Helping Job Seekers Thrive Through the Holidays

family holiday gathering

By Maureen McCann.

Don’t rest, ye merry gentlemen and ladies!

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many job seekers buy into the misbelief that now is the time to put their job search on hold. But should they?

“There is a myth that companies don’t hire at all. The truth is that employers hire all year round,” says Adrienne Tom in this post by journalist, Andrew Seaman.

Allison Doyle agrees. In her article, 11 Reasons to Job Search During the Holidays, she suggests, “A slower holiday season for some businesses means more time for hiring. It can also mean less competition for available jobs because of the number of job seekers who do take a break from their job hunt.”

Instead of advising clients to take a break, encourage them to employ a smarter, more strategic approach to job searching over the holidays.

What clients may be experiencing…

Unemployed clients are often bombarded with annoying, persistent, and often frustrating questions from well-meaning friends and relatives.

Hey, I heard you lost your job … how’s that going?

So, are you working yet?

What ARE you up to these days?

Being unemployed feels bad enough but having to deal with these questions can be a blow to a client’s self-esteem, especially if the person is feeling a little more fragile than usual.

Encourage clients to keep job search momentum during the holidays…

  1. Remind them people mean well.

When people ask those seemingly annoying questions, what they’re usually trying to ask is “How can I help?” They are, in their own way, attempting to offer your clients some support but just aren’t sure what to say, so it often comes out wrong. Remind clients to keep this in mind when “Aunt Betty” asks, at the dinner table packed with relatives, how the job search is going.

  1. Advise them to prepare friends and family not to ask.

If your clients are going home for the holidays and don’t want to talk about their job search, advise them to pre-empt these conversations by asking friends and family not to bring up the subject. When they are ready to talk about it, they’ll bring it up.

  1. Role-play difficult questions in advance. Have answers ready.

Chances are good, even if your client has forewarned everyone, that Aunt Betty will arrive and ask about your client’s job loss/job search. Prepare your client for this situation in advance. Ensure that he or she is ready with a prepared answer that is gracious and remind your client that Aunt Betty means well.

The answer might include a list of job-hunting activities completed in the past week — like updating their résumé, researching local companies, working with a career coach, and/or conducting informational interviews. It is important to make sure your client finishes their answer on a positive note. Doing so demonstrates and reminds people just how great your client is. It refreshes their memory about the type of work your client does AND the positive outlook he or she has.

If your client looks like a victim — or worse — someone who is bitter about job loss, even friends and family might hesitate about connecting the job seeker to their networks. That is not to say that your clients should keep their feelings to themselves. Rather, they should select a few key supportive friends or family members to share their personal feelings with. For everyone else, he or she can stick to key messages that have been prepared in advance — messages that demonstrate what an excellent candidate your client would make for the next opportunity that friends and/or family members may come across.

  1. Suggest your client turn the tough questions into a networking opportunity.

If a question is tough to answer, you can advise your client to flip the question around with a prepared response.

For a question like, “Are you working yet?”, your client can flip the dynamic around with a response such as this: “Not yet, though I am focused on company ABC, which from my research, I understand you have connections to. Who do you know that you might be able to introduce me to?”

This response demonstrates:

(a) your client is focused on a particular organization,

(b) your client has done the homework of researching networks and connections, and,

(c) your client is proactive and savvy enough to ask “who” — not “if” — the friend or family member can make an introduction to.

In order to perform this turn-around correctly, your client’s message must be focused and clear. It’s important to avoid generalizing a description of his or her area of expertise and/or job target. Precision is best.

  1. Counsel your clients to always be themselves.

No matter who your client meets, what questions are asked, or how socially awkward things might become, when he or she is prepared to handle these questions, chances are good they will feel more confident, less vulnerable to Aunt Betty’s enquiries, and poised to position themselves well with those closest to them.

This is a great time to have clients remind friends and family about who they are and what they do best. There will be plenty of gatherings where they can educate and inform those around them about the type of position and/or company they are targeting. Clients can make it a goal this holiday season to ensure that their closest supporters are informed and alert to recognizing an opportunity that is right for them!

All the best this holiday season to you, your clients, and our extended networks of family, friends, and neighbours.

Happy networking!

Maureen McCann is a fierce advocate of career development, committed to preparing Canadians for the future of work. Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, she is one of Canada’s top executive résumé writers with 15-plus years’ experience teaching, mentoring, and facilitating career development. She is a senior board advisor to Career Professionals of Canada and an active member of both the Canadian Council for Career Development Outreach & Advocacy committee and the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s National Stakeholder Committee.

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