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Ask a Recruiter: It's the Holidays. How Do I Stay Motivated in My Job Search?

Should you even try if everyone is distracted?

Christmas tree bending because of the weight of an ornament
Photo courtesy of Scott Webb

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

What’s your elevator pitch?

We are the cofounders of Career Cooperative, an Oakland, California–based boutique consulting firm that empowers clients to face career transitions, professional growth, and recruiting with confidence. We consult with companies to attract diverse talent through impactful recruiting and interview strategies and support employees through talent programs. We started working together at a recruiting agency, and through our combined 15-plus years in full-cycle recruiting and career development, we’ve worked with hundreds of candidates and companies and learned a lot in the process. When you have a focus, understand your value, master the magic of your story, and build a supportive and diverse community, the realm of possibilities is endless.

Read more: 4 Tips for Staying Focused During Your Job Search

The holidays are a typically slow hiring period. What can job seekers do to fill their time while waiting to hear back about applications? 

While there are companies that slow down their hiring (or are just slow to communicate and schedule interviews due to employees’ holiday time off), there are companies that will continue to hire at the same capacity, or even opt for a quick hiring cycle to add headcount before the end of the year.  

If you are facing slower returns on your applications or a lack of jobs you would like to apply to, this is a great time to refine and/or expand your search and prep for the New Year. Research and build out lists of companies you would like to target; explore roles you haven’t considered in the past; and take the time to work only our job search toolkit (resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and/or portfolio) for ease of use in the New Year or when hiring in your industry picks up. You could also take that online course you have been eyeing, or engage a career coach for additional support and accountability. 

This is also a great opportunity to build out and connect with your community! Check in with people you haven’t talked to in a while, reach out to new contacts you would like to learn about, and ask your community for referrals and feedback about who you should be talking to! 

Read more: 8 Tech Courses We’re Taking to Level Up Our Skills

Don’t be afraid to try something new! There is no “one size fits all” job-hunting strategy. If you haven’t gotten a lot of traction, explore other ways you can get your resume in front of roles and connect to decision-makers. Take stock of what you have been doing to identify opportunities for a new tactic, and connect with other job seekers to learn what is working for them and share ideas! We are big advocates of enlisting your community to job search, learn more here.

Read more: How & Where to Find Help if You’re Depressed & Unemployed

This can also be a time to breathe and recharge. An important strategy in job searching is knowing your limits. People are burned out right now, and rightfully so. If you can, take a step back and invest time in your own care. Job searching can be tough under the best circumstances, let alone at the end of this trying year with some much uncertainty. If you are burned out, half-assing a job search you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for. Take care of yourself so you can show up as your best self in applications and interviews. 

Even if you don’t have the ability to press pause on your job search, making moments of self-care and quiet a priority will help you be more strategic and thoughtful in your search, and make the waiting more bearable. It also may make sense to consider shorter-term solutions to feed your longer-term goals. Does a seasonal, quick gig make sense for your immediate needs? You may need to shift your job search focus and goals for the short-term. This doesn’t mean giving up on your longer-term goals. It’s hopefully just making space to be really thoughtful about those goals while also serving your immediate needs. 

Read more: 25+ Short-Term Goals to Strive for Right Now

It feels like everyone is distracted. Is there any point in reaching out to hiring managers or networking? 

Yes, it is always worth reaching out! You never know, the holidays may mean people have more flexible schedules and time to engage. But, be patient and understanding. People are distracted and can be busy. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back, and make sure to follow up in the New Year. 

Read more: The Right Subject Line for a Networking Email Makes All the Difference

Waiting for an interview or a job to surface is wearing. How can job seekers take care of themselves during the holidays? Are there ways to set more reasonable expectations at this time?

It’s really important during this incredibly busy holiday season (paired with the uncertainty of this year in general) to create opportunities for actual quiet so you can hear yourself think outside of the cycle of worrying over waiting for what’s next. In the “worry: you can be more susceptible to settling for roles and interviews you wouldn't normally say yes to.  

In that “quiet” or reflective space, there’s hopefully more room to truly assess your needs and better set expectations that meet those needs. For example, do you have high expectations to land a job ASAP because you need that income right now? Then it may be time to switch job search strategies to focus on quick gigs or seasonal work to meet those immediate income goals while you continue your long-term search. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can a Recession or Economic Downturn Affect My Career?

Setting tangible goals that can lead to landing a job (i.e. applying to X amount of jobs per week, or reaching out to your community for one informational interview per week, instead the only goal being to get a job) are incredibly helpful in maintaining stamina in a job search because you have a framework, and help with motivation and keeping a positive attitude. Who doesn’t like checking that box off a to-do list? Creating a schedule can also help in making sure you spend the amount of time you would like to spend on your job search, and adversely creates boundaries so you don’t get lost in the worry cycle and lose hours to job boards. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Apply to Jobs More Efficiently?

In taking care of yourself, it’s important to acknowledge and honor those feelings of anxiety, reflection, vulnerability that surface during a job search. Then, reframe the waiting game. Use the time, rejection and processed big feelings to help shed light on your best case scenario. What can you learn and how can you use that to focus on getting more strategic in your job search. Why were you so disappointed that you didn’t get that job? What about your interview experience left a sour taste in your mouth? And remember, all job seekers are facing waiting and rejection, and sometimes it helps just to know you aren’t alone. 

In the same way determining goals and setting a schedule can help you stay motivated in a job search, it may be helpful to create a plan of attack should you find yourself in a worrying place. Write down three things you can do instead of just waiting and worrying: Listen to a podcast. Call your friend who is the best cheerleader when you need it. Get some fresh air. 

And let’s also just acknowledge that the holidays (when you typically see, or in the case this year connect with, family) can add stress and pressure to a job search when you may feel like you have you to justify or prove yourself and have a good answer to the dreaded, “how’s work?” question. It may not be comfortable, but spending some time digging into why you feel that way and what you are trying to prove may help you feel more comfortable going into those situations and giving yourself grace in your job search. It also may be incredibly helpful in really assessing what you want out of work or career, not what you feel pressure to prove, so you can job search from a more authentic place. 

Beyond a job offer, how would you define a successful job seeking effort right now?

Outside of a job offer, success is however the job seeker defines success right now for them—and that means the job seeker has to figure out what they need and want right now. And maybe that is the marker of success, using this time to better define priorities to refine their job search. Success is personal to the individual. I always think success can be found in more knowledge, community, self-care, and boundaries. More connections, and intel on companies, industries, types of roles through your job search and engaging with your community allows you to be more strategic and thoughtful about your job search. Creating practices around self-care and setting boundaries creates space to truly reflect and define what makes sense for you in your job search and defining what success looks like for you.

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