For most of us, December is the worst time of the year to apply for jobs. Unless, of course, you can make reindeer fly… After all, hiring managers have more festive thoughts on their minds (alongside those cheery end-of-year budget reviews).
You’ll also want to enjoy the season and spend time with family and friends. But that doesn’t mean burying your career plans in a haze of Quality Street wrappers and repeats of Morecambe and Wise. Because December is the most wonderful time of the year to do some groundwork to get your January off to a super-ambitious start.
As soon as the tinsel’s packed away, there’s always a flurry of new job vacancies. And there’s always a mad rush of people trying to follow through on those New Year’s resolutions to get a better-paying job or a whole new career when January begins.
As a result, December is the perfect time to get ahead of the pack, review the past 12 months and think about what you’d like to change about your career - particularly if you’re already dreading the thought of starting 2018 in the same job. The best present you can give yourself is to prepare a robust plan for a brand new you.
Here are my top tips for getting a headstart on the January job hunt rush….
Pause and reflect
As work starts to wind down in the run-up to Christmas, take some time to think about why you want to leave your current role. What are you not happy with? Is it the people, the pay or the commute? Or are you simply convinced you’re in the wrong career?
It’s worth making a brutally honest list of what you do and don’t like about your current job and employer. There’s no point in moving on if you’re just going to replicate the same issues in your new role.
Or if you’re planning to return to work after an extended career break, then write one about your last job and employer.
Add some cheer
’Tis the season to be jolly after all! Seriously, even if you hate your job, you’re going to need to present yourself in a positive and upbeat way on your CV. This applies across all your social media too, including LinkedIn, because recruiters will check.
Start a second list. What are your achievements to date? What skills have you developed, what are your strengths and career successes? In short, what’s your USP and what benefits and value will you bring to a new employer?
Pull together a portfolio of examples of where you have added value in your current and all previous roles, such as any projects, etc. Make sure you include any physical evidence such as reports or stats relevant to your achievements. Facts and figures give a real boost to your CV. If you’ve increased sales or reduced costs, make sure you have the numbers to prove your case.
Do your research
Forget about browsing the internet for last minute bargains you don’t need. Instead, start researching what sectors or specific companies and roles you’re really interested in. Look at some job descriptions and find out the skills, competencies and experience they’re looking for.
If you’re confident you can deliver what your dream job requires, take a fresh look at your CV. And I mean a fiercely fresh look - don’t just keep adding to your old CV. If it’s been several years since you were last in the job market, or you’ve got new achievements and career goals, your CV will probably need a complete overhaul.
If you take the time to do some initial research, writing your CV will be easier. You’ll have a good idea of what your target employers are looking for and the keywords and phrases they use. This is essential because an effective CV and LinkedIn profile will be crammed with keywords to ensure you get past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
Make the most of the festivities
December is packed with parties and events, so it’s the perfect time to network. But don’t dampen the mood by being too pushy or salesy - no-one wants to hear your elevator pitch while dancing on the tables at the office do. However, there’s no harm in reconnecting with old contacts to celebrate and to let them know about your exciting plans for 2018.
Learn something new
If you’ve spotted skills gaps in your CV, this is a great time to look into filling them. Perhaps you’d benefit from starting a part-time course to improve your digital or presentation skills in the New Year, for example.
You could even sign up for one of the online learning platforms, such as Udemy or FutureLearn, and find a course you can take during the quiet holiday period.
Nothing much happens in the recruitment world during December, but hiring picks up fast by the second week in January. Once decision makers are back in the office, new projects, hiring budgets and recruiter targets start gearing up.
By kick-starting your job search with research and preparation on your CV now, you’ll be first in line to market yourself effectively when 2018 arrives… The perfect recipe for a very Happy New Year!