The stress of the holidays can be difficult enough without having to worry about finding a job or reinventing your career. If you dread the inevitability of well-meaning family members asking "How's your job search going?" consider tapping the wisdom and expertise of your friends and family and activate your warm network. Turn the holiday conversation into a professional development coaching session and ask your circle of trust to help by spreading good career cheer in your direction.
Sometimes the best ideas are right under your nose so don't discount the collective insight of family members that gather for holiday celebrations. Be sure to target relatives who will give you sincere and constructive feedback since there is nothing worse than a family member who imposes their career insight without really considering what you want. Here are some ideas to put into practice at your holiday gatherings this season.
• Over hot apple cider, turn the fireside chat towards you and ask your friends and family what they believe you do really well. Have them each write down five things and give examples of why they believe these are your strengths. Compare your list of self-identified strengths with theirs and you may be surprised to see what others think you are really good at.
• When mealtime conversation lulls or when you want to change the subject to something positive, ask your guests what they envision for you career wise. Tell them to dream big and not be restricted by money, location, or education but most importantly, ask them why they believe you would excel in this particular career.
• If rarely seen relatives surface for the celebration, and if they are working in a field you find fascinating, be sure to ask them for some career coaching. Perhaps they would consider an informational interview or even a job shadowso you can see what they do up close and in-person to ascertain if this might be a professional fit for you. They might be very willing to help you jumpstart your career research. A family member in the industry you are pursuing is a brilliant utilization of your warm network.
• Take advantage of some quiet down time to really reflect about what you want in your new career life. A serious self-assessment is the first step to discovering what you value in a work environment. Consider how you can play to your strengths and monetize your passions in the workplace. Journal your ideas so you can keep a written record and refer to it as you move forward in your career development plan.
• While board games and puzzles are a great way to spend time with loved ones during lazy afternoons over the holidays, start a new tradition by playing "What's Your Career Passion?" Each player will develop their own unique story with full license to dream big and describe a career that really fits their passion. Other players chime in to suggest ways in which to make this dream a reality. You may be surprised about the terrific ideas generated by this family masterminding session that are worth pursuing.
• If you write a holiday newsletter or plan to see a lot of people at festive gatherings this season, be sure to tell people that you have a plan and are working towards a new job or a specific career goal. The holidays are a natural time to network so continue to build your community and have your customized strengths conversation polished and ready to go for all occasions and audiences. People can't help you if they don't know what you need and you can't get what you want if you don't know what that is. Have goals and be ready to talk about them!
• Holiday cards are a perfect opportunity to rekindle relationships in your professional and personal network. Go through your contacts and reach out to people you want to cultivate as well as new relationships you want to develop. Include a personal business card that has your name, phone, and email so follow-up is effortless. This is especially important if you are looking for work.
Instead of waiting for the New Year to start your resolutions, go into the holidays with an open mind and be ready to share your career ideas with loved ones. If you are down and frustrated this is a perfect time to capitalize on the family pick-me-up and let them help you by illustrating what you do well. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Successful people had help achieving their goals so don't be shy!
Instead of focusing on what's wrong at the holiday table -- turn the conversation into a positive and gratifying experience. If you are happily employed, think about those who are struggling and lend your wisdom to others as they navigate the career maze. Your words of encouragement and direction might be the most thoughtful gift of all this season. The gift of career and professional development wisdom is priceless and doesn't require shopping in crowded stores.
Being a good listener. Sharing your candid advice and authentic encouragement can be the most thoughtful gift of all for career seekers. Whether you are looking for work, or if you are in a position to offer career counsel, go into this holiday season with an intention to help others and pay-it-forward. For many, the greatest gift of all is career peace of mind and that is truly priceless.
If you still need an actual present to leave under the tree, a gift certificate for career coaching may also help those in need get back on track towards realizing their professional goals.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is the Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association and hosts the national CBS Radio Show Career Coach Caroline on Tuesdays at 5pm ET. Caroline also contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, and More Magazine online and is working on a 3-pert series for Public Television on career empowerment for women. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.