Staying Engaged In Your Job Search During the Holiday Season

Image via Woman’s Day

Although the holiday season is the most exciting time of the year, don’t be fooled. It is also the busiest time for many people. The job market is indeed, the most active during this season.

While COVID-19 has caused considerable disruption to services for many employers, you may be thinking — Will this impact holiday hiring?

According to iCIMS’s Monthly Snapshot Report for September, “During the height of the pandemic, hiring for full-time retail roles dropped to account for only 28% of hiring activity during April and May. In August, we’re seeing an increase in the demand for full-time employees, now making up 34% of all hires—still 10 percentage points away from pre-pandemic levels.” The retail industry is going to be busy as they are in dire need of seasonal workers especially during the holiday season.

This is a good time to apply for jobs since job seekers often suspend their job search during the holidays and will be spending time with their loved ones. This often means that there is less competition for jobs however, this can also lead to missed opportunities. This also means that there will be fewer resumes to compete with, and your skills/experience may be a potential match to the employer (since many employers are STILL looking to fill their roles before the New Year).

It is completely understandable that job searching during the holidays are not meant for everyone. If you are one of the job seekers who are planning to suspend your job search for the season, you want to take this time to stay on top of your organizational skills. Revamp your resume and cover letter so that when you are back in your job hunt, you won’t have to stress over proofreading and overlooking the little details. Set yourself reminders, organize your notes/folders and prioritize your goals so that you can avoid making the same mistakes that you have previously made throughout your job search.

While it is important to spend quality time with your family and loved ones, if you are one of the job seekers who has too much free time — during your downtime, don’t forget to stay productive and continue your job search in hopes that your holiday gift will be landing a new job!

So, what if you were interviewed right before the holidays and are in the process of waiting to hear back? This is the most stressful stage for job seekers, especially for those who anticipate that they may not have gotten the job. But then, you don’t want to come off pushy. What is the best way to follow up? If you were out of the workforce for a while and want to reconnect/network, how do I approach them during the holiday season?

❄ Send Holiday Greeting Cards to Recruiters/Hiring Managers
࿏࿏ Not all recruiters/hiring managers will remember you since they have met a lot of other faces as well. Be sure to include a brief reminder of who you are, your point of contact at the company.
࿏࿏ As you pick out your holiday card, please be sure that the card is appropriate and generic.
࿏࿏ Not all job seekers will invest their time and effort to do this, so this can potentially set you apart from others.

❄ Discuss About Your Employment Status / Job Search At Holiday Gatherings
࿏࿏ It is important to let your friends, family and distant relatives know that you are looking for a job. You will never know who they may know. They may know of someone who is working at your target employer. Or, they may even be an employee of your target employer.
࿏࿏ Making new connections or re-establishing old connections can actually land you a job offer even by just casually speaking to them about what you are looking for.

❄ Use This Time As a Networking Opportunity
࿏࿏ Virtual fundraisers and virtual Zoom holiday parties with friends during this time allows you to connect and mingle with many like-minded individuals that you connect you to potential jobs that you want to work at.
࿏࿏ While it is a holiday party, make sure you don’t come off as too professional and stiff. Remember, this is a time to gather and enjoy your time with friends. You do not want to come off as desperate, however you just want this topic to casually arise in the conversation.

