BY ERIN EWART
How to use your time off to boost your job search
The holidays are here! After a busy and tumultuous few months, it’s finally time for a break. You may be dreaming about a schedule that doesn’t involve much more than eating and drinking, football watching, and general relaxing.
But if you’re thinking about a career transition, I encourage you to spend some of this time on your job search. I can imagine the eye rolls as you read that, but hear me out! I’m not suggesting that you dredge up the resume from six years ago that you still haven’t updated or spend your break writing cover letters. Because who wants to do that on vacation?! But there are a few things you’ll be uniquely positioned to do during time away from your usual routine:
- “Network” without really trying. Traveling to see family or friends? Or getting together locally? Either way, you’ll be spending time with people you don’t see every day, which is a great chance to make sure everyone knows that you’re in the market for something new, and what that new thing is. Don’t think Aunt Helen could possibly have any ideas or connections for you? Maybe not, but don’t be so sure – I’ve seen people find job leads in some of the most random ways possible, so you never know who might be able to help you out. And either way, she’ll be glad to know what you’re up to!
- Get the real scoop on your strengths. Getting clear on what you’re best at is a foundation for your job search. Those who know you well, likely the people you’ll be seeing over the holidays, usually have the clearest read on what those things are. One of the best indicators of your true talents is that they show up when you’re very young. So ask your family and friends what they think you’re best at, and what you loved to do growing up. Listen to the examples they share and the words they use to describe you, and use these new insights to inform your search and the types of roles you’re targeting. Looking for more? Try taking an online assessment like StrengthsFinder to get additional data about your core strengths.
- Read and reflect. Holiday travel often means hours on trains, planes, buses or even lounging on the couch. What better time to catch up on some career related reading? Pack that business book you’ve been meaning to read for months (or check out these suggestions if you need ideas) or gather those articles you’ve been bookmarking to read “sometime” and get caught up on what’s happening in your current or future industry. In addition, pay attention to how you choose to spend your time during this break from routine: are you the head organizer in the kitchen, directing everyone else on what to do? Do you gravitate toward spending time with the kids? Do you take on craft projects, or have crazy outdoor adventures? Take note of what you choose to do and when you feel the most “you”, and reflect on why that is and how it might translate to a new job or work environment.
- Build your portfolio. One of the most important aspects of a job search is being able to summarize your previous accomplishments. In the hecticness of the day to day, we often miss opportunities to document our achievements, so taking a few minutes during a break to do this can be incredibly helpful. Even if you never show it to anyone else, consider building yourself an online or paper “portfolio” of project examples, kudos emails and feedback, performance reviews, and other tangible examples of the great work you’ve done. Not only will this serve as the basis for updating your resume and preparing for interviews, it will build your confidence as you remind yourself of all the successes you’ve had in previous roles.
That’s it! No cover letters in sight. Taking time to relax and recharge is a critical part of the job search, so make sure you take plenty of time to do that too. Enjoy, and happy holidays.