How to Job Search and Survive the Holiday Season

Santa Claus filling out a job application during the holiday season.

The winter holidays are an incredibly busy and often stressful season. Between parties, family get-togethers, and school/work functions, it can be hard to focus on anything else. Yet, November and December can be one of the best times to look for a job.

Insights and tips for job searching during the holiday season

  1. While the common misconception is that employers slow down or stop hiring in December, the opposite is often true. January is one of the busiest hiring times. Employers are searching for candidates in November and December so new employees can start right away at the beginning of the New Year. Because many job seekers take a break during the holidays, your odds tend to be even better than at other times of the year.
  2. The key to searching during the holiday season is being patient and flexible; you might need to juggle your schedule to accommodate the employer. It may also take longer to schedule interviews and meetings.
  3. You can use holiday parties to grow and strengthen your network of friends and acquaintances. The season is also a great chance to reconnect with old colleagues, whether it’s sending a card or simply reaching out through a LinkedIn message.

While it’s important to keep the job search momentum going during the holiday season, make sure not to overextend yourself. Carve out some time to relax and enjoy this time of year, whether it’s five minutes with your favorite cup of coffee or  an evening with a good book.

In addition to job searching, one of the hardest parts of being unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy at a job during the holidays is social gatherings. It can be difficult to engage in conversations when you don’t want to talk about your job or job search, and a gap or reduction in pay can make gift giving unaffordable.

My best advice for surviving the holidays is to be honest with family and friends about your situation and suggest alternatives to holiday traditions such as buying gifts. (You can also provide suggestions without explaining why you’re looking for a more affordable option.)

Gift giving substitutes from members of our Job Search Support Group

  1. Agree on a low-cost gift exchange or draw names to purchase a gift for one person
  2. Limit gifts to creative handmade or baked items
  3. Re-purpose gifts or a do a fun white elephant exchange
  4. Offer services as a gift (e.g., shoveling someone’s driveway or cooking them dinner)
  5. Give to a charity or have a food drive instead of giving gifts

With the holiday season fast approaching, make time for what you need. Keep up with your job search while minimizing your stress. Most importantly, let others know your financial and time constraints so you can create the holiday that you need and enjoy all the season has to offer.

Author April McHugh is a senior career counselor in UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. She can be reached at april.mchugh@wisc.edu. For more information, see continuingstudies.wisc.edu/advising or call 608-263-6960. This article first appeared in the November 8, 2015 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal.