As we gear up for hot cocoa and well-deserved holiday breaks, don’t forget this time of year presents a great number of opportunities for professional networking. Whether you’re looking for new employment or simply to expand your network, this is the perfect time to connect with others.
According to Kim Batson, an experienced career-management coach, “[Companies] want to start the new year with the right talent on board before the first week of January,” so the holidays are the perfect time to get ahead of the competition. Consider these quick tips to make the most of your professional holiday networking.
1. Seize the Par-Tay
Whether it’s an employer-sponsored party, or just a good friend’s casual get-together; holiday social gatherings are a great time for networking. With a little goal setting and some strategizing, you can easily make the most of every occasion. Start by setting a goal. For instance, set a goal to connect and learn from at least three to five people at your next event. Knowing something about the people you’ll be meeting beforehand is an easy step to getting a conversation going, so try to learn some things about those folks in advance. A quick Google or LinkedIn search should give you enough information to start a conversation.
Focus the conversation around the person you’re speaking with and the interests you have in common. A practiced elevator pitch and a personal business card displaying your career field and expertise can be a subtle way of getting the conversation going regarding employment.
Also, remember these conversations should be about quality versus quantity. If you can build good relationships to grow your network, they will be much more valuable than several acquaintances.
2. Break the Ice
Standard professional networking events are usually focused on “professional” topics, but people don’t always want to talk about work as the holidays loom closer. Fun questions to break the ice can get an informative and engaging conversation going. Try out some questions on their favorite holiday vacation or quirkiest gift they’ve received. These conversations can prove memorable and lead to more career-oriented conversations later.
3. Be the Life of Your Own Party
What’s one way to get the party started? Be the party! Yes, that’s right. If you feel comfortable, help people get to know each other by setting up a holiday-themed event. This could be something like a secret gift exchange or a cookie-decorating party. Help your friends mingle and invite them to bring someone else along to expand your network. Encourage guests to send out interesting facts about themselves before the event, making it easy to spark conversations by the time the party starts.
4. Don’t Forget Your Holiday Cards
Holiday networking doesn’t have to be limited to parties and social events. Sending letters or holiday cards to old friends and former colleagues is a great way to check in. Your recipients may even think of you for a new employment opportunity or a professional friend they think you’d like to meet. The bottom line is that a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.
5. Dress the Part
Simple but always important, especially when trying to network professionally, is to dress the part. Making sure you look professional whether the event is casual or black-tie is essential. If you’re unsure, always error on the side of formality. It’s better to be over-dressed than underdressed. When you dress for success you present the best version of you!
6. Take Good Notes
At any holiday networking event you are likely to have gathered a few business cards and interesting conversations along the way. Mark these notes down while they are still fresh on your mind. Along with business cards, you may want to remember what topics you discussed and common interests you discovered in your new network. If pen and paper aren’t handy write a quick note on the back of the business card or type up a quick note in your phone. These types of little details can be extremely helpful in the future. Not only can they be conversation starters, they may also help to jog the memory of a potential employer.
7. Expand Your Opportunities
Holiday parties are the obvious choice to start your holiday networking, but this time of year there are countless opportunities to expand your professional network. Organizations like food banks, schools, and nonprofit organizations are almost always eager for volunteers, especially around the holidays. Most of these groups have holiday events and fundraisers and need the help of eager volunteers. Events like these aren’t just a great way to grow your professional network; they’re a great opportunity to give back to the community. After all, you never know if these volunteer opportunities could turn into a job or even a new friendship.
As we near the holidays, continue to grow your professional network in a way that works best for you and always put the best version of yourself forward! Stay safe and happy holidays, friends!