Before Christmas, people start thinking less about their career and more about the holiday celebrations, shopping and family time. Although recruitment activity traditionally dampens down until January, the festive season is an important time for your working life, with potential opportunities for both career development and career disaster.
Here are some tips for career survival – and even enhancement – over the festive season.
Extend your Christmas card list
Don't confine your mailing list to family and friends. Environmentally friendly e-cards have made it very easy to send a Christmas card to all of your professional contacts too. This might include ex-bosses or colleagues, customers, suppliers and so on. This is a great way to touch base with people you may not have seen for a while, so that you stay in their mind should they hear about a suitable opportunity for you in the future.
Make sure that this is quite light touch, however. Attaching a round robin letter or your CV to a Christmas card is a definite no-no. That said, you could put in a link to your personal website or Linkedin page if you want to remind them who you are and make sure it is easy for them to contact you.
Time for Christmas drinks
Whether it is coffee or the pub, Christmas is the perfect time to suggest a get-together with people you want to talk to. It might be someone you work with at the moment, a headhunter, ex-colleague or other professional acquaintance. People tend to be far more pre-disposed to a drinks invitation in the festive season than other times of the year, so make the most of the cheer.
Work the office party
Enjoy yourself, but be aware that drink-induced honesty, snogging, falling over, weeping or otherwise raucous behaviour can seriously damage your organisational career prospects. Even if others are behaving badly, including your boss, resist all temptations to join in. It can only end badly. Instead, be polite to everyone and talk to people you don't know very well but would like to know better, such as the new chief executive or someone from a team you are keen to join. While it's not an appropriate setting to go into full sales pitch about your capabilities, it's a great time to start new relationships, which you can then build upon once you are back in work.
'Tis the season of goodwill
Christmas can easily bring to the fore any buried resentments, so regardless of what has happened in the year, try to remember it's the season of goodwill. Refusing to buy a secret santa present for a colleague you dislike, or leaving them off your Christmas card list, will only make you look like the miserable office Scrooge and a poor team player. It's easier just to play nice – aiming for Bob Cratchit rather than Ebenezer. And who knows, maybe a bit of Christmas generosity could help put the relationship on a more positive footing for the new year.
The festive season offers lots of opportunities for you to make a difference in your community and develop useful career skills at the same time. From organising Christmas parties for pensioners or school kids, helping the homeless or fundraising for a Christmas campaign appeal, you can acquire valuable experience to help build your CV. This is especially helpful if you haven't been working for a while or are keen to develop expertise in a particular functional area or client group.
Ask the family
At those festive family gatherings, the conversation always turns to work at some point. When it does, it is well worth sharing your thoughts and seeing what input family members might offer. It's very common for the family to be overlooked as a potential source of knowledge and contacts but they can be very helpful.
Rest and reflect
Time away from the work treadmill enables you to relax and get some much-needed perspective on your career. Think about what has been good about the last year and what you might want to be different for 2014? What do you see as your career challenges and priorities? What might be your options? It's often easier to do this deep thinking about your career when you are away from the immediate work environment. You might also find it helpful to read some career coaching books to help you in your career analysis.