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Job hunting at Christmas? Use the time to reflect instead

ar5f4wn6hsvr0879g48bThe jobs market always tends to be slow over Christmas and picks up again in January. Taking the opportunity to step back and reflect (rather than firing off applications to an empty desk) can prove more productive – especially if it means you start the New Year with renewed purpose.

‘Job hunting is a full-time activity if you are out of work and can feel like two full-time jobs when you are in work,’ says David Shindler, performance coach and author of Learning To Leap.

‘Whatever your situation, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to be proactive and to engage with the different recruitment processes – and taking time out is no bad thing.’

Being around family and away from the office is a great opportunity to reflect on what you really want from your career. When you’ve got a quiet moment (in between wrapping gifts, stuffing the turkey and watching the Queen’s speech), ask yourself these questions.

1. So this is Christmas, and what have you done?
December is a good time to look back over the year and your career in general. Even if you’re happy to see the back of 2013, there may well be lessons you can learn. Grab a pen and paper and write it down.

‘The simple act of writing things down can throw up new ideas and help clarify your thoughts,’ says David. ‘List things like your qualities, skills and achievements.

‘What have you done particularly well and how would you describe it to a friend? Now look at your CV – have you written about it with the same kind of passion? Being able to explain the value of your achievements is vital if you want to get that promotion at work.’

2. Is your CV well crafted or a rush job?
‘If your CV was completed in haste, now is a good time to go back and do it properly,’ says John Lees, career coach and author of Just the Job!

‘Perhaps you’ve lost your job with little notice or perhaps you knew some time back that your job was coming to an end, and you left it late in the day to start job seeking. The temptation is to rush into activity but unfocused, near-random activity is never a good thing.

‘Recruiters see half-hearted applications every week – a hurriedly patched-up CV and an interview performance that shouts “I don’t know what I have to offer or what I’m looking for, but I need a job!”. Your CV (and to some extent your LinkedIn profile) is your first and best promotional tool – so it’s worth getting it right.’

3. Do you know what your targets are?

‘Make a list of the top 10 companies you would like to work for and then follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter and like them on Facebook,’ suggest Clare Whitmell who blogs on careers at www.JobMarketSuccess.com.

‘Start a research folder on each of them – what kind of jobs do they advertise, who currently works for them, are any of your connections already linked to them? If you follow them now, you’ll be one of the first to see vacancies should they post any in the New Year.’

4. Are you thinking laterally?
If you’ve been job hunting without success for a while, it could be time to think laterally. Could you consider relocating to a different part of the country, or even abroad, to find work? If your industry has been hard hit by the recession, could you re-train and use the skills and experience you have, but in a different sector?

‘Think about where you are in your life and your priorities beyond the next six months,’ suggests Clare. ‘Would you ideally like to start a family, move to the country or work from home?’ Your bigger life picture can have a major impact on your career decisions, so it’s worth thinking about the medium to long term too.’

5. Who’s in charge of your career?
Some companies are good at managing talent, some aren’t. Don’t wait around for your boss to develop your career – take charge yourself. Are you up to date with the latest computer software or best practise procedures? Do you even know what they are?

‘Are there industry-specific magazines you could subscribe to or groups on LinkedIn you could join?’ asks Clare. ‘Perhaps there is a course or conference you could attend in the New Year. If you’re lacking in experience, think about who you might be able to do some voluntary work for or who you might be able to work shadow. Whatever you do, don’t stand still.’

6. Are you taking small enough steps?
If you’ve suffered a career setback – been made redundant, overlooked for promotion or lost a major contract at work – it’s natural to feel disheartened and even disorientated. Once you’ve taken a week (or two) to shout, cry and bemoan your luck, it’s important to focus on the future – and that starts by taking a small step in the right direction.

‘In my experience, people who have experienced a setback can get locked in inactivity, too scared to move forward,’ says Richard Maun, career coach and author of Bouncing Back.

Whether it’s buying an inspirational book, inviting a work colleague for coffee, signing up to a course or joining a networking site like LinkedIn, taking that first step is often the hardest. ‘If you’re not sure where to start, make your goals smaller – that way getting there instantly becomes more manageable,’ adds Richard.

7. Have you spread the word?
You don’t need a career coach to get valuable feedback and advice. Make the most of Christmas gatherings and ask family and friends to list your strengths or say what kind of job they could see you doing.

‘Who knows, talking over your career plans with your second cousin removed could help,’ says Richard. ‘Perhaps they can suggest a valuable contact or have an insight into the industry? Talking to new people can be a good way to generate enthusiasm at the very least – so don’t be afraid to tell anyone you meet your ideas and plans. The best leads or advice can come from the most unlikely places!’

Book links

Learning to Leap: A guide to being more employable by David Shindler

Just the Job! by John Lees

Bouncing Back: How To Get Going Again After a Career Set-Back by Richard Maun

Image: © Raffalo – Fotolia.com

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