Make This a Productive Holiday Break to Boost Your Career
As a college student enjoying time off for the holidays, you have the gift of downtime. Why not use it to take positive steps for your career? This is an ideal time to make new network connections or to strengthen existing ones.
Why to Pursue a Productive Holiday Break
Many people assume that no one is considering careers, or hiring new employees during the holidays. If others believe this is a bad time for networking, you have the upper hand. So get ahead by making this a productive holiday break.
This time of year, business leaders create their plans for the coming year. They review budget needs and sketch out the roles they want to hire to help them execute their plan. If they meet a talented, likable person, they may call them later with a position in mind. Landing a job when you’re the person who inspired the opening long before it was posted, is a lot easier than competing with the multitudes of common applicants.
Your prospects are proportional to the size and quality of your network. Set up networking lunches during the holiday season. Work pressure is often reduced in offices, so you may be able to land a lunch with a valuable business leader who is normally booked solid.
If you are returning to your hometown, you can also setup casual gatherings with high school friends, who are also home from college. Each of them has different experiences from their other schools, majors, and internships. Pick their brain to find out what they’ve been learning and what opportunities they see. Tell them your story and describe your passions. Invite them to an ongoing dialogue if you have shared professional territory.
Get referrals. Come prepared with a good elevator speech about yourself and the topics that get you excited. By telling others where you want to go, you’ll be surprised how helpful can be when they see a good match. Pick the brain of a relative who has a career that interests you. People are more likely to go that extra mile for people they like, their friends, and their family.
Right in line with making new connections is asking for an informational interview. Leaders in business, who may not be hiring at the moment, may be willing to meet for a cup of coffee or an office tour. While the office pace is slower, this may be an ideal time to get in.
Be clear, this is meeting is not for the purpose of asking for a job. It is a conversation for the purpose of learning. Use the time to understand one another and develop a relationship.
Do research early. Ask about business trends, challenges, and opportunities they see on the horizon. Be curious! In his book, The Startup of You, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, talks about the value of this interaction. The quality of your questions will demonstrate your knowledge. Your sincere interest may plant a seed of the idea to hire you or connect you with a good opportunity in the future.
During the meeting, listen for an appropriate gift idea for that person. This does not necessarily mean something you would buy. Including a link to a thoughtfully selected article, along with your thank you note, can be a great gesture of thanks for this busy professional.
Once you have covered the external actions, take time to catch up on your reading. Don’t just graze, pursue knowledge with intention. Pick business books and blogs with a specific focus. Fiction can work too. Keep a notebook handy as the stories and situations stir ideas in your head.
If you don’t already have a pile of books on hand, many celebrity reading lists appear at the end of the year. Bill Gates famously shares his annual list of best books. Other leaders who inspire you offer similar lists.
Evaluate and Pivot
You should also take time to update your resume. During college, your list of credentials changes quickly. And tailor your resume to match each role as you apply.
This is also a time to pause to look back and then look forward. Meditate and explore what you’ve learned. Your goals may shift as you learn more. As you grow in knowledge and experience, you may be able to aim with more precision and weed out certain options.
You are unique. This time of year is a gift. Use it to gather information and guidance. Accept advice with gratitude, but don’t let it directly influence you. Remember, you have the privilege of steering and owning your own career. So make this a productive holiday break and enjoy the results.