DON’T PUT YOUR CAREER ON ICE THIS WINTER

The weather across the country had turned colder…and so has the job market. Recent stats took even the White House by surprise. According to the recently released numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent and the number of unemployed persons was 15.1 million in November. Scary. But, what can you do to keep warm during this extended and early freeze?

Hatch a plan.

In “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” to which he responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”  When she says, “I don’t much care where,” the Cat points out, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”  Take a lesson from Lewis Carroll’s heroine: Think about what your goals are during this (seemingly) long cold employment period and start breaking down how you’d like to accomplish them. It could be as simple as hanging on to your job; it could be slightly more difficult (i.e. getting a raise). For the former, work on ways to be your own best publicist in the workplace (for example, by volunteering to work on additional projects). For the latter, start compiling evidence of the ways you add value or how you’ve saved–or made–the company money through the work you’ve done.

Help others to help yourself.
You know the saying “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”? Consider a different perspective: Do something nice for others and they will likely be more apt to do something nice for you. For example, if someone you know is a fledgling graphic designer, recommend them for a project.  At a minimum, they’ll remember you.  More importantly, perhaps you’ll come to mind when they come across an opportunity that would be good for you. Given that the majority of job leads and new business come through people you know, it’s smart to increase the odds.

Keep calm and carry on.
When faced with a winter of discontent, an important thing to remember is that it will ultimately turn to spring, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Take stock of what is going right in your life: family, friends, job, bank account, puppy, etc. At the risk of sounding too Holly Golightly, it’s always good to look at the bright side.  There’s always someone worse off than you.  While we don’t wish an unfortunate situation on anyone, it may put your own in perspective and stop you from wallowing, particularly if you are sinking into the “woe is me” portion of the broadcast.

Instead, enjoy the holidays with friends and family, have a cup of eggnog, relax and then as the New Year arrives, think about your career resolutions for the year ahead so you can start fresh and confident about what you want to accomplish in 2011.

What are you doing to keep your options warm in this cold snap? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter (@BestPublicist).

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GIVE YOURSELF A HOLIDAY GIFT: REASSESS YOUR CAREER

Where did the year go?  We feel like the dog days of summer just ended (summer, what summer?) and now we can’t go into a store without hearing Bing Crosby sing White Christmas. As the countdown to 2011 is in full swing, instead of focusing solely on buying gifts and decorating your tree — or lighting the menorah or kinara, what have you — now is an opportune time to take a good look at your career and assess where you want it to go in the New Year.  Are you vying for a new job?  More responsibility in your current position?  An entirely new career?

Here are a few key things you can do between now and the end of December to take stock of your career situation:

1. Check out the market. Speaking from personal experience, we’re actually hiring right now (and know of lots of others doing so as well) so it’s not true, as many people think, that the job market dies down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  In fact, we’ve seen some really stellar talent out there at this time of year and, because many people take a break from their search over the holidays, there’s also less competition. Check job listing sites but don’t rely solely on them.  Ask around — often the best jobs are the ones that aren’t advertised and, if someone is hiring towards the holidays, he or she will be eager to snap up a strong candidate who is ready to start as soon as possible.   No one wants to kick off the New Year without a full staff in place.

2. Spread some holiday cheer. If you’re not finding open positions in your field, try to book some friendly informational interviews at companies that interest you.  Things tend to slow down for people in December so they might actually have the time to squeeze in a quick coffee with you (or, if not, you can at least get on their calendars now for after the New Year).  Offer to come to their office or a convenient location for them — and be sure to pick up the check.  If you can’t get in to meet people face-to-face, send a nice note or small token to wish them a happy holiday season.  Be creative so you stand out from the pile of “Season’s Greetings.”  We just received a package of salted caramels in a small corrugated cardboard box with a hang tag that we absolutely loved — it was low-cost and simple but memorable (and delicious!).

3. Look back and look forward. December is a great time to analyze your accomplishments over the past year and set goals for the year ahead. Write them all down — having a record will come in handy when you want to ask for a raise or promotion in your current job, outline your assets for a potential new job or create a roadmap to follow as you move forward.  Ask yourself: Did I achieve what I wanted to this year?  What could I have done better?  What am I most proud of?  What do I hope to accomplish in 2011 and how will I tackle it?

How do you view the end of the year — as a time to get some rest and focus on friends and family, or an opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.