Why Mock Interviews are Helpful and Even More Crucial Right Now

Image via Freepik
  • Eight months later, we are still at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Job seekers WILL appreciate the opportunity to hear the much needed feedback on their interviewing skills. It is certain that there are questions that job seekers had since the start of the pandemic, that they awaiting for. This is a good time for interviewers to schedule a virtual interview using platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, especially career experts and coaches to patiently and holistically give job seekers their answer and provide them with insight on the job prospects.
  • You have another person (such as a career expert) who can give you so much insights on how to answer behavioral or situational questions, how to outline your strengths/weaknesses by providing some good examples and key takeaways, how to be more structured in your answers, etc. You can use those tools and their constructive feedback to practice on — before going on your actual interviews, such as telling good examples or stories with answers and telling stories in a concise and easy way to digest.
  • Job seekers will be able to gain more perspective on what they had initially perceived as impediments, such as their employment gaps and lack of professional experience. With the interviewer’s feedback, not only will the job seeker be able to gain more confidence with what experience he/she already had, but he/she will also have a better understanding on how to present their strengths (plural here!) and weaknesses.
  • You can always practice with a professional (like a career coach or a friend/family member who is very well rounded with the interview processes) who is great at giving constructive feedback that’s also actionable! Job seekers would appreciate this as they would love to hear more of the in-depth perspective from their interviewer’s side on why some of their answers weren’t as successful. One of the areas that interviewees often get stuck on is where specifically they can pull back or delve deeper into… and this depends on the type of questions they are asked and how they formulate their answers.
  • Job seekers will find it very helpful in their answers to questions where they lack confidence in themselves. They will most definitely use their interviewer’s ideas going forward in their job search. (Note to interviewer: Make sure your input is valuable and gives meaning to the job seeker!)
  • Obviously, mock interviews offer job seekers/interviewees this opportunity to practice with their interview skills. It is definitely going to be a wonderful/life changing experience for them to learn more about the things that they should be doing and not be doing in the actual interviews. When they have someone to practice with, it allows interviewers to catch things and point out mistakes that the job seekers did not catch or notice — and this is where their suggestions come in handy for the job seeker’s interview and resume. And this begins with the interviewer’s patience in answering all of the interviewee’s questions and concerns to set them up for success.
  • Many job seekers need that guidance and help with acing their actual interviews! To make it as informative and helpful as possible to the job seeker, interviewers should take their time to explain where the interviewee did well, where he/she needed to improve, and provide some examples/situations of how to handle certain interview questions.
  • Mock interviews allow job seekers to learn something and walk away with new knowledge and tools to use for their future interviews (for example, they may learn a new way of answering questions when it comes to identifying a problem and being able to articulate how they solved it). In a nutshell, job seekers will gain that valuable experience which felt “real”. More importantly, it should help the interviewee self-reflect. Not only does it help improve the way the interviewees answer questions or ask questions, however it will allow the interviewer to provide excellent critique of their resumes and body language, as well as tone. This will certainly help job seekers with future prospects, boost their confidence/speech as it will allow them to prepare more professionally.

How do you know when you are in good shape to make a case for your candidacy with employers?

  • You’re thoughtful and well spoken about your experiences and skills.
  • You’re creative and solution-oriented and offered a great example of such an instance.
  • You’re succinct and articulate in framing your experiences.
  • You prepared a number of stories and situations from your previous experience to concisely demonstrate skills and capabilities that the interviewers will be looking for.
    • You developed a strong pitch outlining how your experiences and strengths match the role’s job description.
  • You did a wonderful job in walking through your past work experiences in showing concrete and numeric examples of how you succeeded by training your storytelling muscle, as well as getting into the nitty-gritty of your projects.
  • You focused not only on your soft skills, but you strongly infused your responses for your hard skills/technical abilities.
  • You discussed about your strengths and weaknesses.

Suggestions on how to be more ready and how you can improve:

  • When describing these scenarios to your interviewer during the mock interview, you could definitely insert just a touch of levity to the story so that it would resonate that much more with the prospective audience.
  • If applicable, you can emphasize your past leadership experiences more, where you have led teams. This is a hard to come by skill and you have one or more instances that you can speak to. Be more assertive in announcing this experience. If you add more humility, you could advocate more for yourself by calling this out. You can also highlight your listening skills as having developed when you were leading teams, but also highlight that team leadership.
  • When providing examples from your past experience/s, you should outline the challenge or problem that you have faced, and then key levers that you used to resolve it. This framework will help the interviewer understand the situation from the outset and ensure the main points are lost in the story.
    • With more preparation, you can select examples that better demonstrate the challenges that you have previously faced and how you overcame them.
      • For example, managing deadlines. This example can be shaped to show the actions that you implemented and how you established visual tracking of work to confirm on time completion rather than focusing on frustration at missed deadlines.
  • Show that confidence when providing examples of your experiences. You can practice to be more confident, and show that — that you own your attractive skill set to prospective employers.
    • An example can be, how you conducted data analysis. Expand on it by highlighting your achievements and accomplishments, and not just mentioning what you did.
    • Sometimes job seekers may dilute these examples or apologize to their interviewer for lack of complexity, however you should remain confident in your experiences and present them as such.
  • You may have great experiences and past roles that position you well for upcoming interviews, but you will need to refine the way you deliver the examples to better demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the role.
    • Example: You may have experience on building pages during your tenure at Deloitte, but this example can be enhanced to demonstrate your executive communication development and experience, your ability to summarize complex issues as well as outcomes from your analysis and modeling.
  • Using the STAR Method could help you build your base and hit home on the results of your past work experiences/projects.
    • Tying this in with the concrete and numerical examples into your responses for the behavioral questions, could really drive home your skills and successes.

