Work more or less grinds to a halt in most organizations in these final weeks of the year—which means efforts to fill open positions also stop.
That doesn’t mean job-seekers are stuck in neutral for the next few weeks, according to career coach and workplace consultant Brandon Smith. He said the single most-important task for those people is setting up coffee meetings with people at the companies where they want to work.
“They have time to do it,” said Smith, who also teaches workplace culture and leadership at Emory University and Georgia State University. “You’ll never find another opportunity like this during the year.”
Smith pointed to 2011 research that found 56 percent of surveyed hiring managers knew who they wanted to promote before they deliberated on the candidates. Of that group, nearly all—96 percent—promoted that favorite.
“By the time you see [the job] posted, there’s only a 50 percent chance you’ve even got a shot at that thing,” Smith said. “You’ve got to become the favorite. And the way you do that is by having coffee meetings and convince[ing] them they actually need to hire you so they create a job around you.”
He said most organizations may not be conducting active searches, but they are considering their needs for 2014.
“It’s not that companies aren’t spending time thinking about it. They’re having those conversations,” Smith said. “But everybody is taking vacations. You can’t get enough decision-makers in a room to interview somebody.”
Smith outlined three practical steps for job-hunters to get coffee meetings with potential contacts:
-- Polish your resume so it’s ready to hand out.
-- Create a target list of companies. “Anywhere that you’re curious about. You’re wanting to date,” he said. “You’re wanting to meet some people in those companies that you can say, ‘Tell me a little bit more about the culture. Do you think you could use somebody like me? ‘Cause I would love to work there.’”
-- Go to family, friends and LinkedIn connections to put you in touch with people at those companies.
“The goal of the coffee meeting is not to get you a job right away,” Smith said. “You want the conversation to keep going. You want them to say, ‘I want to have you come into our office the second week of January.’ Or ‘I need you to meet some people.’
“Or, another good outcome is they might say, ‘We don’t really need anybody with your unique skillset, but my brother-in-law does. I want to connect you.’”
Work pressures for many people are reduced around the holidays, so they are open to a coffee meeting and spending a few minutes of their time right now, Smith said. And for people working, meeting with a job-seeker can be a tremendous gift.
“Reach out to and/or accept that coffee request from that person who’s looking to find a job,” he said. “Give them the gift of time and your resources and your network.
“There’s not a better gift you can give this holiday season than that.”
Smith also had suggestions for making the most of these slow holiday weeks for people working through the holidays. Read that here.
Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at theworkplacetherapist.com. While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.