How to keep networking during summer vacation

Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder Writer

For many people, regardless of age, summer is a time when work is low on your list of priorities. Perhaps all those years of three-month summer vacations as young students conditioned us to think of June, July, and August as reprieves from using our brain. Even many offices let their workers leave early on Fridays during the summer.

For job seekers, the summer months can be particularly troublesome due to several factors. Aside from wishing they were outside sunning at the pool rather than inside typing up a résumé, many job seekers have children at home for three months and need to entertain them. Not to mention scheduling conflicts of the employers who are off at some resort enjoying the sun and don’t have time for interviews.  Despite these problems, however, summer isn’t a lost cause for job seeking.

Why summer is a good time to job hunt
“Conducting a job search during the summer can be tricky, and it is important to avoid the biggest hazards for job seekers during the summertime — timing and schedules,” says Patty Coffey, a partner in the information technology division of Massachusetts- based staffing firm Winter, Wyman.  “Candidates shouldn’t feel discouraged if the interview process takes extra time, and those who can withstand a longer process may just find that perfect job.”

In fact, Coffey offers these five tips for job seekers to keep in mind during the summer:

Some industries slow down in summer
“Employees of many companies may actually have more time to interview candidates in the summer, when they aren’t on vacation, because it isn’t a busy time for their organization,” she explains.

Don’t assume no one’s hiring
“Companies still need to hire even when it is 95 degrees outside,” Coffey reminds. “If you stop your job search, you could miss out on some great opportunities.  And you may face less competition if other job seekers are buying into the summer slowdown myth.”

Be prepared to act quickly
“While summer vacation schedules can prolong the interview process, they can also expedite it,” she cautions. “If the schedules of all involved align, companies will speed up interviews — to even just one day — to avoid the complexity of scheduling multiple meetings.”

Starting in the summer gives you more breathing room
Summertime is typically a less hectic time to transition to a new job.  Prospects can get acquainted with the company when fewer people are in the office and things are slower.  It can also be less traumatic for families if a move is involved, since children wouldn’t have to switch schools mid-year,” Coffey says.

Use summer hours to your advantage
Many companies have a more lax schedule in July and August,” she reminds. “Bosses are often on vacation or may take a long lunch, so employees can slip away unnoticed. Vacation days are more accepted — your boss won’t think it is odd if you take a vacation day or two in August.  In fact, you could even consider taking a ‘job search vacation’ where you conduct a week-long blitz of intense searching and interviewing.”

How to network and make connections in the summer
Now that you know summer is the perfect time to job hunt, and maybe even the secret to landing a job while everyone else has given up, you need to know how to do it. We asked some career experts to give their best advice for making the most of summer picnics and sports games in order to advance your career. Here’s what they think you should be doing:

“At the summer barbecue or pool party, networkers should listen as well as talk. Listening establishes rapport and people are more likely to help you when they feel listened to. Job seekers should never say, ‘I’m unemployed.’ It sounds passive and negative. If you are networking and not employed, the best thing to say is ‘I’m in [a] career transition.’ It puts you in the driver’s seat.  If you were caught in a downsizing, never say ‘I lost my job’ or ‘I was laid off.’ Instead say, ‘My position was downsized’ or ‘my department was eliminated.’ Then, it sound less like the layoff was about you and more like it was about the financial operations of the company.”  -- Marky Stein, career coach and author of “Fearless Resumes: The Proven Method to Get a Great Job Fast”

“The challenge of summer networking is that so many of the venues and places are outside. Most of us are not walking around with our briefcases and resumes in hand. We forget that these summer places offer real opportunities.

“[My] Best advice: Keep your business cards with you wherever you go — in your pocket or wallet or glove compartment of your car.  If you have a Smartphone, learn to use it by immediately uploading a new contact into it and beaming your contact info to the person you have just met. Be careful: since these are usually social or recreational, do not come across as too pushy. Keep it low key!” -- Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University

“The best thing about networking [at picnics, softball leagues or tennis matches] is people get to know the real you, the person behind the suit, the face and the personality. Be yourself! And connect with them on LinkedIn.

“Considering most conversations either begin or end up focusing on what you do for a living, have that elevator speech planned but don’t sound too canned. Bring business cards or connect with new contacts on LinkedIn but know going into it what you’re looking for. Identify what you want such as a company you want to work for and/or specific jobs and put yourself in the position to ask new contacts for help.” – Vicki Salemi, author of “Big Career in the Big City”

“At times, professionals forget the conversation starters and ways to look for making connections to build their networking. Ask probing questions to find out more about the other person. Don’t talk all business but ask them about their personal interests outside of work, their family, their occupation and what made them select that industry, where they like to vacation and what are their dreams and aspirations. When you find a common connection that is when the real magic begins to happen.

“I challenge people to keep asking questions on various topics until they find a common interest. I’ve personally done this and found people who attended the same university, from the same home town or like to vacation in the same type of relaxing vacations. This is how to build a professional network that can lead to long-term rapport.” -- Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Illustra Consulting, a corporate and individual professional consulting firm

Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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