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Use holidays to plan for New Year success

While it is the time to eat, drink, and be merry, the holiday season is also the perfect time for those wanting to move their careers forward in 2010 to get busy. Whether you're employed or not, this time of year provides endless opportunities for you to lay the foundation for professional success in the New Year.

More than any other time of the year, the holidays provide the most excellent networking opportunities. From company-sponsored holiday parties to fundraisers, there are countless ways to mix and mingle during the month of December. But don't let your networking be in vain; remember to follow up with contacts after these events by sending personalized cards or letters to recap your meeting or express interest in a company. It's also a great time to try to arrange an informational interview, which is one of the best ways to learn about a company's unadvertised vacancies.

The holiday season is also a great time to volunteer. The annual Toys for Tots toy drive is in full-swing, and many Atlanta-area charities and soup kitchens need help with everything from donating food to making and serving meals to boxing clothes. Not only is volunteering a great way to give back, but it's also one of the best ways to build contacts, gain skills, and potentially land a new job.

December is also the most popular month for seasonal employment. Apart from the obvious, short-term benefit of making extra money, a holiday job is a great way to learn about a new company and learn new or showcase existing skills. It is also not uncommon for a seasonal job to lead to full-time work.

Temporary agencies are yet another way for individuals to build their resumes or portfolios during the holidays. Many companies hire temp workers to cover for vacationing staff, and often, temps are brought on as full-time staff.

If you're unemployed or looking to change careers, the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year's are pivotal. Although you may be tempted to think the entire business world has shut down or taken a hiatus to celebrate the season, it's a great time to jump ahead of the competition, get your name into circulation, and jump-start success in 2010.