How to Keep Jobs Seekers Focused During the Holidays

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You see it every year. Students are right on track with their job search, but then they go home for the holidays. They’re torn between family events, shopping, and catching up with their old friends. Then your job seekers return to school stressed out because they’ve fallen behind in their plan to land a job after graduation.

While it’s important for students to enjoy the holidays, if they don’t make time for the job search, they will miss out on great career opportunities. Luckily, with a little bit of forethought, they can find ways to incorporate their job search into the holidays. All it takes is a little guidance from a career services professional, like you.

Help your job seekers make the most of their break by showing them how they can participate in the holiday revelry while focusing on their careers. Here are three tips to keep your job seekers on track during this busy time of year:

1. Practice their pitch

One of the biggest parts of the job search is being able to talk about yourself. Unfortunately for young job seekers, this can also be one of the hardest skills to master. They’re unsure how to explain who they are and what skills and experiences they have in a concise way. While you can practice with students, “pitching” themselves to as many different people as possible helps them get more comfortable with the process.

The holidays offer a perfect opportunity to work out jitters and kinks. Family members and friends are sure to ask your job seekers what they’ve been up to at school. Encourage them to answer with the same depth they would during a job interview.

While they don’t need to be overly professional with their loved ones, they can still frame their responses in a way that ties their activities with how it’s helped them grow and learn. For example, instead of just saying they joined an ultimate frisbee team, your student can also talk about how that experience helped them learn to work with various people.

Give them a list of skills and qualities employers like to hear mentioned when a candidate talks about who they are. Then tell them to practice highlighting the items on this list when catching up over break. Consider the following situations and stories that fit into casual conversation, but also can translate to a job interview:

  • How the student overcame a challenge
  • What they’ve learned about themselves recently
  • What goals they have for the next semester and their plans to achieve them
  • How they discovered a new passion

2. Ask for advice

As a student approaches graduation, it’s inevitable that their family will offer unsolicited career advice. Aunts and uncles will have opinions about what industries the young person should go into. Family friends will talk about how they landed their first job decades ago. But instead of being frustrated, job seekers can direct conversation so they get information that is relevant to their own situation.

Have job seekers ask questions about what their loved one’s wish they had considered before taking their first job. Did they ask enough questions about employee benefits? Were they able to negotiate a better salary? Did they think about what size company they’d prefer to work for?

This type of information can help job seekers without making them feel judged for their coming career choices. It will also give them new factors to research about companies so they can make better decisions about potential employers.

3. Write a holiday job “wish list”

From the time we’re kids, making a wish list has been a huge part of the holidays. Now that your job seekers have grown up, they can continue this fun tradition by creating a list of what they want from their future role and employer.

The trick is making sure they’re focused on their biggest priorities. It’s easy for young people to go overboard and list every possibility on their wish list. But this isn’t realistic.

Give job seekers a list of categories to help them focus their must-haves. For example, what employee benefits do they want? What corporate values matter most? What development opportunities get them excited? Then limit how many items they can put in each category. A good rule of thumb is three per group.

Once your job seekers have their list, they can come back to school and discuss it with you. This will help them whittle down which companies are worth pursuing and which won’t meet their needs.

Don’t forget to help job seekers overcome the winter blues during their job search. Find tips to pass on here!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.