The holiday season provides a perfect opportunity for career networking. Even if you're out of work and fresh out of holiday cheer, it's important not to miss out on any opportunities to meet people who can help you find a job. The holidays, contrary to what you might expect, can actually be a good time to job search.
Accept all the invitations you receive and consider the networking you're going to do to be a key part of your job search. Even if you don't feel like going to a party or other holiday celebration, you'll meet people there who not only can help you—inspired by the holiday spirit, they will likely be eager to offer their knowledge or assistance. You might even have much more fun than you expected!
Keep in mind, however, that in choosing to use holiday social events as opportunities for job networking, you will need to act as professionally as you would at a career conference or an actual interview.
Tempted as you might be to let loose during a holiday party, you’ll need to rein in any sort of merrymaking—such as drinking too much or acting or dressing inappropriately—that would make someone question your potential as a mature and responsible employee.
Holiday Party Networking Tips
Phil Haynes, Managing Director of AllianceQ, a group of Fortune 500 companies and many small and medium-sized companies that have collaborated to create a pool of job candidates, shares his tips for holiday networking at parties, so you can get the most out of the events you attend.
- Don't turn down invites to holiday parties. The more contacts you make, the better, even if contact is minimal. You never know who you'll meet, and the goal is to have a contact who remembers who you are and what you do. The more contacts you meet, the greater your chances of finding someone who can help you to find promising new job opportunities.
- Everyone you meet could be a potential lead, so introduce yourself well. Practice and perfect the art of introducing yourself clearly and simply. Figuring out your introductory "sound bite" (similar to an elevator pitch) is worth it. It gets that conversational ball rolling!
- Ask for advice. While it's not really appropriate to ask for a job at a holiday party, speak the language. Use phrases such as "I'm interested in learning more about …" or "I respect your opinion and would welcome your advice about this career or job." People are more receptive to being a resource than a means to an end!
- Take notes about the people you meet. After any holiday party, jot down on their business cards or on a contact info card what they do, a topic you discussed, or a common interest to jog your memory. This can be helpful for use in future contacts.
- Listen. Your contacts can provide valuable information and insight if you aren't too busy doing all the talking!
- Be natural and conversational. Try to establish a sense of rapport. Mention something or someone you have in common. Ask simple questions to engage in general conversation. Above all, try to avoid sounding like you are reading from a script.
- Follow up. Ask for business cards from each new person you meet and then follow up with them through an email, letter, or telephone call, referencing something specific from your conversation.
Other Holiday Networking Opportunities
Seasonal parties are not the only venues that can provide promising opportunities for job searching. Community organizations such as local food banks, schools, arts groups, or national non-profits like the Arthritis Foundation or Toys for Tots are often desperate for volunteers to ensure that their holiday fund-raising events are successful.
Not only can volunteering help to keep you busy and allow you to maintain a positive focus during a season of joblessness, but it also allows you to meet and network with new contacts who might know about a great job for you. And, while helping others is a wonderful way to raise your own spirits, in a best-case scenario, your volunteer position might even turn into a full-time job.