Two women networking at a holiday party.

During the holidays you will likely receive invitations to various parties and functions. You may have a work party here, a family gathering there, or a get-together with a group of friends. If you’re looking for a job, you may feel inclined to turn down some of those invitations to focus on your search. However, each of these parties represent an opportunity for you to do some networking! Networking is a great way to make new connections, and potentially find a job! If you have some holiday parties coming up, read on to find out how you can network!

Why Network During the Holidays?

The holidays are a great time to network. There are typically many different events going on, which are all opportunities to connect with others. Additionally, during the holidays people are in a more generous mood. With that said, it’s important to remember that networking is a give and take, not just a ‘take’. Don’t try networking with the mindset of someone handing you a new job on a silver platter- that’s not how it works. Think about what you also can offer someone else- advice? insight? a friend in the same industry? Whatever it is you can offer, make sure you have it in your back pocket when networking.

Before we discuss how you should approach networking in these situations we have to touch upon alcohol. Most holidays parties will have alcohol present to some degree, and it’s likely many people there will be partaking. If you are going to be networking, we would encourage you to abstain. If you must, limit yourself to one or two drinks, and know your limit. However, if there is any possibility that it would make you come across unprofessional, skip it. Also, make sure you dress relatively well. A sweater and jeans is fine, just don’t show up in sweat pants and a hoodie. It’s not a job interview, but you want someone to consider hiring you. With those out of the way, we can finally get to the main point!

Making Introductions

It can be somewhat stressful to approach strangers at a party, but you never know what they may have to offer. If you think about it, it just means you have more to talk about! Introduce yourself politely, and perhaps throw in a small conversation starter. Ask if they’ve tried the gingerbread cookies, compliment their holiday sweater, etc. and then go from there!

If you worried about maintaining a conversation remember one of the basic rules of communication: people like to talk about themselves. Just make sure you actively listen. When networking, it’s important not to ‘tune’ anything out. The best connections forged by networking go beyond just surface level. Show those you network with that you care, and are actively listening to what they say.

Deciding Your Approach

Keeping the rule mentioned earlier in mind, a good question to start with is simply asking someone what they do. This will clue you into what they do, and if you would be able to help each other. They may even offer a business card! (Make sure you keep some of your own handy as well). What’s great about this question is, it may encourage them to ask you about what you do. If they do, you can take a few different approaches.

If you currently have a job:

  • Just be honest and explain what you do. This lets them know what your profession and skill sets are.
  • Let them know you are looking for a job. Only do this if it is someone you already know, and trust.

If you’re currently unemployed:

  • Let them know you are unemployed and looking for a job. Sometimes the direct approach is smart, and they will respond to it.
  • Instead of discussing your status of employment, focus on a project, volunteer work, or hobby you are currently working on.

These approaches are just recommendations, but the basis is to somehow steer the conversation toward careers. If you have an informal elevator pitch, you could also use that, but you don’t want to come off as overly professional in a casual setting. If you find common ground, consider sharing advice sometime over coffee. This where bringing business cards would come in handy. If not, scrawl your email down on a napkin. If you can though, bring some cards. It’s important to forge a connection then and there, in case you don’t cross paths again.

Remember to Follow Up

This type of networking doesn’t always pay off right away. There’s a very small chance you’ll have a conversation with someone who is looking to hire a professional with your skill set. However, they may be in the future! Or perhaps a good friend of theirs owns a company that needs someone like you. This is why you should make a connection when possible. At the very least, connect with them on LinkedIn, and personalize the connect request message.

The last (but certainly not least) piece of advice is to follow up. The holidays are crazy for most people, so it’s smart to circle back at a time that’s not as hectic. Shortly after January 1st, (maybe a week or two) consider sending them a note through email or LinkedIn to check in and wish them a Happy New Year. Or, simply let them know you appreciated chatting when you met, and wished to keep in touch in the future. It’s possible they may have forgotten about you with all the holiday craziness, but this will act as a reminder.

Networking during the holiday season can be tricky, but it can also be very rewarding. Holiday events are great opportunities to make new connections, and strengthen your network. We hope the aforementioned advice helps you go with more confidence to your next holiday party if you intend to network. Good luck and happy holidays!