The end of the year is packed with holidays. From religious to cultural and everything in between, most people are celebrating something between November and January. It’s a time to get together with friends and family, reliving the past year’s accomplishments and looking ahead to what’s next.
All these holiday events are perfect opportunities to network your way into a bright career future! To celebrate the season, I put together a few key tips to approach the holidays with a networking mindset to set yourself up for the new year.
Your holiday mindset: New Year, New Career
The holidays are a perfect time to set new career goals. As you approach the new year, think about what you want to accomplish next year. Do you want a new job? Is it time to start your own business? Are you considering going back to school or getting into a new industry? Set one or two concrete goals for the new year, and get ready to talk about them through the holiday season.
Hopefully you already know the power of networking in your career. The more people you have in your corner, the more professional opportunities you’ll get. And good networking is a two-way street: you have to give value to get value back.
So craft your holiday networking mindset with both sides in mind. Yes, you have a career goal, and you want to get help from your network to achieve that goal. You might be asking for a favor, for an introduction to someone they know, or for a recommendation for a job. Know what you need, and practice asking for it.
But don’t stop with what you want. This is the most common mistake I see people make: they build up networks, use them for their own career growth, and then drop off the map when they get what they want! You’ve got to invest in the relationships that you build, in good times and bad. So yes, use the holidays to plant seeds with your network, hinting at what you might need in the new year. But focus on gratitude. As you peruse your upcoming holiday gatherings, think about ways you can help out the people in your community.
How to use holiday parties for networking
Most of us have holiday parties filling up our calendars at the end of the year. You’ll be catching up with friends, family, and professional connections. Here are a few tips for networking at the different types of holiday parties you’re seeing on the calendar.
The office holiday party
Your annual office party is a great networking opportunity, whether you want to stay with your current company or not. But it absolutely is. Make a point to chat with people beyond your inner circle and say thanks for the work done over the past year.
If your goal is to leave your company, the office holiday party is a great opportunity to build bridges. Show your gratitude to your colleagues, managers, and executives! Make a point to thank your favorite coworkers for their work this year; you may want to ask them for a reference soon.
And if you’re angling for a promotion in the new year, tonight’s the night to make an impression with your manager. Reminisce about the projects you worked on together to reinforce goodwill, mention a few things you hope to tackle in the new year, and thank them for their leadership.
Whatever your new year’s goals, make sure you don’t fall into the office party stereotype. Keep it professional and cool it on the cocktails until after you’ve accomplished your networking goals.
A professional organization’s holiday mixer
Many professional organizations host holiday events in November and December. This is a great time to explore new groups, reconnect with distant connections, and meet new people.
Line up your professional events with your new year’s career goals. If you’re pursuing a new job in your industry, seek out the holiday parties hosted by the major players in your city. Larger events create more opportunities to meet people, exchange more contact information, and follow up with a new group of connections in the new year.
Thinking about a bigger career change next year? It can be intimidating to start networking in a fresh space, and holiday parties are generally more relaxed than other networking events. Find a few new organizations, perhaps those in an industry you’re pursuing or hosted by a company you’re targeting in your job search. Use these events to meet people, learn the lingo, and gather intel. And talk about your interests and goals for the new year, so that your newly minted connections will start to think about you in this new space.
A friend’s holiday open house
Parties hosted by friends are a great way to create strong new connections. The key to approaching events with friends and family is to start personal, and let conversations evolve naturally. Don’t push job talk, but don’t shy away from it either!
When you attend a friend’s party, make an effort to talk with the people you don’t know as well. Get to know them by asking broad questions. “What was the best thing that happened in your life this year?” Conversations about the year’s highlights tend to bring out career talk, and you can ask more about your new friend’s career journey while mentioning your own backstory and goals for the coming year. Even if your paths aren’t connected, chances are they know someone who could be of help to you in your career.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for contact info. Getting someone’s email is a great way to stay in touch, and it’s much less stuffy than connecting on LinkedIn.
However you feel about your family, the holidays are a time to get together. If you’re attending family gatherings this year, take the opportunity to go beyond asking, “How’s work going?” Of course, you want to avoid touchy subjects, but try to find out more about the working lives of family members you enjoy talking to.
Chat about work with your favorite uncle or distant cousin. You likely know their job title, but it can be fascinating to dig into the career story of someone you’re related to. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice in your own career.
Just like with friends, you never know which family member is going to have a valuable piece of advice or be able to introduce you to your next great work opportunity. So be open and inquisitive about work at your family gatherings this year, and see what happens!
The holidays are a great time to network, and when you’ve done the work of setting your career goals, it’s a lot easier to approach your holiday events as networking opportunities. So get out there, express your thanks to the folks in your network, and lay the groundwork for the best new year of your career. Happy Holidays, indeed!
Contributed by: Mac Prichard, President, Prichard Communications and Mac’s List