Welcome to “Dear Dana”, our weekly column to give you career and workplace advice/coaching. Please write in and tell me about a career challenge or frustration you’re facing at the office! – Dana Theus
Dear Dana: I heard that most companies do most of their hiring in January. Is that true? Is it worth trying to do a difficult job search (like changing careers) later in the year? – Thinking in Toledo
Happy New Year! I received your note just before the holiday and decided to publish my answer as new year advice to anyone setting their intention on a new position this year. Please note that this is general advice, and best time for your job search, dear reader, can be dramatically different based on many factors specific to industry, geography and (most importantly) your future employer. However, if you’re looking to the year ahead and trying to decide when might be a good time to prioritize job seeking on your schedule, take these generalities into account:
- Budgets drive everything: Most organizations set new annual budgets at the beginning of the Fourth Quarter (October) or First Quarter (January), depending on their fiscal year. As a result, the quarter before their annual budget cycle tends to see a slowdown in hiring as departments wait to see what kind of funding will come through. So it follows that the beginning of the annual budget cycle is when they make more offers.
As you’re researching companies and industries, see if you can find out when their annual budget begins and if you can use the last quarter of their budget year to network, learn where openings might be coming available and apply for open positions to get your resume circulating, you’ll be positioning yourself well to take advantage of increases in budget availability.
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To answer your question more directly, yes, the first quarter (January-March) tends to see more hiring in general so it’s good to be ready to take advantage of this, do your homework on what kind of new position you want and update your LinkedIn profile and resume in the first few weeks of the year to begin applying for jobs as people come back from the holidays and learn about the budget they have to work with for the year ahead.
- Human cycles matter; The best time to look for a job is really when the hiring company needs you, has the money and is able to make the hiring decision. Getting these three stars aligned is always more challenging than it should be and one of the major factors is always people’s availability. This is the logistical reason why Q3 (the summer months) are difficult months to get an offer. People go on vacation and many of the new hires from the beginning of the year are still coming on board and getting up to speed. Vacation cycles and general distraction are also why getting hiring decisions made at the end of the year (from Thanksgiving to New Years) can be tough.
- General rules don’t apply to you: Keep in mind that the best time to look for a job is when you are ready. If you spend a few minutes updating your LinkedIn profile and resume and start applying to every job that looks somewhat interesting at the height of hiring season, your chances of getting hired for a job you’ll really enjoy are lower than if you take the time to research your ideal job and network to find an organization that is a good fit culturally. How long will it take you to get ready for your job search? This is really up to you. If you have been developing your personal brand and building your industry reputation, it might take you less time than if you haven’t, but even this can vary by industry and your skill set.
The question “when is the best time for your job search” isn’t really the best thing to be asking. The best question is “what is the best job for you?”
Are you trying to find another job — any job — or your ideal “dream” job? Too many people jump from one bad experience to another, never believing that their dream job is out there. This is a mistake because when you take the time to think through your job in the context of your total career, your life needs and personal vision you increase your chances of finding a position that will be a great fit for both your professional interests and personal needs. Doing this kind of prep work does take a little extra time, but I promise you, you’re worth it. Getting yourself prepared will streamline your entire job search and make it easier for you to find the best positions so you can concentrate your job search energy where it will do you the most good, no matter what time of year it is.
P.S. – Have a question you’d like anonymous support on? Write me!
P.P.S. — Need the inside track on your job search? Let me help you without the cost of personal coaching with my comprehensive online career transition program.