By Sarah Landrum
In the blink of an eye, the holidays will be here, and you won’t be prepared for all the networking opportunities that come. Networking has become the best way to make connections that will further your career, lead to a new job or provide mentorship to help you learn.
While you are preparing for the festivities of the season, here are five tips to also help you grow your network this holiday:
- Don’t Talk Business
If you attend a holiday function, do meet new people and business connections and ask if you can contact them later. However, save those new business cards for when you re-connect after the holidays. Most people at holiday parties just want to relax and enjoy themselves without getting caught up in a lengthy business discussion.
Focus on making a connection over anything else. People tend to hire or recommend someone they like, so make new friends and be yourself.
If you know that a certain CEO will be at the party, don’t knock anyone over trying to talk to them. Do your homework on the business or person before you go and ask someone who already knows them to introduce you. If business does come up in conversation, ask intelligent questions relating to the business but don’t ask for a job. You want to make a good impression as someone who asks relevant questions, not someone who’s looking to take advantage of the situation.
- Don’t Make It All About You
Dominating a conversation and turning it to be just about you is a good way to be forgotten, rather than remembered. A good conversationalist knows how to actively listen and ask open ended questions. By listening to what is being said and being able to expand the conversation with related questions, you will make more of an impression on a future boss or co-worker than you will by telling them 100 things about you.
Also remember to be polite when joining a conversation — don’t interrupt or bulldoze your way in. Listen, and when an opportunity to join the conversation appears, ask if you can join by saying you couldn’t help overhearing them talking about a topic that fascinates you.
- Don’t Overindulge
Holidays can be stressful; 61% report increased stress levels during the holidays. Add in the stress of finding a job, and that number is sure to climb higher.
Don’t let that stress drive you to drink, or change your behavior in any way – Especially when networking. You want to be remembered as someone nice, intelligent or funny — not as the person who had one too many.
You might have twenty stellar years of service, but it will only take one embarrassing drunken night at a party to tarnish your reputation. If you’re feeling overly stressed, or are tempted to reach for a drink, excuse yourself for a moment to get some fresh air and try taking a few deep breaths to relax first.
If you are comfortable having a drink, and the environment allows, do so but only in moderation, lest that you end up seeking addiction treatment. And be sure to eat a good meal before you go, graze on any tapas or appetizers and follow every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
- Don’t Hide Among Familiar Faces
You’ll likely run into people you know or are excited to see. While those encounters are welcome, don’t let them be your security blanket in a room of strangers and don’t let them hold you back from meeting new people. Opportunities to grow your career sometimes come from the most unlikely places, and you shouldn’t hold yourself back by becoming a wallflower at holiday parties.
Practice open-ended questions you can use as ice breakers to start a conversation and don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself.
If you aren’t sure what to ask, try one of these conversation starters so you’ll be prepared with a few easy ways to break the ice.
- Don’t Forget to Follow-Up With New Contacts
After the holidays, do follow-up and take the time to send a quick note to one of your new business connections at their office and tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them at [mutual friend’s or a business] holiday party on [the applicable date] and that you would like to continue your conversation on [whatever it was]. Ask if you could meet them for lunch or perhaps for coffee if they get into the office early. Just remember to suggest it for after the holidays.
If you have re-connected after the holidays and have met for lunch or coffee, send a quick thank you note. Thank the person for their time and let them know how much their career advice or other information has helped you.
If you take the time to send an actual card, it will make more of an impression — something that can be greatly appreciated in an age where emails are the cold normal. Your gratitude will also have less risk of falling into a spam can.
Network and Celebrate
Holidays are for celebrating, but they can also be a highly valuable opportunity for networking — especially if your New Year’s resolution is to find a new job. Just keep these tips in mind and put your networking charm to good use this season.
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks. Coming from a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans find and succeed in a civilian career. Follow Sarah for more advice on career development @SarahLandrum