November 18, 2010

Job Seeker's guide to the holidays: What? No Thanksgiving?

A couple of years ago, in my career planning class I happened to ask the students how they would be celebrating Thanksgiving. Everyone in the room said they would not be celebrating Thanksgiving. Huh? Some were foreign students uncertain about the holiday, some were recent immigrants not yet in the swing of things, and some students indicated they had too much work to do to bother celebrating Thanksgiving. I was in shock! This is the best American Holiday of all! No presents required, thus no shopping. No fireworks to burn down the house. No eggs to rot in the yard. No starving before. Just one big eating fest. The entertainment value of it alone is worth the effort. How often do you get to see the whole bird parked on the table? Or watch your relatives drip cranberry sauce down their chin. And turkey is cheap! And if you are vegetarian, there are plenty of fresh vegetables to make a meal. Oh, and the pie is divine. And it is easy. My husband, Paul always cooks our Thanksgiving dinner. It's no trouble at all.

There is also a hidden job market right there under the turkey wing. Yes, great jobs tucked right in there with the stuffing. Thanksgiving is your opportunity to start telling everyone you know what you will be doing after graduation or what kind of work you are exploring if you are unemployed. So, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to talk about what you are interested in doing with the people who care most that you get a job. They will have to support you if you don't, and they know it. These are the people who soooooooo want to be helpful.

Eating alone in front of the TV is not going to yield any jobs. I always say the biggest mistake that unemployed people make is hanging around other unemployed people. And the second biggest mistake that unemployed people make is keeping it a secret. Eating alone is not going to improve your table manners either. Not like sitting across from family members, like your mother, who comments on every indiscretion.

This is how it will happen. You will be sitting there and a cousin will ask you how your job search is going or what you are going to do after graduation - right there in front of everyone! And you will want to yell at them to go away and leave you alone. Yes, it is embarrassing to be unemployed. But you are in good company. 8 million people in the US have lost their jobs since the start of the recession. The reality is that most jobs are not posted. Most individuals get their jobs through a friend or a direct contact. So when your cousin, or uncle, or sister or mother or your neighbor asks what you are going to do next or when you graduate, tell them about your career plans and interests in the simplest terms possible. Make sure that they understand exactly what it is that you are looking for. What you will get in return will be priceless. You will now have a whole team of people talking to their people and emailing you links and articles about interesting companies that have just gotten big contracts, and sending job ads to you. Social situations are the best place to get jobs!

The job will come from where you least expect it. A few years ago, one of my students went home for Thanksgiving dinner. The student was prepped. He had heard my lecture on “working the holidays.” When the inevitable question was asked – “what are you going to do when you graduate?” – he gave a little speech about wanting to work in aircraft maintenance or manufacturing. His sister, a cardiac care nurse from Seattle, just listened and remembered the conversation. Some months later, a top Boeing executive was rushed to her hospital. A week later, when he was well into recovery, she mentioned to him her brother’s interest in working for Boeing. He gave her his card and said that she should have her brother send a resume. The student called, sent a resume, and was hired without so much as an interview.

I had another student tell me that shortly after graduation he was playing golf with a friend and got hooked up with another pair of golfers. Evidently you don't get to play golf in less than a foursome unless you are president of the United States. So anyway, this student got paired up with an engineering manager from Chevron. During the introduction phase, the student indicated that he had just graduated with an engineering degree and was looking for a job. The Chevron manager gave him his card and the new graduate sent him a resume, and that is how he got his job. (He lost the golf game, but he got the job.)

So get out there and find someone to have Thanksgiving with! (And every other holiday you can think up!) So if you are standing in line at the movies or playing golf instead, tell the people around you about who you are and what you are interested in doing. Who knows, you could have an offer before New Years! Wouldn't that be gravy.