If you've heard that companies don't hire during the holiday season, don't believe it, says career expert and LinkedIn spokeswomen Lindsey Pollak.
On Friday, the Labor Department will release its nonfarm payroll numbers and the nation's unemployment rate, which analysts hope will encourage lawmakers to make a deal and avoid the looming fiscal cliff.
But despite the economic numbers—and the time of year—Pollak says that December presents unique opportunities to hone your networking skills and zero-in on your dream job.
"I ignored that advice [that companies don't hire in December] back in 1999 when I interviewed for and was offered my dream job at a career-focused Internet start-up just a few weeks before Christmas," Pollak says. "The same can happen for you."
Here's a look at four ways you can use LinkedIn to rekindle relationships, make new contacts and take advantage of this holiday season.
1. Reconnect With Former Colleagues, Friends
"The holidays are the perfect time to reach out and get back in touch with people you haven't spoken to in a while, such as former colleagues, classmates, long-lost friends and members of professional associations you used to belong to," Pollak says. "The key with this type of outreach is to make every communication personal."
Instead of sending an email blast to all your connections wishing them a happy holiday, be more selective and customize your message to each person you want to reconnect with. This shows that your desire to connect is genuine, Pollak says. Your message should look like the following:
Hi Steve,Happy Holidays! I know its been a long time and I hope youve been doing well. I saw on your LinkedIn profile that youve moved on to a higher level position—congratulations! Id love to reconnect in the New Year since we are still working in the same field. Can I give you a call or take you out for a coffee? Thanks so much and enjoy the season. All the best,
Pollak recommends saving the news of your job search for a phone call or an in-person conversation.
2. Network at Holiday Events
Before you head to a friend's or family member's holiday party, Pollak recommends checking out people's LinkedIn profiles to see what projects they're working on, contacts you may have in common and where you might be able to offer them career support.
"At holiday events it's OK to talk about your job search and be specific about what kind of position you're looking for," Pollak says. "If you do have some great career conversations over eggnog and cookies, remember to send each person a connection request or a LinkedIn message early in the New Year to follow up on any leads and continue the conversation."
3. Follow Up
Use the myth that no one gets hired in December to your advantage, Pollak says. If job seekers aren't as active, you have a better chance of standing out to employers if you do submit an application.
"Any recruiter with active job openings is highly likely to check his or her inbox over the holidays, so make sure your application is there," she says.
Pollak also recommends following up your application with an additional message to the recruiter that says something like, "I wanted to follow up my application to position #12345 with a brief note to express my interest," she says. Then, mention something specific that you've read about the employer, such as a positive news story or an industry development.
"The process may not move forward until the New Year, but you'll show the employer that you're ready to hit the ground running," Pollak says.
4. Spruce Up Your LinkedIn Profile
Reflect on the last year and take time to update your profile with any accomplishments or details you think will be relevant to your job search, Pollak says.
"Did you take on a large volunteer project that demonstrates your organization skills? Did you start a professional blog you can link to your profile? Did you complete some freelance projects that you can share in the Projects section of your profile? You never know what might catch the eye of someone in your network who knows of a job opening," Pollak says.
Remember that as long as you have your activity broadcasts turned on in your LinkedIn profile settings, these updates will be pushed out to your network's activity streams—another opportunity to get on the radar of others, she says.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com