Although you’d probably rather kick back on the couch than look for a new job during the holidays, there are many reasons not to put your job search on hold. For one thing, focusing on your career while most other people are relaxing at home means you’ll have less competition to deal with. The holidays can also be a great time to reflect on your career goals, research the companies you’re interested in working for, and do some networking. So, if you’re wondering how to give your career a boost over the holidays, here are several things you can do to set yourself up for a strong start in the New Year.
1. Take stock of your accomplishments
The end of the year is a great time to take stock of your professional accomplishments and reflect on the areas you’ve grown and improved in. Even if you’re not job hunting at the moment, knowing what your strengths and most recent accomplishments are can give you the extra incentive and confidence you need to ask for a promotion or apply for new jobs.
Start by making a list of the biggest challenges you faced in your job over the past year and what steps you took to overcome them. This could include a conflict with a co-worker, a misunderstanding with a client, a project you completed on time and on budget, or a time when you were able to exceed expectations. If you completed any courses or attended industry events, be sure to include these on your list of accomplishments, too.
2. Set some career goals
Now that you have a better idea of what your skills and strengths are, it’s time to think about how you want to use them in the future. Start by writing down the main things that are important to you in a job, such as flexible hours, your preferred salary, and opportunities to travel or use certain skills. It’s also a good idea to write down some of the things you don’t want from your new job.
When you have a clear picture of what’s important to you and also what you don’t want in a job, you’ll be in a better position to approach companies that will be a good fit.
3. Get your resume and LinkedIn profile in order
All the information you gathered about your accomplishments and career goals can be used to craft a resume that will land you interviews for jobs that are in line with your goals. In addition to focusing on your past achievements, you should try to make your resume somewhat forward-looking by including a powerful personal statement. This will help you demonstrate to employers how your career-goals align with their company goals.
LinkedIn is also extremely important for your online visibility. According to one survey, 95 percent of recruiters use it as a tool to source candidates. So use some of your extra downtime over the holidays to make sure all of your details are up to date. If you haven’t already, it’s also a good idea to request some recommendations and endorsements from other professionals on LinkedIn who have worked alongside you or are familiar with your work.
4. Use the holidays as an opportunity to network
The holidays are wonderful time for connecting with friends and family, but they’re also a time when you might be required to interact with people you don’t necessarily have much in common with—from polite get-togethers with distant relatives to office parties where you’re forced to make small talk.
Since you’ll be interacting with a wide variety of people anyway, you can use your upcoming holiday events to do a little networking and make new contacts.
Keep an open mind while you socialize, and if the topic of your work comes up during a conversation, you can use it as an opportunity to let people know that you’re in the market for a new job. Sending holiday greeting cards can also be a good way to get back in touch with old colleagues or former bosses and clients.
5. Find a way to give back
The holidays are all about giving back, and believe it or not, making time to help others this holiday season can also benefit your career. Volunteering, whether it’s through charity fundraising and event coordination or helping out at an animal shelter, is a great way to expand your network, hone your skills, and gain experience, while also enhancing your resume.
The key is to look for volunteering opportunities that are somehow related to your field of expertise, as this will help you gain the right kind of experience while also meeting key people in your industry. If you’re not sure how to find volunteer opportunities, check out sites like VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org, or just get in touch with a charity you admire and offer your assistance.
Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She covers everything from life hacks and career development to learning tips and the latest research in education. You can connect with her on Google+ and Twitter.
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