Jumpstart Your Job Search Over the Holidays

by Bruce Harshbarger

Article content is provided by HigherEdJobs.
If you're currently in a career in higher education or wish to be, the winter holidays are an optimal time to look for your next job opportunity. And if you're a member of an extended family that gets together in December, you may need a break from the festivities once in a while to manage all the seasonal commotion. Fortunately, those two needs can come together in a symbiotic relationship that can be a win-win proposition for you.

Your job search could merely consist of perusing position openings and sending off resumes and cover letters. But if you already work in an educational setting, you probably have a longer holiday break than most Americans. Consider investing a few hours of your break in a strategy that can enhance and jumpstart your search. Here are a few ideas:

Tell People What You're Up to
Enlist the support of your friends and tap into their knowledge and ideas. If you were going to begin a fitness regimen, you'd look for workout buddies to provide you support and hold you accountable. You'll want to have job search buddies to report to as well.

Connect with People You Know through Professional Associations
Ask your connections if they've heard of upcoming or potential openings. Go online and find the likely hiring authorities for those openings. E-mail those people over the break, ask about the positions, and express your interest. Don't worry -- those folks will most likely be reading their work e-mails over break because they don't want to come back to hundreds of unread messages in January and because they need breaks from their holiday commotion too. When a pile of applicant names are queued in the databases for those positions, the hiring authorities will recognize and remember your name if they've already communicated with you. If you aren't a member of the related higher education associations, make sure you join. For example, in the field of student affairs, the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Association (NASPA) is an excellent resource. Besides networking, there are numerous other benefits to joining both regional and national higher education associations.

Research Placement Exchanges and Job Fairs within Your Field
In the field of Student Affairs, The Placement Exchange (TPE) is an annual gathering of hiring authorities and job candidates that is sponsored by seven national Student Affairs organizations. Specializations within a broad field often have their own events. The Oshkosh Placement Exchange (OPE) [link removed: no longer active] at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is the primary placement gathering each spring for employers and candidates in the area of university housing. Even if you don't land a job from a Placement Exchange, you'll come away from the experience with a much broader professional network of friends and colleagues who may have suggestions for next steps.

Improve Your Online Presence
If you are not on LinkedIn, it is critical that you create an account and use it. Make sure your profile has key words applicable to your job search. Build and manage your network. According to a recent survey, 85 percent of positions are filled through networking. Reach out to trusted contacts at schools that you may want to work at and ask if they know of any openings. This is also a great way to practice your informational interviewing skills. Know what your online footprint looks like and Google yourself to see what's there. Review your Twitter feed, Instagram posts, or Facebook page -- or better yet, have a friend or family member look at them. Would you be happy to have prospective employers view what's there? C'mon, prospective employers don't really stalk candidates online to see if there's any adverse information, do they? (Spoiler: We do. Oh yes, we really do.)

Be Efficient in Your Search
Use technology to your advantage and sign up for automatic job alerts with the HigherEdJobs job agents. Search Academic360 for a collection of internet resources for the academic job hunt. Sites that consolidate all of the information you'll need in one place will save you time as you job search.

Practice Interviewing
Give a friend or family member your resume and ask them to do a mock interview with you. Plant something surprising or provocative in your resume or vita that you think is guaranteed to generate a question. Then devise an answer to that question that you can use as a segue to the talking points that you want to cover. It's just like developing any other skill -- the more you do it, the better you'll get.

You'll eventually submit your credentials and hope to hear back about interview invitations. But if you take the opportunity to spend a little time over the holidays laying the groundwork for your submissions, you may find yourself a lot busier during the interviewing season.