Conventional wisdom says that December is a time to put your networking on hold and wait to ramp it up in January. But that would be a huge mistake. Here’s why networking during the holidays can jump start your job search or career.
1) There are lots of opportunities to network. You know how they say “fish where the fish are.” Well, the fish are jumping! December is ripe with parties and events, both professional and social. Most professional associations or networking groups hold an end-of-year event, a perfect venue for expanding your contact list. I find that members who rarely attend during the regular year are more inclined to come to an end-of-year event, especially one that is primarily social. They love to catch up with contacts too. And neighborhood, school and other events are promising opportunities as well. Networking happens anywhere you are, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for subtle opportunities.
2) Conversation is easy. Let’s face it; sometimes conversation at networking events can feel stilted. But with the holidays around the corner you have a ready-made topic of conversation. It’s easy to make the interchange flow when you ask about their plans, how they celebrate the holidays, etc.
3) Everyone is (usually) in a good mood. Sure, you might run into a Bah Humbug or two, with someone who’s feeling stressed, but for the most part, the holiday season brings out the best in everyone. A friendlier vibe equates to more casual, open conversations, which are a networker’s best friend!
4) Work hasn’t stopped. If you are a consultant, this is an ideal time to make connections that can lead to projects. Lots of workplaces might find that their employees are taking time off. Or, clients are trying to spend end of the year budgets and there is work to be done, and not enough employee power to get it done. Being in the right place at the right time is an ideal way to showcase your talents, solve their problems and quite likely set yourself up for more work in the future! Ditto for job hunters – sometimes there is money in the budget for an end-of-year hire and others aren’t knocking.
5) You get a chance to jump start your goals for next year. I bet that once you start thinking about “New Year’s resolutions,” your mind goes to networking, and how you can expand your efforts. Think how amazing it will feel in January when you start working toward your goal and you realize that you are already partially there! You’ve already met some fresh contacts to follow-up on; you’ve already laid the groundwork for a successful start of the year.
6) Fewer people are out there. Remember how we talked about how most people avoid networking during the holidays. Well, duh! That means that FEWER PEOPLE ARE NETWORKING DURING THE HOLIDAYS! Thus, there is less competition and more opportunity for you to shine!
Networking during the holidays is a DO all the way, but beware that there are a few “don’ts” that you should be aware of.
1) Don’t drink too much. This is a no brainer of course, but the atmosphere at holiday parties can make you more susceptible to imbibing. Many events that normally might be lunch or breakfast affairs shift to “holiday party” status which can mean alcoholic beverages. Have one if everyone else is and you want to. But stop at one.
2) Don’t talk about Christmas too overtly. Sure most people call this the Christmas season. But it’s presumptuous to assume that everyone celebrates, and it’s possible to offend someone who doesn’t — the last thing you want to do. Play it safe and stick with general holiday talk until you are sure where you fall.
3) Don’t do heavy networking. As discussed above, holiday events tend to have more of a party vibe. It’s fine to talk about what you do or what industry you’re in, but try to steer the conversation to lighter topics rather than major career talk. What you’re trying to do is create a connection and open a door you can follow through on post party.
What has your experience with holiday networking been? Do you agree it’s the right time to get out there?
by Cathie Ericson