Race to the Top: The Holiday Job Search

Q: I’ve decided to look for a new job, but everyone is telling me that this is a bad time of year to start a job search. Should I wait until after the new year?

A: Overall, it is harder to find a new job during the holiday season, in large part because people are out of the office. It’s also generally true that companies look to make hiring decisions by early fall because it coincides with their planning process. Having said that, there is always the exception, so if you want to make a move now, you will have to dig a little harder while sticking to the key guidelines from previous columns.

If you have your heart set on a specific company, you have the time during the holidays to get really smart about the organization and its priorities, including plans for the upcoming year. You should read the Annual Report, especially the Chairman’s Letter; in most cases, the company’s short, mid and long term-strategy ends up there, typically, in fairly straight forward terms. And, if you read that letter you will also get a sense for the company’s aspirations, the ideas that really drive the senior management, and you will likely have a great interview. In corporate America, every hiring manager thinks about one thing when he or she looks at an application: how can this person help me advance a priority? If you want a corporate job, you need to be able to connect your skills with something that is important to the company.

Then, do some research about the people who work there and find an internal “hero,” someone who works for the company and can help guide you through the process. I know, that might sound overstated, but so many corporate opportunities start with a personal introduction, so you have to have that connection. The business people in Houston are very busy; many serving on multiple boards and supporting a wide variety of civic organizations. With so many people in so many places, it should make it easier to start making connections. Once you start asking people in your network who they know at a given company, you might be surprised how quickly you identify a hero.

As we have said before, you can’t be afraid to make a connection out of thin air. When I started working for Bankers Trust Company, I was obsessed with how the market was changing. I read the Wall Street Journal from first to last page and I was fascinated by the African Americans who were making big in roads, particularly in the municipal finance area. One day during lunch, I decided to call two people I had just read about, MR Beal and Alan Bond. They both had their own firms and had been featured in the Journal. I called their offices, introduced myself as a new analyst at Bankers Trust and asked for 15 minutes to interview them on their business models. To my surprise, both said yes. In both cases, I was able to talk to them for over 15 minutes and MR Beal only interrupted our conversation once to take a call from Rep. Charlie Rangel, who, coincidently, was friends with my dad, which gave us a little more to talk about. Even though I never worked for either firm, I could have, and it all began with a “cold call.”

In some ways, this is where the holiday season can work to your advantage if you have seen a job opening – you might make a cold call and actually get the decision-maker on the phone.

Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , rttcareers@gmail.com or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.