The holidays are filled with merry-making, joyous times.

Many use the season to reenergize and rest. Others spend the time with family and friends, rekindling relationships and lost contacts. Some use it to make more money by promoting their career brand. This is the perfect time to sit down, relax with a cup of Aunt Maria’s homemade nog and plan your victory in the workforce.

Hiring trends 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 promote yourself and maybe even begin a holiday job search. While most won’t play out until after the New Year, start lining up new gigs with these easy strategies.

Hiring may be slow, but there are 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. Even if the jobs are scarce during the holidays, there are even fewer people searching for new positions. You'll have less competition with a holiday job search.

Some companies interview candidates for job openings coming available after New Year’s Day. 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 prior to Christmas. You’ll have a better chance if you’re able and willing to juggle your schedule to accommodate the hiring manager.

Take advantage of seasonal jobs.

Yes, it does sound horrendous, working long, grueling hours with no thanks and little pay. Think of it as a paid opportunity to build skills and add merit to your resume. Adding a holiday job is a great way to show job experience, communication skills, the ability to work on deadline and flexibility to handle multiple tasks during a fast-paced holiday rush. Not to mention, the extra money made during your vacation will help with those added holiday expenses.

Another benefit is learning more about a company. Seasonal holiday jobs offer a unique perspective and tell more about a company than regular, full-time positions. During the holidays, stress levels are high and managers have less resources to accommodate unexpected work shortages. This shows you just how well a manager treats his subordinates and the overall environment. Seasonal jobs also give you the opportunity to learn the company’s values, mission and commitment to clients, valuable ammunition for any interview.

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

Volunteerism is an often missed gem among job applicants. Taking time to give back to your community not only instills a sense of pride for helping others, it also builds valuable skills, shows maturity, a willingness to go the distance and provides an opportunity to extend your experience. The holidays offer a perfect time to give back. Most nonprofits need helping hands and professional skills during the season. Some examples include accountants, graphic designers, business managers and computer specialists. But skills and experience aren’t the only things you’ll build.

Volunteering helps you network with other like-minded professionals. Chances are, the charity will partner you with another volunteer, helping build your professional network. The professionals may mention you to their superiors or spread your name to others in the field. Word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the most potent tools in networking. They increase your career brand further than other recommendations.

Are you interested in marketing director roles? Maybe you’re concerned about the level of responsibility or dedication. Volunteering also allows you to test the waters before applying for a job. You can apply for a volunteer role and work with different organizations and positions, determining which is the best fit without the risk or hurting your reputation with the company.

Sometimes the holidays are about preparation not application.

Not all job searches are suited for the holidays. That’s okay. You don't have to start a holiday job search, but youcan still take time to prepare for a new job in the New Year. Draw out a plan and set goals during November and December. These will help you stick to a schedule and make the upcoming search a little less confusing and frustrating. Consider these tips to help you prepare:

Set Goals. What are your intentions? Do you want a new job with a new company? Do you want to move up in your present environment? Determine your needs and desires. Write a small list of career goals for the New Year. Draw from this list to help you create a job search outline. Based on your goals, start outlining a plan of action.

Draw an outline and timeframe. When do you want to make the change? Are you willing to move? What are your salary requirements? Include locations, benefits, companies, etc. Now that you know what you want to do and how you plan to accomplish these goals, start setting a schedule.

Take advantage of holiday party networking. Yes, gift-giving and merriment are the best aspects of any holiday party, however, there are other opportunities to kick off your job hunt. This is the time of year many CEOs and other C-Suite officers make their rare appearances. Don’t be the wallflower. Go over and mingle with the big boss. Do your homework early. Determine mutual interests. Sneak in a few ideas. Just don’t go overboard. They 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 an appearance. Spend more time with them. They are your ticket to the top.

Work on your resume. Holidays offer more free time and opportunities to work on personal projects. Don’t waste it sleeping late or lying in bed all day. Work on your resume and cover letter. Start with your base resume that you can customize for each new application. Create one resume, highlight the areas needing customization and save it for later use. Typical areas that need to change with each application are: career summary, descriptions listed in the experience area and page title.

Take some time to reflect and think about the skills you have acquired and those that might be missing. Remove old positions and education (10 years and older). 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.

Need help with your resume? Take advantage of our free critique today!

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