Holiday Job Search Guide for College Seniors

November 26, 2021

It is possible to stay “holly and jolly” during a holiday job search

Ella is dreading the 2.5-hour drive home for the holidays.  With only 4-months left of college and no job offer in sight, she feels like a disappointment to her parents.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  She had always been a good student. Ella got mostly all As in school, worked part-time to help support herself, and was involved in a volunteer sorority. She assumed that because she worked hard, finding a job after she graduated would be easy. At least it was for her brother, who graduated two years prior with mediocre grades and no extracurricular involvement.

Ella is finding that job searching is more challenging than she expected. She attended the Fall Career Fair that her college campus career center sponsored and barely made any connections.

As the holidays approach, she’s feeling more and more anxious about going home to her family. Even though they’ve always been supportive of her, she’s dreading having to have a response to the dreaded, “so what are you going to do after graduation” question…. Because the reality is she has no idea.

Ella isn’t alone. College seniors are more stressed than ever. And job searching is one of the biggest stress triggers. A recent report from Hired discovered that people find it more stress-inducing to find employment than to do almost anything else, including moving, planning a wedding, public speaking, doing taxes – and even getting a root canal!

Job Searching Doesn’t Have To Be Stressful.

One of my mantras when tackling what feels like a task that’s even bigger than me is to ask myself, “what’s the best way to eat the elephant?” and of course, the answer is “one bite at a time.” Small steps lead to more significant gains and can start to have a snowball effect. 

Kristen Kailer, the Assistant Director of Career Services at Grove City College in Pennsylvania suggests that students, “brainstorm realistic and small goals (“I’m going to connect with 5 people in the healthcare sector on LinkedIn by the end of the week”) so that you actually take action on them!”

It’s OK To Ask For Help.

It's Ok to ask for help during a holiday job search

I get it—asking for help can feel embarrassing or humbling. When you are a natural achiever personality, the last thing you want to do is burden someone else with your “problems”. But it’s important to remember that your job search is your future and it’s exciting! Believe it or not, most people (especially those who love you) want to help.

Help Them Help You When You Are Job Searching.

One common mistake that college students make when they are job searching is that when they finally get the courage to ask an old mentor or connected family member for career advice, they come unprepared and ask too open-ended questions. College students who stand out are specificpassionate, and show gratitude for the help given. 

One way to be specific when networking is instead of saying, “I’m looking for a marketing coordinator position,” I recommend saying, “I’m interested in marketing coordinator roles in the Atlanta area. I’d love to work for one of the many growing fintech startups in the area, but I am open. I created a target company list. Would you mind taking a look at it?”

During Holiday meals, Kristen Kailer, recommends that student job seekers get prepared for the dreaded dinner table question: “So, what are you planning to do after graduation?” By preparing a response in advance, you can approach the situation in a way that makes you feel more comfortable and in control.”

She recommends talking about your strengths (“Well, Aunt Kathy, I haven’t totally decided yet…but I have realized I really enjoy technical writing and team environments. So I hope to find an opportunity that encompasses those things”). You can also turn the question around by asking about their career journey. Everyone loves to talk about themselves!

Create A Target Company List

As mentioned above, I recommend creating a spreadsheet of your top 25 target companies (here’s a blog post on how to identify target companies). Take that list a step further by identifying the department or departments that you could see yourself working in. Go on LinkedIn and identify the hiring manager over the group (video with instructions on how build out your target list).

If family members are interested in helping with your search, show them the target list and ask if they are familiar with any of the organizations or individuals on the list. By showing them that you’ve done your research, have a clear goal in mind, and have taken steps to prepare, they may be more willing to go out of their way to make connections or introductions.

Be Careful About WHO You Take Advice From When Job Searching

It’s important to remember that not all advice is created equally. Kristin Sherry, the author of YouMap, suggests taking career advice from others with caution—especially if it’s values-based advice, “because each person is distinct, values vary widely. Therefore, it’s important to reflect on what’s most important to you.”

Go To That Holiday Happy Hour!

It's Ok to go to a Holiday happy hour when you are job searching

The Holidays are also a great time to connect with old friends from childhood. Give yourself permission to attend the mini-high school reunion “Happy Hour” as a way to reconnect with old friends.  Your peers from your graduating class are likely in the trenches of job searching themselves.

Don’t overlook the support that an old friend can bring you while job searching. In fact, research shows that loose ties are more helpful in a job search than close. This means that the father of your old Little League teammate might be more helpful in a job search than your Uncle Fred.

Cheers to you and your job search! May your Holidays be full of eggnog and great networking.


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About the author

Sarah Johnston

I'm a former corporate recruiter and industry "insider" who got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents or know how to position themselves in interviews. I have relocated multiple times across the country as a “trailing spouse” and have had to execute job searches in completely cold markets (where I literally knew no one!)

I have been named a LinkedIn Top Voice in the career space in 2019, HR Weekly's Top 100 Most Influential People in HR, named the owner of the "best resume writing firm for experienced executives" by Balance Careers and a "top follow" by JobScan in 2019 and 2020.