Are you putting off looking for a job until after the holiday season? If you’re planning to take a little time off from your job search to spend more time with friends and family, you may be missing out on prime job opportunities. While the hustle and bustle of the holiday season presents time and attention challenges for everyone, it can be particularly stressful for job seekers. It’s no wonder that so many people decide to take a break from job search activities during this busy time of year.

Depending on the industry, you may think that the holiday months are either too busy or too slow for businesses to be focused on the hiring process. Surprisingly, there’s actually no better time than the end of the year to maximize the efforts of a job search. In fact, at RiseSmart we average a 78% landing rate for Q1 and Q4, an average of 6 percentage points higher than Q2 and Q3. In addition to maintaining your routine job seeking activities, consider using holiday gatherings as opportunities to make connections and create new opportunities.

As a job search consultant, I’ve learned how important it is for job seekers to stay proactive and I’m often dismayed when applicants completely halt their job search during the holiday season. Since Q1 can be one of the most active hiring times for many businesses, staying engaged during Q4 means that job seekers are ready to respond to opportunities in the months that follow. Fortunately, the holiday season presents unique opportunities for networking and growing professional connections.

Instead of waiting for the New Year, take advantage of this holiday season with these four strategies for job seeking success:

Plan to network at holiday events. The holidays are a hectic time of year for most people. Between the school plays, white elephant gift exchanges, and ugly Christmas sweater parties – your calendar is likely jam-packed from Thanksgiving through the New Year. While it may seem counter-intuitive to accept more invitations, go ahead and put on your holiday best and attend as many events as you can. Accept invitations from spouse/partner companies. Tap into gatherings hosted by former vendors, former clients, and personal vendors. For example, my realtor throws a party every year. Events like these bring together a wide variety of people and are fabulous networking opportunities. Make the most of your time at every event you attend by introducing yourself to new people, or deepening your relationships with the people you already know. Since about 75% of companies throw an annual holiday or year-end party, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, you should be able to find at least a couple to attend.

Leverage small talk. Maximize the small talk as a launching point for broader conversations. Find a topic to get the conversation rolling and get comfortable before you launch into topics that could help you land a job. If you know who will be in attendance, take some time before the event to gather information about the people you want to talk to. Armed with some information, you can infuse your knowledge of the person into the conversation by complimenting their alma mater or employer. Fortunately, there is plenty of information about individuals you plan to network with, if you take the time to find it. Start with LinkedIn and other social platforms and expand your search to company websites and organic search on the internet.

Prepare to speak knowledgeably. If you’ve been out of the loop for a little while, you might want to take some time to read up on the latest news so you’re not blindsided by industry talk. You can make yourself a more active participant in conversations by commenting on trends, mergers, acquisitions, and other news across your industry. Obviously, you want to steer away from political news or controversial conversations that could alienate you from possible networking opportunities.

Protrude positivity. If it comes up in conversation, you should openly explain that you’re looking for a new job. Talk about how excited you are to be making a new start and your enthusiasm over the possibility of finding a company and position that will provide you the challenges and opportunities you’ve been wanting. If you’re not sure how to begin, try something like, “Actually, I’m in an aggressive job search right now. My former company had a large-scale layoff and I’m looking for a new opportunity in Project Management for the financial services sector.” There’s no reason to be ashamed of looking for a job. Find the positives and avoid talking negatively about your former employer. You’ll feel happier and the people you’re meeting will be glad to talk to someone who isn’t the downer in the midst of the holiday festivities.

Remember that sometimes deepening a relationship is about letting your agenda item go. In other words, go with the flow. Don’t focus so keenly on job opportunities that you’re unable to enjoy yourself or dragging every conversation towards your job search. As much as I’ll advocate for making the most of a new opportunities, I also believe the best approach is to balance spirited holiday fun with new networking opportunities. Happy holidays—and happy job searching!

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