By Jim Carman

Routine end-of-year rituals could provide the impetus to start a job search. A paltry annual pay raise or a performance appraisal that reinforces the reality that you're in a position where you can't grow could be the tipping point to get serious about career acceleration.  

Additional situations that might argue for a career or job change include: a cultural mismatch with your employer, changing work-life balance imperatives, an impending merger or post-merger trauma, recognizing the job is not what you expected, a bad boss, a dearth of close friendships at work, or ethical conflicts in the workplace.  

Whatever the reason, there might be no better time than during the holidays to start the process of expanding your network and making connections. Holiday get-togethers are replete with friends, family, and new connections. Keep these points in mind as you prepare to launch your job search over the holidays.  

  • Remember, real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. In the words of networking guru Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone (Currency Doubleday, 2005): "It's about working hard to give more than you get and a constant process of giving and receiving." Start with people who already are part of your network and reconnect with them over the holidays. Extended family, business relationships, parents of your children's friends, former professors and ex-employers are good relationships to strengthen. Look for ways you can help them be more successful, and they will repay your courtesy in unexpected ways.
  • Scrub your holiday greeting card list for propitious connections who might be able to accelerate your network development. Suggest a meeting over coffee to catch up early in the new year. 
  • Connect with connectors. Personal contacts are key to opening doors. In fact, a recent study found that 56 percent of survey participants landed their current job through a personal connection. Connectors can be found in every profession, but you'll find a high percentage of connectors working as headhunters, lobbyists, fundraisers, politicians, journalists, and restaurateurs and in public relations. As Ferrazzi says, "In one word: Connect. In four better words: Connect with the connectors."  
  • Don't avoid the holiday party scene because of a lay-off or recent professional setback.  Sure it's exhausting to go through the whole spiel of a job loss or a promotion pass-over with extended family and friends, but most will be genuinely concerned and many will have had to reach out for help to get an interview, internship, or similar opportunity. 
  • Practice your 30-second commercial. Highlights include: your professional focus and current or previous position, the key strengths you bring to a new role, several of your proudest accomplishments, and a description of your vision of the perfect fit. Use these talking points when you meet someone who expresses a willingness to help with your job search. 
  • Clean up your social media, and refresh your LinkedIn profile ( review these do's and don'ts). Expect any potential employer to research your digital presence. Expand your LinkedIn network to include new connections from your holiday party circuit, and consider deleting connections who could prove problematic as you expand your job search, such as current coworkers who are not inclined to protect your privacy. (Your connections are not notified by LinkedIn of their deletion from your network.)    

A final factor to consider before you start looking for a new job is your time in your current job.  While less of an issue in this era of ubiquitous start-ups and economic expansion, a résumé that reads like a rock group's world tour will make some hiring managers nervous. Still, decision-makers are more concerned with your accomplishments and why you're ready to move on rather than with your timing. In general, staying in your current job at least a year and a half can easily span two calendar years on your résumé and allay job-hopping concerns. (Read Top 10 Tips for Creating a Military Résumé to ensure your résumé captures your skills and talents.)

One final caution: Every career includes occasional setbacks, and sometimes the people who achieve real success are those who forget about what they're trying to achieve and concentrate instead on what they're actually doing.