With November and the upcoming holidays in the air, the turf changes for hiring, which can be either a problem 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 most businesses take on during the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, in many businesses 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 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 manufacturing companies. 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 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, and perhaps a week or two on both sides of it. For the remaining days, those are usually spent “playing catch up”. Does any of this sound familiar? The meaning for you as a job seeker is for the vast majority of businesses, you can’t expect much activity around hiring. If you have an interview the week before Thanksgiving, you’ll be lucky for a decision to get made in 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 back off during the dead zone? Not necessarily. If you are working your network, you might find 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 there will be a glut of paper to be processed on the other side of the holidays. The opportunity is 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 – 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 income and fill the time productively while the rest of the companies are going into a holiday sugar coma. Keep in mind 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 the extra 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 may 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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When you go to schools and talk to kids about careers or the future, they (or rather their parents) have a very clear idea of what careers are the real moneymakers. You get the usual stuff thrown at you, engineers, surgeons, marketing, very mainstream, pop culture driven options for what to do in life. Of course, kids very rarely do what their parents say and find their own path in terms of career options like everything else in life, but it does get the mind working.
There are so many career options out there, now so more than ever with the diversity and inventiveness that the Internet and other modern technologies have brought in. And yet only a handful are recognized as the ones that rake in all the dollars. Specialization too, has become a big thing these days, and you can acquire focused training for a very specific job, this results in a more streamlined, focused approach to building profiles, which in turn also creates more positions and openings.
Having said all that, here’s an exploration into some of the oft overlooked careers that actually have some serious earning potential.
- Court stenographer. Also known as court reporters, the job is to take down, word-for-word, everything that is said during legal proceedings. There’s a lot of working from home involved, the hours are good too, and your pay will be largely dependent on how much work you chose to take on. Education wise, all you need is to complete a post-secondary certificate course on the subject, and depending on where you’re operating out of, you may need a license or accreditation to a professional association too. The median pay, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, was $48,169 annually in 2012.
- Medical billing and coding. The middleman of sorts in medical environments, a medical biller and coder’s job requires him or her to go through a patient’s medical records and assign a set of specific codes to the medical procedures carried out on them. This allows for swift and accurate billing to institutions such as insurance agencies and Medicare or Medicaid. To qualify for this position, a postsecondary certificate is a necessity. The average pay-scale of a medical coder biller is $35,920 a year according to Career Step.
- Air traffic controller. Air traffic controllers pretty much do as advertised – they coordinate the ingress and exit of aircraft at airports. The qualifications are a little heavy on this one. The list includes being a US citizen, passing medical and security checks, passing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test, and completing a course at the FAA academy. There’s also an age limit imposed, so no one above the age of 30 can apply for the course. The pay though is great – according to education-portal.com, the median pay as of May 2013 was $121,280.
- Unexploded ordnance technician. In lay man’s terms, someone who carries out bomb disposals. This highly technical job requires individuals to detect and defuse explosive devices, does come with an element of danger. However, with technology where it’s at today, that danger isn’t too pronounced. According to UXO global the pay ranges between $52,199 and$99,504, and becoming one requires a post-secondary certificate.
- Funeral director. We’re all familiar with funeral directors. The job involves the organization and management of funerals. To qualify, you need to have an associate’s degree in mortuary science, and a lack of squeamishness around the deceased. Part of the job also includes preparing the deceased for their passage into the beyond, which typically includes dressing up and applying make up to the deceased. The median pay, according to com is $42,764 annually.
Frida Cooper is an independent career counselor