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by Cathy Vandewater | November 20, 2012


Dreading the idleness of the holidays?

Fear not. A little time away from your desk and even—gasp—your wireless access can be good for career and even your job search.

Here's how to enjoy the time off to its fullest--while making professional advances that will pay off by Christmas.

A few "gifts" of the holiday season to be thankful for:

1. Long Plane, Train, or Automobile Rides

Got a long trip and a lap top? You're golden!

Don't bother "working from home" if you can. Instead, take advantage of the lack of internet signal to accomplish job search tasks you've been meaning to get to. Tune up your resume. Write a fresh cover letter for that job you wanted to apply for. Or pay the holiday cheer forward and draft recommendation notes for a contacts on LinkedIn.

Got a wireless card? Watch a few YouTube tutorials on skills you've been meaning to beef up, or read trade blogs. Better yet, work on your own blog: it's never too late to start sharing your professional experiences and building a reputation for your work.

2. Forced Socializing

Extended family time can become much more interesting when you truly try to get to know the relatives you're talking to. Treat cocktails before dinner like a networking event and make the rounds. Be sure to ask everyone about their work and hobbies, asking specifically what they love most or least about their jobs, or how they found their line of work. Hearing Uncle Bob rave about how much he enjoys consulting could give you a fresh idea on a job title you might enjoy, or even just the lifestyle it might bring with it, like time outdoors or controlling your hours.

And when they ask you about your job—or lack thereof—go ahead and be open about it. You don't need to give a reason why your family and family friends should chat you up, or worry about impressing them: they're already interested. So talk about your job search, interests, or career dreams. Your family might have a connection or idea you haven't heard of, and they'll probably be happy to help.

3. Family stories

Your parents might know more about what you should do for a living than you do. Just listen to the childhood stories!

For instance, my family will never let me live down the time when, as an imaginative 9-year old, I played detective with my best friend. Although we never solved any crimes, we did figure out a way to make "smoking" cigars out of baby powder and rolled up post-it notes. The den was covered in white dust for weeks. But what I get most out of this story was that I love the details of play and story telling: those tangible little extras that really create a special effect and memory. My family wasn't surprised when I majored in writing and theater in college--I was born to handle details and be creative, as my family reminds me every holiday.

The takeaway? What you liked as a kid is probably still what you enjoy now. Building things with your Erector Set, taking apart electronics to understand how they work—the materials will be different, but the activities are still something you can find in the job of your dreams.

You may have forgotten some of your childhood loves, but your family won't have. If you're feeling a little directionless, remembering things you used to really enjoy could help you target an industry or line of work to explore.

4. R & R

Zero productivity and iffy internet access? Thanksgiving, with its travel and suburban pilgrimages, might rival Halloween for scariest national holiday for those among us.

Embrace the lack of cords and chargers. It's good for your batteries, great for your soul, and essential to your well being in and out of the office.

It also won't last long: soon you'll be back to work and its many, many screens. So for now, soak up every minute of idleness, home cooked food, and blessed boredom. Play board games, ask Mom and Dad questions about their pasts—included career paths—and laugh with family.

It's resting and re-connecting with who you are and where you came from that might just set you off on the path you're mean to be on--whether it's doing better work in your current position or finding a new career altogether.

Whatever you do, don't forget to be thankful for non-work related blessings in your life. Jobs come and go, but family, friends, and memories keep you going in the times in between.

Happy Thanksgiving!

--Cathy Vandewater,


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