It’s impossible to predict what the 2020 job market will have in store for job seekers, as this year’s economic trends have been inconsistent and volatile.
Employers have continued to report strong hiring figures in 2019, leaving unemployment rates near a 50-year low. However, trade concerns have prompted many companies to pull back on the strategic investments that spur long-term growth. Spending by S&P 500 companies on capital investments grew less than 1% in the third quarter.
If you have any desire to get a new job in 2020, you need to start getting ready right now. Don’t assume that the current favorable hiring trends will continue throughout the next year.
But before you launch or continue your job search, here’s what you need to know to capitalize on December’s unique opportunities.
1. It’s the best month for networking
December is a slow hiring month. Most of the fall searches have come to a close and hiring managers wait until January to recruit for new initiatives. But while you are less likely to land a new job in December, that doesn’t mean that you should put off or suspend your job search completely.
This month is the best time to reactivate and strengthen your network. The holiday season evokes a sense of community, gratitude and a desire to give back which creates the perfect environment for networking.
Leaders and recruiters may have a smaller workload, leaving them with additional time to schedule informal catch-ups and introductory meetings. You are also more likely to receive responses to your check-in emails in December.
The key to capitalizing on holiday networking is to focus on the connection with the individual and not your job search. There will be plenty of time to make specific requests and send your résumé in January. In December, your focus should be on nurturing personal connections.
In every one-on-one meeting or while working the room at a holiday party, make strengthening your relationships your only goal.
Professionally, you should be inquiring about what each contact learned over the last year and if there are any accomplishments that make them proud.
Personally, take the time to inquire about their holiday plans and be sure to reference their diverse beliefs and celebrations. While it is appropriate to simply say, “Happy Holidays” to address a myriad of religious and cultural expressions, it is even more appreciated if you take the time to learn what and how each person chooses to celebrate (if at all) and personalize your future communication appropriately.
The point is to remind people that you care about them beyond your professional needs. This will help them care enough to keep you top of mind when new opportunities surface in January.
2. December job openings are the most fruitful
One of the hardest things about a job search is never knowing when an online job posting is worth your effort. Some of the jobs you see online are only posted for compliance reasons and the company has already identified a final or internal candidate. Others have so many candidates already applying that you don’t have much chance at breaking through the pack.
You may also struggle to discern how much of what the job description asks for is truly required and where they might be flexible with certain criteria.
The good news about December is that most of the new openings you find will be real and accurate.
Jobs that open in December are created out of necessity—something is going wrong in the business or someone important resigned—and need to be filled as soon as possible. This can work in your favor if you stay diligent about monitoring job openings throughout the otherwise slow month of December so you can get engaged on these searches immediately.
These jobs are filled quickly, and the hiring organization will exercise a fair amount of flexibility in what kind of profiles they are open to. Companies hiring in December know that a lot more candidates will be in the market in January, but they simply can’t wait.
It takes resilience to keep looking for these jobs in December. You have to be emotionally prepared for much less activity than other months. Set aside a small amount of time, no more than an hour, for daily online research and apply to anything new that pops up.
Otherwise, use your time for networking or for other personal activities that will boost your spirits so you can enter January confident and rested, should your search continue.
3. Knowing what you want will save you time
You’re ready for a new job in the New Year. The problem with starting fresh in January is that you may lose several weeks ramping up for the search and clarifying exactly what you want in a new role. Do this work in December.
You will have a significant advantage in January if you can start the busy hiring season already knowing what jobs you want and how your experience aligns to them.
Many job seekers early in their process falsely believe that by leaving their options open they are increasing their chances of attracting opportunities, when the opposite is true. By clearly articulating what you want, you help recruiters and others in your network be much more focused in looking for and recommending you for jobs.
People want to be helpful to you, but they aren’t going to do the work to figure out all the jobs for which you might be qualified. If you cast too wide of a net, you risk being forgotten or overlooked.
Spend December researching and preparing to communicate what you want. Pick one or two job titles that interest you the most and make sure you are able to quickly explain your experience.
While you may wait until January to send out your résumé and start asking your network for favors, being clear and concise when you do so will save you a lot of time.
December may not be the hottest month for hiring, but it is still a great month to invest time in your job search.