With December in full-swing and the new year well on its way, you can expect to attend a lot of holiday parties this month! Though it can be tempting to forego some of your social appearances for a night in, if you do, you run the risk of missing valuable opportunities to meet new people.
While holiday parties may seem like the least likely of places to make new professional connections, you’d be surprised how easy it is to strike up a conversation about your career and long-term goals. To help you join in on the festivities this season, here are 4 tips that will help you become a holiday networking pro:
While it’s easy to stay close to people you know, if you want to make the most of these parties, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to attendees you have not met before. To help make introductions a bit more manageable, try and set a reasonable goal of connecting with 2-3 new people at each event. Choosing a smaller goal will allow you to spend time with your friends and focus on making meaningful new connections.
Speaking of friends, they’re a good resource to turn to when networking. Look around the room and take notice of friends talking to anyone that looks unfamiliar. Then, politely join in on their conversation.
Keep it casual:
Holiday parties are well, parties. As a result, it’s best to keep your conversation about work to a minimum. First, try to get to know your new contact on a more personal level, and then ease into a brief chat about your professions. Additionally, if you are in the process of job searching, try not to spend too much time talking about it. If your new connection offers to help you in some way, express your gratitude and propose continuing the conversation at a more appropriate time. After all, focusing on your lives outside of work will help you establish some common interests – an important foundation to any relationship.
When you have a goal you want to accomplish, it can sometimes be difficult to take a step back from doing most of the talking during a networking opportunity. However, a more effective way to build a rapport with fellow attendees is to ask questions and carefully listen to their responses. This shows potential new connections that you are legitimately interested in what they have to say, which in turn, will make them much more willing to connect with you after the party. Strategically asking questions also allows you to determine which people are best positioned to help you and who are worth establishing long-term connections with.
Since a holiday party isn’t always the most appropriate place to finalize an agreement or keep the conversation too focused on your career, the follow up is key. Therefore, always make sure to exchange contact information with any potential new connections and reconnect with them in a timely matter. When you do reach out, send them an email or personalized LinkedIn invitation that reminds them of: who you are, where you met, and what you talked about. Then, tactfully give them the opportunity to continue the discussion with you over the phone or coffee after the holidays. If they agree to meet, great, you’re well on your way to establishing a relationship with this new contact! However, if they are unavailable to meet, or would prefer to continue the conversation through email, it’s important to maintain consistent communication with them. Your contact should know that you weren’t only reaching out because you needed something and that any help they could provide would be reciprocated, so make an effort to check in with them from time-to-time.