The holiday season is traditionally a good time to relax, reflect, and recharge. But it can also be a good time for networking to advance your career. Taking advantage of holiday gatherings to get leads and make connections may set you up for success in the new year.
Low-key and festive, holiday gatherings are some of the best places to learn about openings and possibly see someone you know – or meet someone – who is looking for professional or technical talent.
Networking is a skill that takes practice, and networking successfully in an informal setting takes finesse, too. Here are a few tips to help you find your perfect job.
Look for unconventional opportunities.
Holiday office parties and networking events are good times to talk to people in your company whom you want to impress. But gatherings with friends and family, or lunches or coffee with peers can be just as important to your search. So put yourself out there – don’t be shy about subtly letting those closest to you know you’re interested in advancing your career or looking for a new opportunity.
Concentrate on building relationships.
Networking is all about creating win-win situations. Don’t move too fast and don’t try too hard to “sell” yourself. Try instead to establish a connection with people, and in the process, impress them with your knowledge of your field. Remember, as much as you share about yourself, give others the opportunity to talk about themselves and their companies. Most people love to talk about themselves, and if you don’t give them that opportunity, they’ll eventually lose interest, no matter how interesting you are.
There’s nothing worse for conversation than introducing yourself and drawing a blank on what to say next. That’s why it’s important to have some conversation starters up your sleeve. General ice breakers, about the weather or a local sports team, can be used in any setting, while more specific statements regarding your profession, industry or employer might be more appropriate at organized events. If you know ahead of time that you’ll be meeting certain people, review their LinkedIn profiles for things you have in common.
Be who you are (but be the best you).
In other words, be authentic – but remember where you are. If you tend to be optimistic, outgoing, enthusiastic, and inquisitive, you have an advantage. However, if your personality is more introverted or pessimistic, do your best to stay positive. Positivity and confidence are attractive traits no matter what the setting. Resist the urge to complain about work and try to be upbeat with people you want to impress.
Know your elevator pitch.
If you’re looking for a new job or to advance within your company, rehearse your “elevator pitch” about your accomplishments and goals. This is a short, clear, and concise summation – 30 seconds is the ideal length – that highlights your key attributes and successes and tells why you’re the perfect person for positions that might be available. Much like a well-crafted LinkedIn profile, your elevator pitch should get to the point without being boastful. You should also be able to recall it in any setting, from job interviews to parties.
Whenever you meet someone new, you should follow up within 48 hours. Send that person a well-written message expressing how nice it was to meet him or her, and suggest keeping in touch. If you’d like to meet up again, state your reason for meeting and suggest a couple of times and dates early in the New Year. And remember, always be on time!
It’s important to understand that networking is a skill you can hone over time. The more often you put yourself in a networking situation, the easier it becomes. The key thing to remember is not to place too much pressure on yourself – the holidays are a fun time, so keep things light.
Byrne Luft is the Country General Manager at Kelly Services (Canada), Ltd., and has over 20 years of staffing industry experience. Kelly Services is a global leader in providing workforce solutions, including outsourcing and consulting services, as well as staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct-hire basis.
– Follow Workopolis on Twitter
– Sign up for the Workopolis Weekly newsletter