As the year-end approaches, business moves at a slower pace. Phones ring less often as colleagues and clients take long-awaited holiday breaks. Hiring slows down significantly between November and January, which may lead some to pause their job searches for a few months.
Taking a break during the holiday season, however, is the last thing you should do if you’re looking for a new career opportunity. Most professional and networking organizations host a variety of holiday gatherings, presenting ideal opportunities to meet other professionals and expand your business network. Many of the people at these gatherings will be involved in departmental budgets and hiring plans for the new year. If a job offer is your goal, dust off your holiday earrings or tie and follow these tips for some successful holiday networking.
- Be strategic. Make a list of the holiday networking events you can attend that will maximize your opportunities to meet influential, networked professionals. Register for them in advance and put dates and times on your calendar.
- Be prepared and dress appropriately. If you have access to a member list, identify which people you’d like to meet at the event and do some research on their careers and companies. Be ready to introduce yourself and quickly describe what you do and what your next opportunity might look like. Know what the expected dress for the event is and wear the appropriate attire, even if that means a quick trip home after work to spiff up for the event.
- Be a Good Listener. Other than briefly introducing yourself and your background, your goal should be to learn as much as possible about the people you meet, contacts you may have in common and people they know at companies that may be hiring someone with your skills.
- Offer to Help. Express a genuine interest in the success of people you talk to, and offer share your network or other information that will help them achieve their professional objectives.
- Seek Quality over Quantity. Passing out a bunch of business cards is not networking; returning home with a few good contacts to follow up with is.
- Follow Up. Once you’ve established a connection with someone who you’d like to stay in touch with, follow up with an email, an invitation on LinkedIn or both.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. Keep the focus on networking; you are not there for the free food and beverages. My advice is to limit yourself to one drink and eat beforehand, so you don’t miss a chance for conversation.
- Don’t spend too much time with friends. Since you can talk to co-workers and friends at any time, use the majority of your time to make new business contacts.
- Don’t go overboard by sharing all your research. I once met someone who recited my entire LinkedIn profile, and it was a bit creepy.
- Don’t monopolize someone’s time. If you meet someone you’d like to get to know better, ask if you can follow up with them another time. Exchange business cards or contact information and move on.
- Don’t ask for a job. Networking events are about establishing relationships, not asking for favors. Don’t be a “taker” that is only interested in advancing your career.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Most invitations have defined start and end times. Do not arrive before the scheduled start and make sure you have left the premises before it ends.
If you’ve done a good job of networking over the holiday season, you’ll have plenty of people to follow up with in January, when companies begin posting jobs. Good luck and let us know how your job search progresses!