It's December: The month of holiday parties, festive decorations and “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer" on repeat everywhere you go. And for some of you, it's also the month of throwing your caps in the air, celebrating the completion of a hard-earned degree. Although large graduation ceremonies traditionally take place in the spring, more students happen to finish their degrees in December. Graduating and job searching in a month many associate with vacations, family time and celebrations may be tough. You've worked hard to get to this point and all you want to do is enjoy a well-deserved break. And you should. In fact, some graduates consider traveling and taking advantage of an open schedule before committing themselves to the structured world of work. But you may also want to spend some time on your career development. To help you with that, I've listed six tips to keep in mind as you think about applying for jobs post-graduation.
1. Plan Your Course of Action
“Take advantage of downtime to develop and hone your action plan so that you can implement it after the holidays," advises Tracy Carter, assistant director of coaching and education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. “December and January are notoriously challenging months to gain much traction in your job search, so take this time to identify your job search action items and timelines, to prepare your application materials and to work on your pitch/interviewing skills."
Employers are already thinking about the new year and what they may need, including new hires. You want to get a head start as you target these opportunities. In addition, while you probably want to leave classes and homework assignments behind, prioritize maintaining contact with your instructors, especially the ones you've enjoyed working with, because you may need to ask for references and recommendations.
2. Polish Your Brand
If quizzes and assignments have prevented you from spending much time on your brand, December is the month to catch up. Using your newfound free time wisely, think about the message you want to send to potential employers and make sure your application documents and online presence communicate that message. Many students rely on the default LinkedIn heading of the degree they are pursuing. When the degree is completed, however, you want to think about who you are beyond your degree. Create a headline and draft a summary that clearly highlights your skills, values, interests and aspirations. Solidifying and polishing your brand will then increase your chances of engaging and connecting with industry experts in your field of interest. As you reach out for informational interviews, you'll get to practice and clarify your elevator pitch, which will make you a stronger candidate.
3. Integrate Social Media Into Your Job Search
Love them or hate them, social media platforms are frequently used by employers to learn about and screen candidates, so make sure you reveal a consistent message across the ones you have. If needed, clean up your online presence prior to embarking on the job search. Employers also use a variety of venues to share updates and advertise openings. If you don't already do so, start following target companies, especially at a time of year when most people don't think about the job search. Not sure how to do that? Check out How to Get a Job Using Social Media, a free online class created by The Muse. You may also want to follow Twitter job boards for your industry so you can gather information on what's available and what kind of talent employers are looking for. Social media can also offer the opportunity to engage and connect with experts in the field. Following and connecting with your target employers on social media can alert you to both existing possibilities and opportunities in the hidden job market.
4. Get in Touch With Your Career Office
If your alma mater offers career services to alumni, take advantage. Students are often surprised when I mention that I'm available to meet with them through the months of December and January. But they shouldn't be. “Remember that your university career development office is probably still open for business and ready to help you," says Carter. My institution stays open between semesters, with the exception of official holidays, and although my colleagues and I do take advantage of the slow time to enjoy time off, one of us is always in the office, available to respond to student inquiries. “In fact, this is a time period where many career coaches and advisors have ample availability on their calendars," adds Carter. “Consider partnering with them during this time to plan and execute."
5. Enhance Vital Skills
I know you just finished your degree and the last thing on your mind is taking more classes, but staying on top of your learning is key as you transition into the post-graduation period. While scoping opportunities and conducting informational interviews, you may identify an important skill gap. Instead of despairing, check out the multiple online learning environments and consider taking a course to gain or improve that skill. Now that LinkedIn has joined forces with Lynda, if you have a LinkedIn profile, you can create a LinkedIn Learning account and complete as many courses as you can during your free month. Lynda offers a wonderful platform with hundreds of classes on topics including computer software, design, writing and speaking. Many other platforms exist that offer free or low cost courses including Coursera, Udemy, Future Learn and Alison. Check them out!
If you thought I'd pass on an opportunity to mention networking, you thought wrong! As a soon-to-be graduate, you've probably already heard about the importance of networking. And hopefully, you've already started building meaningful relationships. If you haven't, the holiday season presents an opportunity to do so. For instance, volunteering during the holiday season is a great way to give back to your community, build meaningful connections and gain valuable skills. If an opportunity doesn't exist, create your own. You may also join professional associations or consider attending alumni events. And since you've already polished your brand, it's time to brush up on your Twitter networking game.
“No matter what holiday(s) you observe, you are more than likely going to be invited to a variety of family gatherings, holiday parties and celebrations," Carter points out. “Consider sharing your job search strategies, goals and aspirations with family members and friends." You never know what opportunities may be waiting for you until you ask. And in the spirit of the holidays, most people will be happy to lend a hand or share a piece of advice. As Carter emphasizes, “you will find that many people who can help WILL help in this generous period of giving and sharing!"