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Midlife Jobseekers: Be Merry and Productive!

By Mary Eileen Williams

Believe it or not, the holidays are the absolute best time of year to look for work.

I realize the aforementioned statement likely arouses doubt in many jobseekers. Companies don't do much hiring at the end of the year and most everyone seems preoccupied with gift giving, mistletoe, and parties. Nevertheless, there are several reasons why you should take full advantage of this festive time of year to ramp up your efforts and make your presence known as the competent, attractive, and can-do candidate everyone wants to meet.

So why are the holidays such a fertile time of year for savvy jobseekers and how can you turn the season to be merry into prime time for your job search?

Here are 5 reasons why you need to take a clue from Santa's elves and be extra productive in December:

1. Your competition levels plummet. Countless jobseekers figure the holidays are a waste of time and make only marginal efforts to look for work. They opt to relax, sip their holiday cider, and gear back up in January. Their big mistake becomes your big advantage because opportunities for socializing and networking abound. With your job search goals in mind, you're positioned to make a huge impact while your competition is taking a long winter's nap.

2. January and early February represent the strongest hiring period of the year. New projects, initiatives, and budgets are put into place and hiring generally skyrockets at the beginning of the year. Although not every January can promise a boom in the marketplace, by actively networking and positioning yourself as a valuable and enthusiastic candidate, you'll be well on your way to getting that all important call for an interview on January 2nd.

3. There's no better time of year to schmooze. Parties, gatherings, and community events are prime opportunities to press the flesh and tell your story. Resist the temptation to deliver a rehearsed elevator speech unless you're attending a formal event where such introductions would be more commonplace. Even then, be certain to judge the mood of the merrymakers before you come across as too stiff or businesslike.

Usually in such circumstances a lighter touch is best. When asked what you do, you might reply with an engaging one-liner that peeks your listener's interest. For example one candidate I worked with was a buyer and replied: "I shop with other people's money." That'll get them asking for more and then you can deliver a lengthier description of your skills and experience.

4. Bar none, the holidays are the best time of year to reconnect with your contacts. Holiday greetings are not only welcomed, they're expected. So take the opportunity to send out cards and enclose one of those newsy letters people write to update friends and family on what's gone on with them during the past twelve months. Using a light touch let them know you're in a job search and what type of work you're looking for.

It's also appropriate (and helpful) to mention a few target companies and ask your friends if they know anyone who works there so you could arrange for an informational interview. Whatever you do, do not ask them for direct help in locating a job. You're aim is to make clear you'll appreciate any and all information they might have to share. Remember: you want to remain festive so don't overload them with a long list, three or four companies will do for now.

You can even send holiday greetings to recruiters you've worked with in the past, reconnect, and update them on your search. Or you might consider sending a brief message to managers with whom you've interviewed, wishing them well, and letting them know you're still interested in their position/company. These types of messages would not require cards (cards would likely be perceived as overkill). Rather your greetings can easily be sent in the form of an email. Brief and friendly is your goal.

5. The holidays are a great time to get out there. Volunteering, seasonal hiring, and all sorts of opportunities present themselves for moving out of your immediate circle of contacts. Take advantage of as many of these as you can that will comfortably allow you time to pursue other holiday networking activities. Who knows whom you might meet and where such opportunities might lead?

Most of all, take full advantage of this very special time of year-serendipity abounds in December. Get out there, be festive, be open, and present yourself as the knowledgeable, competent, and engaging candidate you are. At the very least, you've made scores of new contacts and reconnected with former ones. At best, you just might set yourself up for landing a brand new job as you ring in the New Year!