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Give Up Some Time Now and Thank Yourself Later: How to Get the Most Out of Your Job Search This Holiday Season

November 20, 2012

All students know that the Winter  holidays are a great time to catch up with family and friends that you don’t get to see so often anymore. It is also a time for some much earned rest and relaxation. But did you also know that with a little effort on your part, it is also a perfect time to prepare for a job or internship hunt? Here are some great ways to make the most of your time at home if you’ll be on the job market soon.

1. Let Friends and Family Know You’re Job Hunting – Lily Maestas, a Career Counselor for UCSB Career Services, has a motto that sums up my point nicely: “If your friends and family don’t know you’re looking for a job, then you’re doing it wrong!” If you are actively looking for a job or internship, the best thing to do is to “activate” your professional network. Let everybody and anybody know that you are searching and encourage others to let you know if they are on the hunt too. Utilizing your network is important because most jobs are filled before ever getting posted due someone “in the know” already meeting the hiring criteria. So let people you know you’d like to be considered for job and internship openings, and don’t be afraid to ask for contact information.

2. Set Up Informational Interviews – Take some time during your Winter Break to set up informational interviews with people in your professional network. An informational interview is not a request for a job – it is an opportunity to learn about a career that interests you. Seek out a person’s perspective on their job, industry, how they got there, and other pertinent professional questions. Whether you’re just figuring out if you’re interested in a field or occupation, or you already know what you’re looking for and want to know how someone else got there, conducting an informational interview a great way to find direction. When you make contact, let people know that you are a student interested in their career path and you want to learn more through an informational interview. Then, come dressed professionally with great questions about their work. Expect to take about 15 minutes of their time unless you are given the cue to stay longer. Take advantage of the fact that most people are excited to share their knowledge with enthusiastic young students. Informational interviewing also helps build your professional network. Be sure to maintain contact with this person and let them know how you’re doing. If you’re lucky, a positive informational interview can even lead to job offers if you leave a sparkling impression.

3. Work on Your Resume or Cover Letter – To truly get the most out of all that networking described previously, you’ll want to have a polished resume to give to your professional contacts and the people who agree to conduct informational interviews with you. Spend some time during your break updating your resume. Career Services has lots of handouts on creating a stellar resume or cover letter, and there is great content in our free Career Manual as well. When you come back to school for Winter Quarter, you can also come to the Career Resource Room to get your drafts critiqued by one of our Career Counselors.

4. Buy a New Interviewing Outfit – Everybody knows that there are some amazing sales during Black Friday. I recommend seizing the opportunity to save some cash by buying some professional attire for those upcoming interviews. Find some clothes that show you are taking the position seriously. Even if the job or internship allows casual attire on the job, always dress up for an interview. When in doubt, remember that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Remember that neutral colors are considered safest – You want your interviewer to focus on what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing. Avoid revealing too much skin. I personally recommend finding clothes that make you feel relatively comfortable, since it will be easier to project confidence and poise if you feel good about what you’re wearing.

It may not seem like it, but now is the time to lay the foundation for your job or internship search. Even if you do not need a job or internship until the end of school, it is never too early to start networking. Open those lines of communication and keep them open by periodically checking in on people and letting them know how you’re doing professionally. Try to avoid only contacting people when you need something. Maintaining these professional contacts will make your job search all the more effective.

Best of luck incorporating these job search strategies into your holiday season. With all that said, don’t forget to squeeze in some much deserved leisure! Coming back to your job search with revitalized energy may be a great strategy to pair with the tried and true methods listed above. Happy holidays!

Cat Saunders is a UCSB alum who works as a Vocational Counselor in the Santa Barbara area. She can be found at www.catsaunders.com.

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