How to Use the Holiday Lull to Shine at Work

By Rebecca Lake
November 14, 2018

It’s easy to have a love/hate relationship with the holidays, especially on the job.

According to a 2017 Accountemps survey, 32% of workers said balancing holiday events and work obligations was a major source of stress.

And, due to this often anxiety-ridden time of year, you may put your work and career aspirations on hold until January. If you do this, however, you may be missing out on an opportunity to get ahead when everyone else is slowing down and mired in holiday to-do lists.

If advancing your career is one of your goals for the New Year, check out these tips to up your game during the holiday season.

Be the Go-To Person

Chances are, at least some of your co-workers are taking time off during the holidays. In fact, in a 2017 Robert Half survey, one-third of employees planned to be away from work the entire week of December 25th.

If your holiday plans don’t include an extended break, you can instead use that time to fill in the gaps at work.

“Volunteer to head a deadline-driven project around the holidays if you know you can be available,” advises Robin Schwartz, PHR and HR director at career resource site Career Igniter. “That will get you noticed and show how dedicated you are.”

Just don’t overdo it, says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at personal care brand Maple Holistics. While working overtime can be great for your bank account, it might not be realistic once the holidays end.

“You don’t want to go overboard and set the bar too high for your future self,” Backe cautions. “Do that little bit extra, but know where to draw the line.”

Network, Network, Network

If you normally skip the holiday office party, plan to attend this year.

“Holiday parties are often a chance for you to rub elbows with higher-level executives you rarely get to see,” Schwartz says, adding that this isn’t the time to be a wallflower.

She recommends politely introducing yourself to higher-ups and other key players in your company that you might not have a chance to talk to ordinarily.

Another pro tip: Unplug from your phone for the night so you can give people your full attention, and don’t let an open bar steer you off-course from your networking mission.

“Save your party animal self for your party with your friends, not your colleagues,” says Backe.

Prioritize and Establish Clear Goals

You might be used to working as a team but over the holidays, you could end up a team of one if everyone else has flown the coop. Planning ahead can help you be productive instead of getting bogged down.

Schwartz says it’s smart to connect with co-workers ahead of time and before they go away away for the holidays. This way you won’t run into any communication snafus when you’re working on joint or group projects.

“This will allow you to determine what your priorities are and allow you to continue handling your workload (mostly) uninterrupted,” she says.

Planning out a daily list of to-dos and goals can help you stay focused on your most important tasks. Ultimately, you don’t want to “allow the chaos of the holiday season to distract you from your workload,” Schwartz says.

Show Your Appreciation

Unless everyone you work with is a total Scrooge, they probably like getting gifts over the holidays. If you don’t have extra cash in your savings account to cover gifts for everyone, or your office has a no-gift policy, send thoughtful cards. This is a simple, low-cost alternative.

That’s what Matt Dodgson, director of U.K.-based recruiting company Market Recruitment, does each year.

“We are a small office and very busy, so a personal touch such as a handwritten card relays how important our relationship is to me,” he says.

Schwartz says there’s one time you may want to make an exception to the no-gift rule. “If you have a direct administrative assistant who helps you throughout the year, I don’t recommend skipping their gift,” she says. “Oftentimes, these positions are overworked and underappreciated.”

Whatever you decide to do, staying on good footing with your coworkers and supervisors matters, not only at the holidays but all-year round. And, being likable at work can help position you for a promotion down the line.

Plan to Take a Time Out

In your quest to prove yourself at work, don’t let the holidays pass you by altogether.

“While it might seem counterintuitive to take time off as a means of staying productive over the holidays, scheduling time off may be exactly what you need,” Schwartz says.

Schedule a day to get caught up on personal errands or chores that might have gotten pushed to the backburner. Get together with family and friends to indulge in old holiday traditions or create some new ones. Spend a few hours thinking about your personal, professional and financial goals for the coming year. For example, you might want to take up slacklining, learn to code or finally get around to switching banks.

“It’s crucial that you take time off during the holiday season to indulge in a little self-care,” Backe says. “Know when to take a break, and when it’s okay to reply to a work email or make that phone call.”

It’s all about practicing work/life balance, Backe says. Giving yourself a breather in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle can help you recharge for maximum productivity once you’re ready to get back to work.

Look at the Holiday Season as a Gift

Getting ahead at work won’t necessarily happen overnight, but putting these tips to work can help you set the tone for your professional success in the new year and beyond.  In the end, it’s up to you to take full advantage of this time and use it wisely. Happy holidays!

Rebecca Lake has been writing about personal finance and business for nearly a decade. Her work has been featured on, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and other personal finance sites.

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