AESC chats with Glenda K. Brown, Managing Director, BlueSteps & Global Partnerships, about why contrary to popular belief, the holidays could still be a good time to land your next executive position.

The prevailing wisdom is that the holidays are a bad time for executives to search for a job. Do you agree?

I don’t particularly agree. There are a few reasons that it can actually be an opportune time for executives to conduct a search.

Everyone seems to be overly busy this time of year and it may be hard to get attention for prospective opportunities, informational interviews, etc. However, since so many candidates believe this time of year is a bad time to look for a job, opportunities will come up for those who choose to continue searching. Fewer executives are aggressively looking at this time of year, so it could be an opportunity to stand out since you’re making yourself more available and visible.

Additionally, many organizations are setting strategies for the New Year before they leave for the holiday break. That’s difficult to do if they have a key position open. This can often motivate an otherwise slower than ideal hiring process to be expedited simply so the organization has someone in place on day one of the New Year.

What’s different about looking for an executive job in during the holiday season?

Executives who are looking during the holiday/year end should balance the optimism of my viewpoint that there are opportunities to be had with the reality that not every organization, hiring manager or search consultant will be working or focused at this time of year. This means you'll want to pick and choose what you focus on. So let’s say that you’re trying to get a specific position, but the search consultant or hiring manager is not available – don’t dismiss that as an opportunity, just note that this isn’t the right time of year to pursue that role.

On the flip side, focus on the companies that tend to have people working until the final bell. At this time of year, you might prioritize your prospective opportunities differently using how available that particular company, hiring manager, or executive search consultant seems to be. Sometimes this can be industry or geography specific depending on where the role is, but this is mostly based on response. If you pursue an organization and they seem to be interested, but are slow or nonexistent in their response, don’t assume that means they’re not interested; it simply could be the time of year.

Is now a good time for executives to reflect on their career goals? If so, how do you recommend they do this?

Absolutely, Julia. Year end is a fantastic time for anyone to ready themselves for a full intensive job search starting at the beginning of the year. Even though there are many positions open at this time of year, the reality is that there is some slowdown. So taking time to prepare and refresh your career goals is a no brainer. I encourage executive and board candidates to take several key steps to prepare themselves during this time of year.

1) Reflect. Take time to think about what’s important to them in their next role, what they are looking for, what they want more of, less of, and building a strategic plan to approach opportunities that would reflect those goals.

2) Work on personal career branding. Create a refresh of your LinkedIn profile, your resume/CV and use a career coach to help you through your strategy setting. I always encourage BlueSteps members to use this time to login to BlueSteps as well to update their profile information and career interests to make sure it’s current and compelling as we roll into the New Year.

3) Network. The holiday season is the time of year where we feel compelled to connect with others through holiday cards, emails, gift giving, parties, holiday events, etc. It’s OK to use this outreach to let people know in an appropriate way that you’re considering a career move. If you exchange holiday emails or phone calls with contacts, go ahead and take your conversation one step further – instead of the “let’s get together in the New Year” you could say “let’s get together in the New Year and by the way I’m looking to make a career change and I’d love to get your thoughts about possible connections in your network.”

During the holidays, we connect with people and tell them a lot about what’s going on in our lives. There’s nothing inappropriate about mentioning that one of the things that’s going on with you is that you’re considering a career change.

How can executives make it easier for executive search consultants to find them during the holidays?

Obviously I’m biased as the Managing Director of BlueSteps and a believer in our service. It’s the only service that provides a seamless, confidential connection between executives and the esteemed member firms of the AESC globally. Updating your BlueSteps profile is a great way to become more visible. Sending a quick holiday note by email to targeted search consultants that you’ve identified through BlueSteps’ International Executive Search Directory is a great way to make yourself visible. My personal style would be a quick, short, genuine note that wishes them a wonderful holiday season and suggests that you might connect in the New Year about opportunities that might be a fit for you or how you might help them with their sourcing needs for candidate referrals.

During the holidays, many people focus on giving back to their community. From a professional standpoint, is there anything executives can do to give back?

I’m a huge believer in paying it forward. There are a number of ways that we can give back.

1) Become a mentor. Identifying and volunteering to be a career mentor, whether within your organization or for a non-profit community organization, is a terrific opportunity. Help someone else, perhaps someone at a more junior level, in their career. Or help someone who is struggling to build confidence get a leg up by working with them on their career objectives, making introductions and setting up informational interviews.

2) Give recommendations. Offering and providing unsolicited recommendations for your work colleagues and clients on LinkedIn is a small, but terrific gift to give someone at this time of year.

3) Support others seeking new opportunities. Connect with others that you know are in a career transition phase and organize a small gathering where everyone can brainstorm about their goals for the next year. These are really effective and uplifting parties. I suggested this to a friend of mine who is having a hard time finding a new job and she’s frustrated because she has so many friends in a similar situation.

Thinking ahead to the New Year, do you believe in making professional resolutions? If so, any recommendations for career resolutions executives should line up for the year?

I absolutely believe in making professional resolutions. Resolutions of any nature (personal, professional, health, etc.) are valuable if they motivate an individual to take consistent, meaningful action towards achieving them. Or if they simply help clarify what it is that you want to achieve. You don’t need to wait until January 1st to start working on it. Having clarity of what your resolution can give you focus and help you develop your strategy.

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