Dear Coach Kwan,
It is now the holiday season and the number of job openings is much fewer than before. I’ll be graduating next year. While I’m on my winter break, I feel anxious about searching for an internship so that I will have enough work experience when looking for a full-time job. I want to use this time to be productive with career searching. How do I make the most out of my winter break?
A motivated, ready-to-connect, yet overwhelmed international student
You can use this time to enjoy your break and take care of yourself, while you maximize your career search. The holiday season is a great time to network. Even when the pandemic limits our opportunity to meet with in person, there are lots of effective ways to network. One fact that has never changed even before or during the pandemic: people are relaxed and ready for conversation during the holiday season. Please remember the best way to build a meaningful relationship is to get to know people on both the professional and personal level.
Want to have a successful networking experience during this holiday season? Here are three simple steps for you to take to build your new professional network in the U.S.:
1. Embrace the holidays
Although Thanksgiving has passed, there are still many more holidays coming up that will be perfect for sending cards. If you’re not sure what holiday someone celebrates, send a general holiday, Happy New Year, or well-wishes card. Letting someone know you’re thinking of them helps build a strong, meaningful connection–and genuine goodwill is priceless. It’s a great way to connect with someone 1:1 without necessarily talking about work. Embracing the holidays can also mean taking more free time for yourself to benefit your own career. This can include attending professional events during the Holidays. Virtual professional events are being held by many professional affiliations like Ascend (Pan-Asian Leaders), SHRM (HR professionals), PMI (Project Management Professionals), and many others.
2. Start the conversation
Make a shortlist of people you want to connect with over the holiday season. During this time, work slows down and people will have more time to make phone calls. This list could include school alum, organizational leaders, professionals, and professors. Because we are also nearing the end of the year, it’ll be the perfect time to ask them about their goals, priorities, and initiatives for 2021. Mention aspects of your interests that match theirs to develop a relationship, but keep the conversation on them. Maybe your goals for the upcoming year will align.
Don’t forget to follow up! Creating meaningful relationships over the holiday season can allow for a lifelong connection. It’s important to continue to strengthen these relationships even after the season passes. These relationships can lead to the hidden job market or even a new mentor/mentee relationship. Possible ways to do this include a follow-up email, a simple card, or a phone call.
However, don’t waste your email just to “follow up” without providing any value. Use every email as an opportunity to build trust, which is essential in any relationship, even professionally. For example, consider writing to them about an article you came across that you think may be of interest to them. Write something along the lines of, “I came across this and thought about you/our conversation.” An effective networking email in the U.S. is friendly and concise. You don’t have to worry about using fancy words or a very formal structure.
Not only is the holiday season a great time to network, but it’s also a great time to continue or start your job search. Although some companies will slow their hiring during this season and thus fewer job posts, many people are feeling a bit laid back and won’t be actively applying for jobs. There will be less competition in job searching during the holidays, so you’ll be ahead. However, many people are eager to start off the new year with the resolution of getting a new job, which means hiring will become more competitive in January. If companies need to fill a position before January, chances are they will rush to complete the application process before Christmas, so it’s best to start looking early.
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