With November and the upcoming holidays in the air, the turf changes for hiring that can be either problematic for job seekers, or an opportunity. As a job seeker you will do much better during this season if you are prepared ahead of time for how the business environment is likely to change.

The Dead Zone is basically an acknowledgement of the behavior that the majority of businesses take during the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, in most businesses other than retail, there begins a massive evacuation of employees taking advantage of holiday closures to spend time with family. The week of Thanksgiving kicks off about 6 weeks of a dead zone for hiring. While many of the businesses are open, you are typically faced with a skeletal staff and missing decision makers. The people who remain behind are there primarily to keep the gears moving, even if it is slow. The only work that tends to get done during this period is what is minimally required to ensure that the primary function of the business continues. The work that almost comes to a stop is usually strategic planning, decision making and those things not directly supporting the primary function. An example is in manufacturing companies where you will see shipping and order-taking continue, but many functions like marketing, sales and support functions are all on hold. What this means for you is that hiring is one of those activities that will come to such a crawl it looks like there is no hiring at all. For some companies, they will only pursue hiring where there is a critical need AND the hiring manager is available enough in that 6-week period to actually make some progress.

During this dead zone you are facing 3 weeks with fewer work days, which makes those weeks primary targets for vacations, plus a week or two on both sides of it, if they are banking their hours. For the remaining days, those are usually spent “playing catch up”. Does any of this sound familiar? The meaning for you, if you’re a job seeker, is that for the vast majority of businesses, you can’t expect too much activity around hiring. If you have an interview the week before Thanksgiving, you’ll be lucky for a decision to get made for 2-3 weeks, at best. If you’re fortunate enough to get an interview in early December, a decision probably won’t get made until the second week of January, if all goes well. Most likely, it would be the third week in January.

Does that mean you should absolutely back off during the dead zone? Not necessarily. If you are working your network, you might find that they have idle time on their hands, making it worth your effort to take advantage of the slow time in the office. The warning is mostly around your expectations of the process. You can’t expect many hiring decisions to be taking place. Resume processing will be sluggish and then there will be a glut of paper to be processed on the other side of the holidays. The opportunity is that if someone is around, you will do well to make contact, which is super because you might be the thing that will break up a boring day. Mostly, you need to set your expectations that people won’t be around, won’t be available, and won’t be checking voicemail or email and what little processing is going on, will be painfully slow.

There is a bright light in the holiday seasons and that is retail. If you are up for temporary holiday work, now is the time to start filling out company applications. Many times those jobs turn into permanent positions making it well worth your time to get on board. Even if it doesn’t turn into a job after the holidays, it will bring in income and fill the time productively while the rest of the companies are going into a holiday sugar coma. Keep in mind that there is more to retail than the store fronts. The bigger retailers have warehouse, stocking and other support functions that are also needed. Extending from the retailers are the logistics and shipping companies that also have to add additional staff to support all of the shipping and order taking. The holiday season can create opportunities for getting a job, as long as you are willing to look. With a bit of creativity and investigation, you will discover a number of businesses that increase their staff in order to accommodate the various demands of the season.

If you are unemployed, this can also be a prime time to seek out a volunteer opportunity that will capitalize on your skills. Just like the businesses that increase their activities this time of year, the same type of cycle of decrease and increase happens in the nonprofit universe. Volunteering will help you fill gaps in your resume, increase your network and make you feel great.
The holidays do present a challenge for job seekers, especially if the industry you are focusing on is one with a clear dead zone. That doesn’t mean you stop everything, but it does mean you should think through what is apt to happen until after the first of the year and modify your plan accordingly.

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