepping your materials (e.g., your cover letter and resume) and figuring out if there are any holes in your skill set. If one job requires Photoshop, you’re probably OK not knowing it—but if every single position you’re interested in does, it might be time to brush up on your knowledge.
2. Update Your Resume
You’re not surprised to see this here, are you? There’s a reason it’s commonplace advice: Your resume really matters. As the first look into who you are, where you’ve come from, and what you’ve accomplished, it has to be up-to-date, typo-free, and relevant to your industry and the jobs you’ve set your sights on. (Most hiring managers don’t want to know about your brief bartending stint two summers ago when you were figuring out how to transition to interior design.)
Focus on listing your most important work experiences, getting rid of that objective statement, and quantifying your bullet points. (Which, yes, you can do even if your job doesn’t involve numbers.) While you’ll have to tailor it for each position, getting it into shape will make that a much shorter task, rather than an all-day event.
Oh, and do yourself a favor and have a friend (or a coach) look it over and give you a brutally honest assessment.
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3. Make a List of Potential Contacts (and Draft Emails)
It’s true that now may not be the best time to network and reach out to anyone and everyone who might be of assistance to you in your job search, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least get the ball rolling. Do your research, scan your brain, and scroll through your LinkedIn for potential people to contact.
Make an exhaustive list, narrow it down, and then begin drafting emails. I’d recommend waiting until at least a few days after the holidays have ended to actually send your carefully crafted emails or LinkedIn messages, keeping in mind that most people who took time off will be inundated with emails on their first day back in the office. And you definitely don’t want yours to get lost in an overflowing inbox.
Not sure what to say? We’ve got a template for you right here.
4. Work on Your Social Media Presence
So you haven’t quite mastered Twitter. Or maybe your understanding of LinkedIn leaves a lot to be desired. Or, your Facebook page contains an awful lot of questionable photos from college. Now is a fantastic time to clean up and polish your social media accounts (a.k.a., deleting anything that’s NSFW—and turning privacy settings on if there are any lingering doubts).
In more and more industries, some kind of social media presence is more or less a requirement. Figure out now how much cred your industry gives to it, and act accordingly. And even though most people will be out of the office, they’ll still be checking their notifications. So you can be active where it’ll benefit you in your search and connect with people in your industry.
5. Get Your References in Order
There’s nothing worse than getting to a certain exciting point of your job search (the post-interview request for references, yes!) and scrambling to make sure you have a) solid references (and their permission), and b) accurate contact info for aforementioned solid references.
Being confident that your former supervisor only has good things to say about you isn’t enough. It’s both considerate and professional to ask to use someone as a reference—and important to let him or her know what you’ve been up to. Once you have your names lined up, check to make sure you have a current phone number and email address for each. Have this information at the ready so that if and when a hiring manager requests it, you have one less thing to worry about.
While some things—sending resumes and cover letters and following up with contacts—may be best left alone until the holidays are but a mere Instagram memory, there are plenty of other easy and pain-free steps you can take in the meantime. Then, when January rolls around, you’ll be able to hit the job search full-sprint.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author