How Emily Chan Discovered That Human Resources Management & Entrepreneurship Was The One

Emily Chan has recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management and Entrepreneurship. Four years ago if you had told her this, she would’ve thought that you were crazy! Growing up, Emily had always wanted to be a doctor and her parents have always wanted her to be a doctor. It was the only career path she really knew that she was certain about so for the first two years of college, Emily was taking pre-medical classes like Chemistry, Biology, Physics, etc. and all of her extracurricular activities were focused around this field. Emily volunteered at Saint Peter’s University Hospital near her campus, she worked part time at an ophthalmology office, she performed research at a campus lab through the Aresty Research program, and she was involved with various on-campus medical organizations like the American Medical Student Association.

Despite immersing herself fully in this career path that she always thought she wanted, she was incredibly unhappy, stressed, and unfulfilled. Emily started questioning herself whether or not she was making the right decision and whether medicine was truly what she wanted to pursue for the rest of her life. These feelings intensified throughout sophomore year and it was a period of uncertainty and fear, but also growth.

Emily felt an overwhelming urge to explore other areas of study, but she had no clue where to start! There was so much pressure to find her “passion” and being that she has already spent two years taking classes that she no longer needed anymore, she felt even more pressured to quickly discover something that she liked. Therefore, she began reaching out to her advisor as well as her network of older friends and classmates to seek for advice. Talking through her strengths and weaknesses, as well as her likes and dislikes has really narrowed down the list for her. Emily came to the realization that she wanted to be in a position that is focused around people and that was how she landed her career in Human Resources Management!

Emily began enrolling in introductory HR classes and she received an internship outside of school to supplement her knowledge. She wanted to gain a 360 experience of in-class knowledge as well as real world experiences to see if HR was what she really wanted to pursue. Obviously, Emily ended up sticking with it and she can gladly say it was one of the best decisions that she has made in college!

Right out of graduation, Emily was offered a full-time opportunity with Microsoft as a Talent Sourcer for Engineering and Operations and she has recently launched a passion project called CEO Mindsets that is focused on providing digestible and actionable career advice. She can definitely say that she has come a long way since she first started college and she is really excited to see how her career will grow in the future! Connect with Emily on LinkedIn if you are seeking for career advice!

• What role has your education at Rutgers University and your colleagues/mentors/family/friends played in your career path?

Both my personal and professional network have been an immense help in getting me to where I am today. When I first started thinking about switching career paths, I didn’t even have a resume or know how to properly write one! I asked so many different people for help to write and review my resume and to this day, I still use all of the advice I received when I’m editing my own resume or reviewing other people’s resumes. Something I’ve realized is that most people are more than willing to help if you just ask. I’m so grateful for all the help and support I’ve received throughout these last couple of years from both my personal and professional network.

• How has your HR internships prepared you for your role as a Talent Sourcer for Engineering and Operations at Microsoft?

Through my various internship experiences, I’ve gotten a behind the scenes look at how different recruiting processes can be at different companies. Not one company is perfect, but each one has their strengths. I can take the strengths that I’ve picked up from each company and bring them all to my work as a Talent Sourcer at Microsoft. My various HR internships have also taught me to be confident in the workplace and understand that I can bring value to the table despite my young age. 

• What are you hoping to accomplish and contribute during your time at Microsoft?

