Despite what you may think, the holidays are actually a great time to further your career. That’s because it’s a time when we most interact with others, whether it’s mingling at holiday parties, flying to see family or friends or spending time with relatives or pals you don’t see very often.
So, whether you are building a business, looking for a job, or hoping for a promotion, take advantage of all of the potential connections you can make this holiday season.
Here are some tips to leverage this busy time.
Don’t decline any invitations
Even if you dislike mingling, this is an opportune time to make and strengthen connections with others who may be able to help you. It is important to make a plan so that these social events are easier. For instance, if you really dislike mingling with strangers your goal could be to stay for just a half hour and talk to two new people. Or, when attending the company party your plan might be to talk to the senior executive who oversees the division you’d like to get into. When you have a goal you will be more focused. And, once you accomplish your goal you can give yourself permission to leave the event.
Another thing that makes mingling easier is to show up when the event starts before the majority of folks arrive. It’s a little less intimidating than walking into a huge group of people who are already talking.
Think about the impression you’re making
Whether you’re flying to see the in-laws or going to the neighborhood holiday craft fair put some effort into your appearance and your attitude. Assume the person flying in the seat next to you or that you meet at the buffet table could be your next client or job opportunity. When you are dressed well and have a positive, friendly attitude people will be impressed. And, it should go without saying, watch how much you drink. You wouldn’t want to get too friendly.
Be interested in others
At the holiday office party, don’t just talk to the people you know. Make an effort to get to know people from other departments. A great question to ask is “When you’re not doing graphic design (or whatever they do for a job) for the company, how do you like to spend your time?”
When flying, avoid burying your nose in a book or your laptop and spend some time getting to know your seatmate. Ask him where he’s headed. Find out if he flies often and if so, what his favorite destination is. Get to know him by showing a sincere interest in him.
I’ve met some of the most interesting people this way. One time when flying to Mountain Home, California I sat next to one of the founders of picnik.com and Wired Magazine. On the way back I sat next to a screenwriter whose sister used to be a personal assistant for Reese Witherspoon. Both people were fascinating and made the flight time fly by.
Whether you’re looking for clients, a job or a promotion, do not go into sales mode when mingling with others. This is a time to strengthen and build relationships which may eventually lead to what you’re looking for. Usually the topic of your work will come up in conversation, whether it’s friends or family asking how your job search or business is going or strangers inquiring about what you do for work. Let it evolve naturally. Don’t push an agenda on others or you will push them away.
Stay in touch
Because holiday gatherings are not a time to focus on work conversations, be sure to follow up with the people you met. You can send a note stating how you enjoyed talking at such and so event, and/or schedule a time for coffee or lunch where you can have a more business related conversation.
Another way to stay in touch is to invite the people you’ve met to connect with you on LinkedIn. Be sure to go to their profile and invite them to connect with you by clicking on the “Connect” button. That way you can personalize the message rather than using the default message.
My husband and I are attending six holiday parties and hosting one this month. And while that is way more socializing then we ever do in a month, I’m looking forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones.
How about you? Do you find the holidays a good time to connect with others? What tips would you add?