Networking
is the single most important thing you can do to support your job search, and the holidays were made for networking. Take advantage of the holiday season to expand your network and to reconnect with contacts.

Below are a few tips for how you can mix a bit of business into the season’s festivities.

Make Networking a Priority

Many managers have a bit of breathing room around the holidays if their job doesn’t require significant year-end activity. Their phones ring less often, they receive fewer emails and they’re in fewer meetings since many colleagues and customers take time off.

Take advantage of this opportunity to significantly ramp up your networking. Identify contacts in your target companies. Reach out to them and ask to meet over a cup of coffee. They’re more likely to take the meeting when things are quiet. This is an outstanding opportunity to make more connections in a short period of time. Use the opportunity to make key connections at the companies you’re most interested in.

Set networking goals for yourself each week, and hold yourself accountable. Find alumni or LinkedIn connections at your target companies and schedule yourself a series of networking discussions over the holiday months.

 

Consider Low-Hanging Fruit

Not everyone enjoys networking, but it’s critical to career success. Take advantage of the many social events during the holidays to network in a friendly and safe environment.

The holidays bring low-hanging fruit: family gatherings, celebrations with friends, social events with professional associations and even the office holiday party. With little effort, you can meet a large number of interesting people over the holidays. Be very clear with family and friends about what you’re looking for and what companies you’re most interested in; they may have valuable connections they can introduce you to. Simply ask new contacts what they do, and it will often spark an interesting conversation. You can always ask to follow up for more details.

 

Prepare for Opportunities

The key advantage of all this year-end networking is that employers often have new positions approved with the start of the new year. Perhaps the person you met with will have a need and will remember the positive impression you made. Maybe the position is in another part of the organization, but your contact can forward your resume with a note of recommendation. Or there’s a chance you’ll even be given a heads-up about a position that will be opening soon.

While the formal hiring process may slow down a bit with key players on vacation, it’s a critical time to move your search forward with some strategic networking.

So, what are some do’s and don’ts for networking during the holiday season?

 

Holiday Networking DOs

  • Be focused and strategic. Target the companies you’re most interested in and seek contacts in those organizations, particularly people in positions you can learn from.
  • Set goals. Identify a target and monitor your progress for a set number of networking meetings each week or month.
  • Be well-prepared. Research the company and the individual in advance. Have questions prepared.
  • Keep the conversation going. Ask open-ended questions to gather more information.
  • Be an active, engaged listener. Listen carefully to the advice and information the person is sharing, and take notes as appropriate.
  • Prepare to share. Think about your personal elevator pitch.
  • Follow-up is key. Ask who else they think you should speak to and if they would refer you, as well as if they have any professional associations they’d recommend.
  • Add value for the other person. Find a way to assist them with information or a connection to keep the relationship mutual.
  • Always send a thank you note. It can make a lasting impression.
  • Stay in touch periodically. A holiday card with a personal note or even a New Year’s card would be a nice touch.

 

Holiday Networking DON’Ts

  • Don’t ask for a job. This is about building a relationship, not asking a favor.
  • Don’t do all the talking. Do more listening than speaking; you want to learn about the company and the functional area of interest.
  • Don’t be arrogant or disrespectful. This should go without saying!
  • Don’t stalk the person. If they don’t respond after three attempts, take them off your list.
  • Don’t monopolize their time. Steer clear of taking more time than specified without asking if they can spare a few more minutes.
  • Don’t waste their time. If it’s something you could have learned on their website, don’t ask.
  • Don’t over-imbibe at events. Stay focused on the networking. Eat prior to attending the event so you won’t be starving. Don’t try to balance both food and drink; always have your right hand available to shake hands. Never indulge in more than one drink. Keep your wits about you and put your best foot forward.

Let’s say you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and made some great connections over the holidays. Now, how can you capitalize on these new relationships and keep them going once the holidays are over? Here are a few final tips for keeping your momentum with the job search as you enter the new year:

  •  When you see a position of interest at a target company after the first of the year, reach out to your contact.
  • Use your contacts to gather insider information about the position and the team.
  • Ask your contact to share your resume with the hiring manager — get in the short pile the manager will review instead of the mountain of online resumes.
  • Follow up with relevant information or a new contact for your connection to continue to add value.
  • Keep your contact posted on your progress.

With a little common sense and a bit of perseverance, you can make this holiday season a memorable one when it comes to advancing your career. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Network the right way, and you just may set yourself up for success come January 1st!

How can you use the holidays to up your networking game?

Image: Flickr