During my time at Microsoft, I am hoping to add to the diversity at the company through recruiting. It already seems like a company that values diversity and I want to supplement that. Diversity is so important in and out of the workplace and I want to create an environment where people feel comfortable being their authentic selves. I also want to create a group at Microsoft that focuses on community service through crafting, which are two of my biggest passions. All throughout college, I was part of a school organization called Craft to Cure that creates functional crafts like hand warmers, dog toys, etc. to donate to local charities and it would be amazing to find a community passionate about crafting and community service at Microsoft!

• What are your long-term goals at the moment?

My first long term goal is to become a full-time entrepreneur. After my internships, I’ve realized that I really didn’t like being confined to a 9-5 job. I definitely learned a lot while working in corporate jobs and I really appreciate the network I’ve built as well as establishing a routine. However, the ultimate vision for me is to be my own boss. I enjoy the autonomy of it and I can really pursue anything I can dream of! One idea that has been in the back of my mind is opening my own coffee shop that features Asian flavors as a tribute to my culture. I really enjoy coffee and have an Instagram page dedicated to it – @ssmolbeans.

My second long term goal is to be more financially literate. Money has always been a sensitive topic for me. I’ve noticed that a lot of women shy away from this topic. My goal is to learn more about personal finance, how to invest, and how to build and maintain wealth. I recently started following personal finance Instagrammers and Youtubers and have learned so much so far, but I still have a long way to go! I’m excited to start on this journey of being more transparent about money and having a healthier relationship with money overall.

• Congratulations on launching your business venture, CEO Mindsets! Could you tell us more about what drove you and your friend to start this? What is the purpose/goal of this business?

One of my biggest inspirations to start CEO Mindsets is @girlmeetswealth on Instagram. This is a personal finance page run by someone I knew from high school and she posts tons of awesome tips that have helped me start my personal finance journey. I’ve always loved content creation and posting on my personal Instagram and after following @girlmeetswealth for a couple months, I was inspired to do something similar but for my area of expertise: job searching. I was also inspired by a post I saw on LinkedIn that listed some really great companies that were founded during a recession and I thought to myself, “Now is as good of a time as ever. If other people can do it, I can do it too.” So I told my friend how I wanted to do this and she wanted to join in and the rest is history!

The goal of CEO Mindsets is to provide digestible and actionable tips about careers, job searching, networking, professional development, etc. A lot of students don’t know where to start when it comes to any of this or feel extremely overwhelmed. I was definitely in a similar situation when I was in school and did a lot of soul searching to find what works for me. We want to help students and graduates bridge the gap between their passions and careers!

• You have experienced the same path as many other students, where you were certain that you would become who you thought you would be as an undergrad – however things took off in a different direction. What would you tell those group of individuals?

Take your time and don’t worry about having things figured out. Everyone moves at a different pace through life and there is no need to feel rushed because other people already know what they want to do. You have your story and they have theirs. Take it day by day and trust that everything will work out!

• You hold a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management and Entrepreneurship. This is an interesting combination. What led you to go towards these 2 fields of your studies?

I chose Human Resources Management because I wanted to be in a position that is focused around people. I love being able to help others and I find it very fulfilling. I chose Entrepreneurship because of an elective I took that was part of that curriculum called Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. This class changed my mindset so much. It taught me to go out of my comfort zone to become better. It taught me that it’s okay to not have everything figured out. It taught me to chase after the things I want. Human Resources Management can be a little outdated sometimes and I want to be able to apply a fresh and innovative entrepreneurial mindset to the industry.

• You were very active throughout your college career as a peer mentor and president for clubs/organizations. How did these extracurricular activities help you develop professionally and support your success?

These extracurricular activities taught me how to manage my time better. Having a full calendar can be really fun and rewarding, but also overwhelming at times. Because of all of my responsibilities, I had to learn how to use my time more efficiently and separate my time for work and fun. It’s really a balancing act but once you master it, you won’t be stressed about work when you’re relaxing and vice versa. This will be extremely useful in establishing a work life balance when I start working full time!

• Are there any advice you would like to share for students or final undergrads?

Two pieces of advice:

  1. Everything is a lesson. Try to learn as much as you can from every win and every loss.
  2. One of my favorite professors once told me this: In your life you will be faced with, on average, 10 opportunities that will change your life. It’s your job to recognize these opportunities and say yes to them.