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Christmas survival guide for job hunters

Contrary to perceived wisdom, the holiday season is actually a good time for job hunting.

Whether you are searching for your first position or wishing to make a career change, there are many valid reasons for stepping up your jobseeking activity and taking full advantage of the distinct employment opportunities presented at this time of year.

With only a few days left before Christmas and a tendency to think the “dead period” between then and New Year isn’t the right time to look, jobsite figures only serve to highlight both the availability of jobs as well as the importance of not putting your search on the backburner.

According to Totaljobs.com, over the two week Christmas period in 2011 (19 December to 1 January) the site received more than 1.8m visits and more than 460,000 applications were made.

“That averages out at 134,000 daily visits and 33,000 daily applications,” explains John Salt, website director at Totaljobs Group. “Not bad for what’s meant to be the quietest time of the recruitment year.

“We’re expecting the end of December to be a busy time for us again this year too,” he adds.

So with this in mind here’s our three point plan to maximising your job hunt during the Christmas period.

Tap into old networks

The festive season provides a perfect excuse to get re-acquainted with your extended personal network and reintroduce yourself to recruiters and hiring managers you’ve dealt with previously and who might prove instrumental in your job search going forward.

Pass on season’s greetings but at the same time subtly remind them of your availability and restate your continuing interest in any job opportunities that may arise in the New Year. The general slowdown at work means that things are often calmer and this, combined with managers being in good spirits, can mean they are more available and willing to meet up or to take your call.

If sending a message or card to someone you already have an established relationship with be thoughtful and make it personalised. As Mark Edwards, operations director – engineering at recruitment agency, Matchtech Group, cautions: “I have had several blanket emails wishing me ‘all the best’ already”, he says. “Instead, I would urge prospective candidates to stand out from the crowd and to compete for hiring managers’ eyes and to compete for relevance.”

Hit the party trail big time

December is the party season and every one potentially represents a great networking opportunity. Attend Christmas social events where you might be able to meet new contacts or reconnect with old ones. No one likes a hard sell at this time of year so avoid coming across as overly eager but be determined to collect contact details of key players who you think might be able to help you and follow-up with them in the New Year.

If you have a friend or acquaintance who works for a company you are particularly interested in, find out if it is possible to be invited along to the event as their plus one.

“Parties or other industry events especially during the festive period present superb networking opportunities so seek out and attend as many as you can possibly squeeze into your schedule,” says Maggie Berry, founder of the networking forum Women in Technology. “You never can tell who might be in a position to help, or provide you with your next job lead or introduction.”

She also advises thinking through what you’d say if you were to meet key players at a company you wanted to work for and how would you go about building connections with them.

Connect online and stay organised

If you’re already in employment the chances are that the demands of work will have slowed so again be prepared to use this downtime wisely.

Ensure your LinkedIn and other online profiles are optimally packaged; sign up to any LinkedIn groups relevant to your sector and make it known you are looking for a new position. Twitter is another effective way of targeting fresh networking contacts. Revisit your CV and make sure it is professional, accurate and fully up-to-date.

Finally, keep on top of all your networking and job applications by creating a spreadsheet that details all of the jobs you’ve applied for, any messages sent and how you followed up. Even if you choose not to job-hunt during this period, at the very least this will help to ensure you hit the ground running in the New Year and remain ahead of the considerable competition you’ll potentially be facing.

Mike Wall, managing director of Jobsite.co.uk, points out that in 2012 the job board experienced the highest number of job applications made ever on 11 January with 50,515 in one day.

“With time off over Christmas to reflect on your current job situation it’s often the first Monday back in the office that people start to have a look online for new job opportunities, and a key time for businesses to hire new talent,” he says. “Meanwhile, on 3 January - the second day back in the office  - saw over 8,000 jobs advertised in one day, Jobsite’s highest number of vacancies posted in 2012.”

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