The holidays: time to open gifts, drink eggnog ... and land a new job!

The holiday season is a great time for lots of things. Many use it as a chance to rest and re-energize, while others take the opportunity to spend the time with family and friends. But there’s no reason you can’t also use the most wonderful time of the year to advance your career. It’s the perfect time to sit down, relax with a cup of homemade eggnog, and plan your victory in the workforce.

It’s true that hiring tends to slow down during the holidays — many companies give their teams much-needed vacation time and focus on the upcoming year. But this doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of opportunities to improve yourself and maybe even begin a holiday job search. While most won’t play out until after the new year, start gaining skills and lining up new gigs with these easy strategies.

Hiring may be slow, but there are still jobs.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Just because most companies experience slower hiring during the holidays doesn’t mean they don’t hire. One positive element on your side is competition, or lack thereof. Even if open job positions are scarce during the holidays, there are even fewer people searching for new positions. You'll have less competition with a job search during the holidays.

Some companies also interview candidates for job openings that will be available after New Year’s Day. For this reason, a holiday job search means you should be flexible with the company. If they need to fill a position in January, chances are they are in a rush to complete the application process, interview, and orientation all prior to Christmas. You’ll have a better chance at landing the job if you’re willing and able to juggle your schedule to accommodate the hiring manager.

Take advantage of seasonal jobs.

If you’d rather hit the ground running, taking on a holiday job can be a great way to build skills and add merit to your resume. A job like this will show experience, communication skills, the ability to work on a deadline and flexibility to handle multiple tasks, like during a fast-paced holiday rush. Plus, it’s a paid opportunity to gain these things, and the extra money made during your vacation will help with those added holiday expenses.

Another benefit is getting to learn more about a company. Seasonal holiday jobs offer a unique perspective and can tell more about a company than regular, full-time positions. During the holidays, stress levels are high and managers have fewer resources to accommodate unexpected work shortages. This shows you just how well a manager treats employees and gives a sense of the overall environment. You’ll have the opportunity to learn the company’s values, mission, and commitment to clients, valuable ammunition for any interview down the road.

Related: Pros and Cons of Taking a Seasonal Job

Get involved in the joy of giving back to your community.

Volunteering is an often-missed gem among job applicants. Taking time to give back to your community not only gives you the chance to help others, but it also builds valuable skills, shows maturity and a willingness to go the distance, and provides an opportunity to add new work experience to your resume. The holidays offer a perfect time to give back. It’s the season of giving after all, and most nonprofits need helping hands and professional skills during this busy time.

In addition to building skills, volunteering also helps you network with other like-minded professionals — working with other volunteers will help you build your professional network. And who knows? Maybe a new connection will be connected to one of your target companies. Personal recommendations are one of the most powerful tools in networking, so the more professionals you know, the better your chances of networking your way to your dream job.

Use the holidays to lay the groundwork for your job search.

Not all job searches are suited for the holidays, and that’s okay. If it isn’t the right time to start applying to jobs, you can still use the opportunity to prepare for an active job search in the new year. At the beginning of the holiday season, brainstorm a list of activities that will set you up for a successful job search — this will help you stick to a schedule and make the upcoming job hunt less confusing and frustrating. Here are a few of the tasks you can tackle over the holidays to set you up for job-search success in January:

Define your career goals.

What are your objectives? Do you want a new job with a new company? Do you want to move up in your current environment? Determine your needs and desires, and use them to write a small list of career goals for the new year.

Brainstorm a list of potential employers.

Now that you’ve determined your goals, take time to think about job characteristics that are important to you. Are you willing to move? What are your salary requirements? Consider location, benefits, commute, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can create a list of potential companies and roles that will work for you. Then you can determine a timeline that will help you accomplish the tasks necessary to get to your goals.

Invest in your network during the holiday season.

Yes, gift-giving and merriment are the best aspects of any holiday party, but there are also opportunities to kick off your job hunt. This is the time of year many CEOs and other C-suite officers make their rare appearances, so don’t be the wallflower! Go over and mingle with the big boss. Do your homework early and determine mutual interests. You can even sneak in a few ideas. Just don’t go overboard — they still have to make rounds and spend time with other employees. And don’t forget about other team members — the CEO isn’t the only networking opportunity. Chances are, top-level managers will make appearances as well. Spend more time with them. They are your ticket to the top.

If you’re currently unemployed or looking to change companies, practice tailoring your elevator pitch to suit each holiday event you attend, whether it’s an industry event or a friend’s holiday party. You never know — your best friend’s brother’s girlfriend could be the key to landing your next job!

Related: Fresh Networking Conversation Starters For Your Next Holiday Party

Work on your resume.

Holidays offer more free time and opportunities to work on personal projects. Instead of sleeping too late, wake up an hour earlier to work on your resume and cover letter. Start with your base resume that you can tailor for each new application. Create a template resume, highlight the areas needing modification, and save it for later use. Typical areas that need to change with each application are your career summary and the descriptions of your listed experience.

Reflect.

Take some time to think about the skills you have acquired and those you might be missing. Remove old positions and education (if more than 15 years old), and consider new accomplishments and notable contributions you’ve made at your current job. If the prospect of editing your resume is a little daunting, consider hiring a professional resume writer to help you.

Click on the following link for more job-search advice.

Make sure your resume is ready for the holiday job search with a free resume critique.

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