Thinking of hanging up your job search until after the New Year? If you are, you might be missing out on some great opportunities for professional development. While colleagues and peers are slowing down and businesses seem to be in a lull, many jobseekers wrongly believe that they should suspend their job search until after the New Year. Surprisingly, the opposite is often the case.

Because businesses are often poised to add new talent at the beginning of Q1, the end of Q4 is a great time for jobseekers to develop a proactive approach to their own professional development in preparation for the increased job activity just around the corner.

Here are six creative, simple tasks you can do every day of the holiday season to prepare yourself for your next career opportunity.

# 1 Engage with your outplacement programs.

Take full advantage of any outplacement services offered by your employer. In our Guide to Severance and Workforce Transition, we reported that 61% of companies offer severance to all employees, and 70% of the companies surveyed offered outplacement programs in their severance packages.

While you may still be feeling the sting of separation from your past employer, outplacement programs are one way companies can be sure their transitioning employees have the best chance to successfully land a new job. Be grateful your past employer has invested in your future success and use the services provided to your benefit.

Many transitioning employees don't realize that these programs have been funded by the employer and are available at no additional cost to them. The employer has provided outplacement services to accelerate your landing rate. If moving into a new job is your goal, using outplacement is the best way to reach that goal. In fact, 80% of RiseSmart program participants land a new job during the program -  five months faster than the national average.

#2 Share and comment on industry news

The holidays are the perfect time to catch up on the latest developments and trends in your industry. Get caught up with industry news and review best practices by reading industry news and guides. This is a great time to finally read the material you subscribe to that normally sits in your inbox waiting for a few spare moments in your busy day.

Choose three influential bloggers or journalists in your industry and read through a couple of their articles. Work on your own thought leadership position and improve your personal brand by commenting on and sharing their work across your social media channels. Keep your name top of mind by engaging in the comments section of an article with thoughtful responses.

#3 Take a MOOC or get certified

How many times have you checked out a MOOC, or said you’ve wanted to learn something new? How often did you actually have the time to follow through on those desires? Now's your chance. Take that course or get the industry certifications that will set you apart for other job candidates.

Extra certifications and knowledge are the tools you need to prove your unique value proposition. Showcase your knowledge in interviews and list certificates on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Based on the skills needed in your market, analyze your skill gaps and take action to fill that gap. Your new skill could be the keyword that gets your resume noticed.

Of course, your newly acquired skills will help you be successful once you land the job, but before that you can show your relevance in interviews and in early conversations with recruiters and prospective employers.

#4 Spruce up your LinkedIn Profile

The holidays are a great time to add to your virtual résumé. Choosing to have LinkedIn notify your network of updates will keep your profile fresh in the minds of your connections. However, you’ll want to be strategic about when you set your profile to update your network. Only notify your network when you add new skills and certifications and avoid notifying your contacts every time you make inconsequential updates to tweak your profile.

Join LinkedIn groups and participate in conversations. Use those conversations to grow your network. When you identify executives at the companies where you'd like to work, invite them to join your network and engage them in conversation.

As business slows close to the holidays, employers and executives spend more time on social networks, including LinkedIn. Take advantage of the opportunity to catch them in conversation when they are less distracted.

#5 Network at holiday events

Put on your holiday best, and attend as many events as you can. Seize the opportunity to introduce yourself to new people or deepen your relationships with those you already know.

Engage in the art of small talk and make connections wherever you can. Keep your unique value proposition handy, in case the subject of what you do comes up (it usually does). Keep the conversation light and positive and discuss your situation as an opportunity to take your career to the next level instead of a horrible situation with no way out.

Want some more tips on how to make the holiday season your best networking opportunity? Read our blog post on making the most out of the holiday season.

#6 Play brain games

Don’t let the down time get to your head. Stay sharp with brain games, from Suduko to crossword puzzles. If you’re going to be sitting by a warm fire sipping hot cocoa, you might as well be engaging your brain simultaneously. Sometimes it’s actually beneficial—and refreshing—to challenge your brain in new ways.

No matter how much time you spend developing as a professional during the holidays, don’t skip the opportunity to extend a helping hand. Ask yourself what you can do for others, or who might appreciate a thank you or a few kind words. The action of paying it forward, especially this time of year, can be powerful. The more personable and social you become, the better you look those who are hiring. Deepening your relationships always pays off. Happy job searching!

20 December 2016

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