The Thanksgiving-to-New Year holiday season is often viewed by many job seekers as a job-search desert. Nobody’s hiring, new budgets haven’t been decided, and everybody’s on vacation—so the conventional wisdom goes. People are thinking more about shopping lists, Santa, and holiday parties than work, right?

Like most “conventional wisdom,” these opinions may contain an iota of truth, but the holiday season can also be a gold mine of opportunity for prudent job seekers.

The holidays give job seekers the gifts of social and networking opportunities, increased access to hiring managers and often expiring budgets that need to be utilized or lost. It’s also a time of goodwill and giving where people are more likely to help.

Job searching during the holidays doesn’t have to be as tough as Aunt Gertrude’s fruit cake. Here are FIVE PROVEN STRATEGIES for advancing your job search while others are on a holiday break:

1 – Your odds for success can increase due to a reduction in competition

Perhaps the biggest benefit for job-hunters is reduced competition for jobs. The number of overall job listings usually contracts by about 30% but estimates also show that almost 50% of all job seekers either drop out or greatly reduce their efforts during the holiday season. Take advantage of the opportunity as your odds for landing interviews are greatly increased. Simply continue to do all the things you’ve been doing to this point; applying to online positions, working with recruiters, reaching out to networking contacts and hiring managers, and attending events. Playing the numbers can definitely work in your favor if you continue pushing the job search momentum you’ve already established.

2 – Many executives and key decision makers limit their travel during the holidays

Because of extended vacations, holiday preparation and in some instances last-minute budget and fiscal responsibilities, many key decision makers do not or greatly limit their travel during the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s stretch. What this means to the smart job seeker is that more key decision makers are available to make hiring decisions, receive your InMails, and are available when attempting to contact or meet during a networking event.

3 – Some companies can find themselves with a budget surplus

Another circumstance that can work in your favor is the fact that some companies may not have used up all allocated funds for the current fiscal year. During my days of selling software, December was usually a strong month due to the fact that many companies still had budgetary funds remaining. Not spending all available funds in the current year often meant a decrease in funds allocated for the following year. Many departmental budgets are also used for hiring which means it’s use it or lose it. Some companies may opt to bring on new employees close to the end of the year as to use up any remaining funds and to allow the new employees to get acquainted with the new company and their peers. Many employers are under pressure to fill positions by year-end as to enter the beginning of the new calendar year fully-staffed.

4 – Use seasonal activities to influence network contacts

The holiday season often brings us in contact with people we don’t see very much during the year like former work colleagues, out-of-town relatives, and old friends. These people can all be very influential members of your network, and once you’ve reconnected over a holiday get-together or phone call, you can follow up to ask for more specific assistance.

Try to attend as many holiday get-togethers and networking events as possible. Ask questions of the people you meet and show a genuine interest in what they do. This will in return pique their interest in you and their willingness to help.

Don’t attend holiday parties with a fist full of resumes but do have personal business cards with you at all times. Exchanging contact information via smartphone is acceptable, but investing in a nicely printed personal business card with your name, contact information, and a target job title like Sales Executive or Database Administrator, is much more professional.

Be prepared to inform your contacts what type of job you’re looking for via your 30 Second Short Pitch. Keep it brief, succinct, and cogent and don’t oversell. Ask the person for any tips, advice, and recommendations (people love to give advice!). You can also ask about hot companies they would recommend or anyone else you should be speaking with. Remember to always put your best self forward by dressing for success when attending holiday networking events and parties.

5 – Don’t be a Scrooge—volunteer!

An extremely effective technique for making contacts during the holiday period is volunteering. You’ll be providing some much-needed help and simultaneously get the benefit of meeting new people. There are many groups that could use your assistance right about now—and for the rest of the year as well. Volunteering is also a great way to keep your skills sharp, build confidence, and feel great about yourself and what you’re doing.

Don’t let your job search skills get “Frosty” during the holiday season.  Keep things flowing—besides the spiked eggnog—and get a leg up on your competition before the January rush sets in. Will it be easy making inroads during the holiday season?  Not exactly, but it’s a far superior strategy to procrastination or worse yet, doing nothing as January always brings a super-surge of people looking to change jobs or careers. Working smarter than everyone else always pays big dividends!

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Donald J. Strankowski is a two-time author, active public speaker, and a regular guest on FOX 31 Great Day Colorado. He is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career management and professional development firm for businesses, professionals, and executives. Since 2001, Ascend has helped people land a better job, improve their level of performance, change careers, or start their own business. Serving customers across the US and internationally, Ascend offers best in class career advisement and professional services for any individual or company looking to gain a key competitive edge. Schedule a free consultation today.