Dreaming of a better career in 2021? According to an expert, your best bet is to start your job search now—yes, right now, during the holiday season.

Why job search during the holidays when life is at its busiest? Mike Anderson, Senior Manager of Recruiting-Direct Hire at Collabera, explains that by stepping on the gas when other candidates are hitting the brakes, you may find yourself with less competition from other candidates. 

This advice is contrary to conventional wisdom, which states that employers are less likely to hire in the waning weeks of the year. But while some companies do institute hiring freezes in December, others are ramping up. 

“A big reason that you should begin your search now is because the candidate pool is a lot less,” says Mike. “Additionally, hiring managers are slammed in January with new initiatives and directives, and if they can go into the year with the hiring needs already completed or at least initiated, that is a huge weight off their shoulders.”

How COVID Is Changing the Job Market

Unsurprisingly, economists are predicting an uneven recovery and uncertain job market in 2021, with unemployment hovering around 6% throughout the year. While 6% unemployment would be a dramatic improvement over recent months, it’s still a huge chunk of the workforce.

“A 19-month spell of 6% unemployment would represent around 4 million people left jobless for the foreseeable future—dousing those hopes for a quick return to the pre-pandemic normal,” writes Howard Schneider at Reuters

However, some analysts predict that the job market could quickly heal if the vaccines prove effective. And companies have made changes in response to COVID that benefit job seekers as well—and may continue to benefit them for years to come. 

Having worked as a high-tech recruiter for over seven years, Mike has seen some of these changes firsthand. Although his focus is on the Bay Area, he says that he places technical talent in roles across the continental U.S.

“The ability for people to continue to do their jobs while staying in the comfort of their homes has only increased and enhanced competition for top-tier talent,” he says. Mike also notes that many of his clients have closed their Bay Area-offices, which saves them money and gives them a bigger budget for talent. Office closures signal another nice perk for candidates: guaranteed remote work, should they sign on. 

However, the widening of the job market has also increased competition among job seekers, as well. 

“Instead of just going against those in Silicon Valley, you might be up against someone in Montana that has worked remotely for years and is a stellar engineer who had never before been considered,” Mike warns. 

 

How to Get Noticed by Employers

Start your search today. You’ve heard the proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Starting your job search—or ramping up your existing job search—during the holidays is a smart idea, even if you don’t get calls right now. Why? Because January and February are the biggest hiring months in many industries. Getting out there now ensures that you’re on hiring managers’ radars in the new year. 

Be LinkedIn aware. “Up-to-date profiles with prior recommendations are the most important,” says Mike. “If people are going to hire someone remotely, they would love to see that person has been given a strong reference in a public forum. That can go a long way!” 

Know that recruiters are on your side. Dodging contacts from recruiters? You might want to pick up the proverbial phone. Mike points out that “third-party recruiters are your friend.”

“Most of the time when we reach out, it is with quality information, so be a little more open to a conversation,” he advises. “In a competitive remote market, we are privy to a lot of information that they may not be able to find online or elsewhere for that matter.”

 

Why You Should Work with a Recruiter 

Thinking about working with a recruiter to power up your search? Mike explains a few ways recruiters can help: 

An inside track. “I have inside information on what the candidate pool looks like from their end,” says Mike. “I also, can all but guarantee, they will get very serious consideration and an interview for sure.”

Real connections. Mike notes that candidates benefit from his stellar relationships with his clients, which are founded on “long-time transparency and truth in my dealings with them. The same goes for the candidate, if they are not a fit or did not interview well, I will tell them they are being passed on and will provide additional detail as to why whenever possible.” 

A wider network for the future. Per Mike: “If they can use to improve their interviewing or technical skills to land something else, then I am happy. Most of the time, they will remember that, and we will cross paths again. If they remember being treated right, they will come back to me in the future for their own search or with referrals.”