It's Christmas. During the ten days of intermittent feasting, intense family-time, and relaxation, should you be thinking about your career? Yes, say the experts. But only in the right way.
The wrong way to approach Christmas from a career contemplation perspective is to lie on the sofa watching the TV whilst thinking obliquely about the jobs you'd like to do, says Richard Chiumento, director at performance coaching firm the Rialto Consultancy. Yes, Christmas is a time for relaxation and reflection, but it's also a time for implementation and change. You need to pace yourself and focus on the key things that will transform your jobs search in 2015.
We asked three senior career coaches what these things are. This is what they said.
1. Gain clarity on what you want
Before you act you need to know what you want to do, says May Busch, a former Morgan Stanley COO and finance industry career coach. "It's hard to help the person who says, “I just want a job, any job,” says Busch. You need to be selective. Before you do anything else, clarify exactly which kinds of jobs you want to secure in 2015. This will inform everything - from the way you write your resume to the people you network with.
2. Open your mind to what's on offer
Just because you want to be a G10 rates trader, that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Rates was not a hot area in 2014; nor may it be hot in the 12 months to come. In the downtime of Christmas, you will have an opportunity to explore tangential business areas which are still in growth mode. "There will be opportunities out there that you don't even know exist," says Richard Chiumento. If you're in London, Chiumento advises looking at Tech City and Silicon Roundabout. Wherever you are, we advise looking at jobs in compliance. This is where the growth is.
3. Manage your profile
You need to cover the fundamentals. "Hone your LinkedIn profile," says career coach Jeremy I'Anson, "Use the downtime to reflect upon what you're really looking for," he says, echoing Busch. "And then feed that information into a new and improved CV."
4. Map your network's network
Christmas downtime can also be an opportunity to cast your net further afield than usual. "Tap into your network's network," says Busch. "Take a step back and take a look at the gaps where you have yet to contact people. Remember that you will need to go to the edges of your network to maximize the chances of success."
You may not be having many networking conversations during the Christmas break (unless your friends and family are in your sector), but if you are, Busch suggests a key strategy for reaching virgin networking territories: "In each conversation, remember to ask, 'Who else would you recommend I talk to?'"
5. Ask for help
Christmas is a time when people are feeling charitable. This makes it an opportune time for reaching out and asking for assistance.
Busch advises that you find someone you now and trust who can help assess what's right and wrong in the way you're positioning yourself. "You need to look at how you're positioning and talking about yourself," she says. "Assess what's working and what causes people's eyes to glaze over. Take a fresh look at what you bring to the table relative to the roles you're applying for. What matters most to recruiters, and are you bringing out the strongest examples for each criterion? What kind of language are you using to convey yourself both in writing and in person? Are you setting out the characteristics that make you unique? Are you conveying your upside potential to grow into future roles as well as what will make you great for this role?"
This is best done in conjunction with someone you know and trust, says Busch. "Share with them your strengths and the examples that demonstrate those strengths. Then ask them how they would describe you, take good notes, and craft your story. Above all, practice making your ‘pitch’ out loud and get feedback. You’ll gain confidence and that’s the most important thing to bring across when the time comes."
6. Set some clear goals for the New Year
While you're away over Christmas, Chiumento suggests you book yourself onto an event which takes you out of your immediate comfort zone. "Look at what's happening in Tech City and book yourself into an event that takes place in January," he says. Commit. You need to make sure that the good intentions from the Christmas break aren't lost in the return to normality.
7. Don't overspend
Finally, watching what you spend at Christmas won't get you a new job in the New Year, but it will help to alleviate the kinds of financial worries that can force you to jump at inappropriate opportunities. "Who says a gift must be expensive (or a tech gadget) to be lovingly given?," says Busch. "In reality, the amount of money spent on a present often is inversely proportional to the amount of thought that has gone into it."
Try agreeing to spend time rather than money on family members, says Busch. You can always make things, or arrange a family-based secret Santa which reduces your overall bill by restricting your gift-giving to one person.