Season’s Greetings

Dear Readers,

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and to thank you for your continued readership.  I’m taking a little time off during the holidays to settle my brain for a long winter’s nap, so you’ll be “Clew-less” until the New Year!

Season's Greetings

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Looking for Work during the Holiday Season

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been looking for a full-time job for months. Now that the holiday season is here, I don’t seem to see as many permanent positions listed on the job boards, and for those that I do apply to, I am not getting any response. I want to be able to buy my kids some toys for under the Christmas tree, but I’m losing hope.

Dear, All I Want for Christmas is a Job,

I don’t have any hard statistics, but the general consensus is that many job seekers give up the search between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It may be true that your job hunt may be less productive, because hiring managers can be absent during the holidays. But I’m an eternal optimist, and I say, “Don’t give up!” In fact, take advantage of the lack of competition these lethargic yuletide yahoos are creating. Many companies budget on an annual basis and may have full-time positions they need to fill before year-end.

Holiday partyKeep on with your current plan of applying for all of the jobs for which you are qualified. This may be time to head to your local coffee shop with your laptop and indulge in a peppermint mocha. In addition, attend any and all of the seasonal soirées to which you’ve been invited (yes, even the one with the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” theme). Use holiday parties as networking opportunities. You don’t want to be a Gloomy Gus, but be sure to mention that you are still actively looking for work. You never know whose best friend’s uncle has just the job for you. Send holiday cards to anyone with whom you have interviewed in the last few months. Circumstances may have changed, the new hire may not have worked out, or a new position may have opened up.

Don’t turn up your red Rudoph nose at seasonal or temporary work. My friends at The Select Family of Staffing Companies work with retail, distribution, warehouse, and other industries that staff up during the holiday season. You never know; if you shine like a star on the Christmas tree, you may be offered a permanent position.

Holiday Job Seekers: Have you ever been hired smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season? Have you taken a seasonal or temp job to get by?

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Holiday Parties, Payouts, and Perks

Dear, Anita,

Our company of about 80 employees is re-thinking hosting a holiday party this year. It is a big expense, takes lots of planning, and I don’t know if it is really means that much to the employees or if another gift or bonus would be more appreciated. What do you suggest?

Dear, Don’t Want to be a Scrooge,

Before spending any money on fringe benefits, you’ll want to deliberate thoughtfully because you could be setting a precedent for years to come. Determine if this holiday perk is something that can be measured, i.e. employees get a bonus/gift card/Christmas party because you achieved an annual sales goal/reduced costs/achieved a milestone. Or is it simply a token of holiday cheer?

Holiday GiftWhat do employees want? Glassdoor, a career website where employees anonymously rate their companies, has conducted an annual survey in years past that includes employer holiday perks. Nearly three in four employees said, basically, “Show me the money,”  preferring a cash bonus, followed by the options of salary raises, more paid time off, grocery gift cards, working from home, company stock, health care subsidies, and gym memberships. Holiday parties – even with an open bar – continue to be one of the least popular perks.

BONUSES. Let’s look at the most popular reward. If you decide to go the holiday bonus route, will there be different levels for employment tiers? If the amount will vary year-to-year because it is based on a goal number or yearly profit amount, be sure to communicate that to employees. You don’t want to have a disgruntled worker next year when their bonus is not as much because company profits plunge. Remember, also, to let employees know that taxes will be deducted. (Thanks Uncle Sam, aka “The Grinch!”) If you’re feeling especially generous, you can “gross up” the bonus and give each employee more to allow for withholding, so that their actual check is a nice round number.

GIFTS. Holiday gifts are a broad category; one size does not fit all. While some co-workers may enjoy a bottle of wine, the gift could offend a teetotaler.  Employees may not be thrilled to get a lovely gift item with your company’s logo emblazoned on it. I know, you’re trying to take the expense out of the marketing budget, but it could come off as tacky. Gift cards – whether to a favorite local restaurant or department store, or a universal card that works at any store – are a nice way to show appreciation to employees at the holidays. (Check with your tax guru about whether gift card amounts are taxable.)

PARTIES. The office party can be looked upon with eager anticipation or with dread. Some companies with deep pockets throw incredible bashes. I’m going to go out on an evergreen limb and say that a party should not be a substitute for a bonus. Hard-working employees may resent every decoration and each platter of shrimp cocktail, when the money spent could have been dispersed to every cog in the company machine. Since you’ve thrown parties in the past, if you do decide to give bonuses or gifts instead this year, you could still suggest an office potluck or cookie exchange event. This will satisfy the social butterflies in your company who actually looked forward to the office Christmas party.

For employees, if your company does have a Christmas party, don’t be “that guy!” For tips on how to behave at the office parties at the holidays or any time of the year check out my post, Celebrate the Smart Way, and  this YouTube video from across the pond:

Readers: What is the most unusual or appreciated holiday gift you’ve received from an employer?

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From Self-Employed to Employed

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been self employed since 1970 but have also held full time positions with other companies at various times, too. From about 1990 to 2007 I experienced so much business that I worked (at home) an average of 12 hours/day, seven days a week. It all came to an abrupt halt when the recession hit. I’m now looking for jobs doing just about anything, but no luck.

I feel my age is working against me but also my many years of experience. I’ve had interviews where the interviewer probably feared I was more qualified than himself. With a resume that shows so many years of self employment I think most employers think I’ll either leave when business picks up or I’ll steal their ideas or their clients. Any advice for switching from self employment to working for other companies?

Dear, Fearful Free Agent,

Entrepreneur PaycheckWith the economic downturn, many entrepreneurs decided (or had the decision made for them) to return to a conventional J.O.B.  Let’s review some of the upsides to “working for the man.” People in your situation can relinquish the financial worries (though the new position may bring apprehensions of its own). There will be a sense of stability that may have been lacking in your recent economic landscape.  Also, being part of a team can be refreshing. Working solo, you sometimes miss people to bounce ideas off of or just to share what you did over the weekend.

That’s not to say the transition will be easy. You may give up the flexibility of setting your own hours for a 9-to-5 schedule. But that means no more burning the midnight oil! And the daily grind may come with benefits like affordable health insurance.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need to leap over the hurdles to land that position. An employer may have a bias based on age, but if you craft your résumé wisely, you should be able to secure an interview. For tips, check out my post Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age.

While you could be overqualified in your previous area of expertise, you may need to upgrade or learn new skills to broaden your marketability.  Working by yourself, you may not have needed Outlook or other standard office fare. Check out local colleges and universities or Google “job training” to find resources in your local area to shore up your skill set.

When you were self-employed, you were actually both the boss and the employee, so you know a thing or two about wearing many hats and getting the job done. But be sure to nibble on some humble pie. While you don’t want to be modest about your experience and accomplishments during a job interview, your potential employer will be looking for clues that you won’t go rogue. Practice a response to the inevitable question, “Why do you want to work for someone else again?”  Check out my past article, How to Overcome “Overqualified,” for some interview role-playing assistance.

Keep your spirits up during your job search. To help, here’s a humorous music video, “Self Employment Made Harder By Difficult Boss”:

Readers: Have you successfully gone from entrepreneur to company man (or woman)? What was the most difficult part of the transition? What do you like most about having a traditional job?

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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