Hit the Networking Gas Pedal during the Holidays

It’s an utter misconception that things slow down during the holidays. Sure, there’s the turkey-induced food coma, and that spiked eggnog that left you a little groggy, but to assume that things are slowing down and people aren’t as focused on business is absolutely a myth. Ask any retailer as they dash between lines of shoppers during the final sales sprint of 2010!

The holidays are kind of weird, in a way. It’s like everyone takes a collective breath and treads water while getting the necessary work done.

But do you know what’s really going on?

People are thinking. They are reviewing what happened this year, and, just like the rest of us, businesses are building their strategy on how to tackle the coming new year.

Ultimately, it’s a time of reflection… which means that it is also a time ripe for opportunity. People are more receptive to new ideas that might prove to be advantageous to their business goals.

Reaping those opportunities mean being at the right place at the right time… and what better place to sow those seeds than to attend holiday parties?

Sure, you might not be too excited to go to Aunt Betty and Uncle Jim’s annual get-together, but think of it this way: While they might not be the ones who will connect you to your next job, but someone else at the party just might.

Another odd quality about holidays is that these festive soirees can and actually put together random people who otherwise might be outside your networking universe. Parties concentrate people from a wide array of backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, industries, and interest levels.

If you are looking for work, try transcending the obligatory requirements of attending yet another friend or family get-together, and make holiday parties all about networking instead.

You don’t need to brush past Aunt Betty and Uncle Jim; instead, up your ante in being interested in their party by asking questions beforehand about who might be attending. Having a heads up can also help you be ready for that perfect moment of making a real connection.

However, the last thing you want to do is swing in, toss a cursory howdy towards your hosts, make a swift round around room to scope out the scene, and then gaily depart… mission accomplished.

There’s some propriety involved.

Here are some quick holiday tips to get you develop a more robust contact list:

1) Don’t be a user. Don’t just make acquaintances long enough to see if the person you are talking to is ‘valuable’ in your job search. You know the type… it’s the person who is peering over your shoulder while they are talking to you, trying to see if someone ‘better’ has come arrived that they can go talk to.

2) Beef up on your conversational topics. Do some reading online of various news sources… not knowing who might be coming to the holiday party could make conversation difficult if you don’t know what to say. Instead, digest a variety of news stories, and you’ll be amazed at how some of those news details come in handy in either initiating a conversation with someone you don’t know by the holiday punch bowl, or building rapport with someone you met.

3) Find common ground. A good way to find out more about the person you are talking to you is to ask how they know the host. Instant rapport can be established using this tactic.

4) Ask them about their job. Not being the one who goes on and on about themselves gives you something in return: conversational leverage. You get to hear what the other person does, and gives you a chance to formulate some connections between what they do and your situation. It can also give you time to develop more specific questions that might reveal a nugget that is helpful to you and your job search.

5) Be fearless in follow-up. If the person you are talking to seems to be genuinely interested in you and engaged, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, this is so great connecting with you. I’d love to grab a cup of coffee sometime so we can chat more!” Ask them for their card and offer yours based on their receptiveness to the idea. If they don’t have one, follow up with your host to see if they can provide the guest’s phone number.
6) If the moment is right, make your pitch. Informal settings during the holidays mean people can be more relaxed, and if it so happens that you find yourself talking to someone who could be making a hiring decision for a job for which you are qualified, step up. Make the pitch – bending someone’s ear during a social event can plant the seeds for future opportunities. Tell them that you are actually looking and that perhaps you could solve their staffing problem… chances are that they’ll bend forward to listen and be more receptive.

Changing your perception of annual holiday gatherings is a powerful weapon in any job search arsenal. Meeting new people, finding out their challenges, and then using that information to develop your response in solving those obstacles are a great way to fuel your success in finding employment in 2011.

One Comment

Mark McClure

#4 and #6 can work work well together but remember the 80/20 rule and listen more than you talk.

People will recall you if you show some genuine interest in what's important in their job or life – even if it seems inconsequential.

But, at the same time, don't be shy! There's nothing wrong in saying where you want to be in the next phase of your career. Just remember to look for common ground with the other partymon.

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