You could use the three-day weekend to catch up on some serious R&R—and no one here would blame you. But those extra eight hours you have off work could add up to some serious gains in your job search, if you’re willing to put in the time.
After all, “looking for a job really is a full-time job,” points out Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media strategist and owner of Keppie Careers. “Busy people often have trouble carving out time to do a complete and invested job search, so a holiday weekend can provide welcome time to focus on important aspects of a job search.”
So if you’re determined to shun fun in the sun in favor of getting ahead in your job search (or doing a little of both), here’s how to use this weekend to your advantage.
1. Take advantage of your holiday plans.
You don’t have to rescind your RSVP to your friend’s cookout. But you should make attending the BBQ work for your job search. “If you have plans to attend a cookout, check out the LinkedIn profiles of the people you know will be there,” says Hannah Morgan, job search expert and founder of Career Sherpa. See where they work, then research their companies and look for any openings, she instructs. “Then, while you are at the cookout, you can weave questions into your conversation and let [them] know you are interested.” And, she adds, “even if you don’t see a job you are really interested in, you can still ask questions about why they like working there.” Your dream job may just open up in the near future—and you will have made a contact.
2. Prepare your answer to “what do you do?”
Now that you’re ready to network at non-work events, you should prepare a pitch for when you meet those in-the-know—or especially in a position to hire. Morgan says, “You want to provide enough information so that they understand what you do as well as plant a seed for how they can help you.” It should be just enough to pique their interest, and make them want to know more, she says. When they do, “be sure you spell out what you are looking for in your next role and list some companies you are interested in,” Morgan instructs. “People may not understand what you do, but they will recognize company names and may be able to introduce you to someone.”
3. Find a reason to follow up.
Salpeter also recommends you use your holiday plans to your advantage. But while some of your conversation time should be spent talking business, she recommends you also find other ways to connect with people in a position to help you out. “Try to find common interests and reasons to follow up with [people],” Salpeter says. “For example, if you discuss the best places to try microbrews, you can follow up with an email and include an article of interest. If you don’t try to make every interaction about your job search, you’ll be more likely to convince people to meet for coffee or conversation at a later date.”
4. Update your LinkedIn profile.
When you’re not otherwise engaged with holiday plans, plop down in front of your computer and knock out some of the job search things you never have time to do—like update your LinkedIn profile. “Use your extra time to enhance your profile headline, summary, and skills sections,” suggests Morgan. “In other words, include keywords you know recruiters look for when searching for candidates.” One easy way you can make your profile stand out is to focus on the first two sentences of your summary—the only sentence that are visible to everyone, Morgan says. And when it comes to your expertise section, “choose work processes or procedures, technical skills and other skills you see in job postings,” she instructs, adding that you can “search profiles of people who currently hold your ideal job to get ideas.”
[Related: Write an Irresistible First Resume in 5 Easy Steps]
5. Follow your dream companies on Instagram.
According to Morgan, more and “more companies are launching Instagram accounts to showcase their [brand].” And what better way to get on a company’s radar—and to research what they’re up to—than to take a few moments to follow their feeds? “While you may not see actual jobs posted here, you will gather intelligence that will provide insight on the company,” Morgan points out. And that, she says, “will help you ask smart questions when you do land an interview.”
6. Find and follow companies on Facebook.
You may only be searching for jobs on, you know, job sites. But, as more companies get hip to social media, more are using the platforms to post jobs. If you follow them on Facebook, not only can you see the current opportunities, but engaging with their page also “provides you with the opportunity to ask questions and meet employees,” Morgan says. “You may gain information that will help you target your resume for the right job or learn who the hiring manager is for a job you are interested in. And while you’re on Facebook, try searching for people who work for companies you are interested in by typing ‘people who work at [company name].’ You may be surprised to see people you know who work there.” If you see them, take the time to connect.
7. Match your resume to the job description.
If you’re actually going to apply to your dream job this holiday weekend, you can increase your odds of landing an interview by using those extra hours to rework your resume to match the specific job for which you are applying. Salpeter says connecting those dots may be the single most important thing you can do in a job search. “It is a waste of time to apply for jobs if you are not willing to take the time to illustrate why your skills and accomplishments prepare you for the position,” she says. You can do that by “studying job descriptions and correlating the employer’s needs with your experiences,” she says. “This includes both technical and soft skills. For example, if the description emphasizes teamwork, your resume must articulate how you’ve worked well in a team or led a team. Don’t just say, ‘worked well on a team.’ Explain what you did and how it turned out well. Results, not lists, will help convince an employer that you are a good fit and earn you an interview.”