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Ever heard that hiring managers are off duty during the holidays? Or that winter break is the ideal time to take a breather from your job/internship hunt? Not so. In fact, the holidays are often a prime time to amp up your search — there are fewer job seekers vying for positions and more exam- and homework-free weeks to focus entirely on your career development. Here’s how to take advantage of professional opportunities during the quiet weeks ahead:

Chat with a UCS staff member. Set up a meeting with a UCS career counselor during your break. We frequently speak with students on the phone and review resumes and cover letters via email, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment even if you’re out of the city or state. Prefer to meet in person? Make an appointment now to meet with a career counselor immediately after break. Time slots fill up quickly, so the sooner you call, the better!

Set a holiday networking goal. Make a commitment to network or conduct an informational interview with at least one person before returning to campus. Have you been meaning to drop your former boss a line? Reconnect with an old colleague from an internship? Send them a holiday message and update them on your life and work. They may know of an opportunity — and keep you top of mind for any that arise in the New Year. If you’re attending a holiday party, make an effort to share interests and work goals with new people. Exchange contact information if you make solid connections, and follow up if there are opportunities for informational interviews.

Do your research. If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up and create your profile now. Use your holiday time to research companies and ask for introductions to those at companies of interest through your first-degree LinkedIn contacts. Not sure how to do this? Check out UCS’ social media and LinkedIn tutorials. Beyond LinkedIn, UCS offers a number of online resources to aid NU students in company, industry and job/internship research. Also, use the LinkedIn Alumni site to find NU alumni in fields of interest.

Learn a new skill. During the quieter times of your break, brush up on a skill that will make you more marketable in your job search. Review an Excel tutorial, build your own website or read a career development book. That new skill may give you an edge over another candidate.

If you keep active in your career development this holiday, you’ll be one step ahead of your fellow job and internship seekers in the New Year – and one step closer to employment.