By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS
“Tis The Season!” is a phrase that for some says, “take a break and relax”, but for savvy job seekers it is a signal to stay in search mode and take your search to a different level. I often hear people say, “Who hires during the holidays?”  My answer always is that hiring goes on during this time and offers you an opportunity to compete against a smaller pool of candidates because people are of the opinion that nothing is going on. How fortuitous for you if you avail yourself of this opportunity!

My Human Resource contacts say that if they are in a situation where they need to hire for a position, they are moving their search forward during this time of year and not backing down. Why? Because they would like to be able to hit the ground running right after the first of the year with their new recruit or a list of candidates. Since it is a quieter time of year, they can really devote themselves to the process without a lot of other things pulling at them.

So, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions, the number one way to secure your next position is through networking. For many, networking is a regular part of their business regimen. For some, however, networking is like pulling teeth and presents a challenge that they struggle with. Networking during the holidays is different than during the remainder of the calendar year and offers an opportunity to connect that job seekers should embrace. The follow tips can help you make the most out of your networking events:

1. Remember that networking is about the other person – Successful networkers understand the golden rule which is “Networking is about them, not you.” When you are looking to build or maintain your network, your main focus is on the other person. Networking that is focused on the work and personal interests and lives of the other person helps your network to thrive.

2. Send Holiday Greetings – Whether you send out a greeting card by snail mail, or an e-card through email, holiday greetings offer a chance to reach out to others in the spirit of giving without having any type of agenda.  It puts you top of mind and presents your wishes in a personal, non-business manner.

3. Attend holiday parties and gatherings – If you hate networking meetings, holiday parties present an opportunity to network in a very relaxed atmosphere.  People are generally in a good mood and more open to talking. Many organizations have holiday parties where networking opportunities are afforded. Attend these functions and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know people on a social level.  This is the beginning of building relationships that can be  more long term. Remember, though, that where drinking is involved, you want to maintain your professionalism so keep this in mind as you make your choices.

4. Research before you go – To make your networking event a productive one, research the people that you think you may come across and want to meet. In this way, you will have fodder for discussion.  Having topics ready for discussion takes the stress off the networking situation because you will have things to say and do not have to worry that there will be pauses in the conversation.

5. Quality vs. Quantity – Some people think that they have to go to networking functions and come out with numerous contacts.  Smart networkers know that it s the quality of the connections that they make that is important.  If you speak in an in-depth manner with only two or three people and schedule follow-ups for after the first of the year, isn’t this better than flitting from one person to another without really connecting in a meaningful way?

6. Be prepared – I always tell my clients that when it comes to job search, they need to be prepared.  When they go on a job interview, they go prepared ready to answer the question “So, tell me about yourself.”  In networking situations, especially where you will be meeting with people that you have not seen for a while, I tell my clients that they need to be prepared to discuss how they are and what they have been up to.  The holidays are a time when you connect with people that you have not seen for long periods of time.  This is often the case with family gatherings.  Yes, family gatherings are definitely ripe networking opportunities. So, be prepared when Uncle Ed asks, “So, how have you been?” or Aunt Martha says, “So what have you been up to over the last year?”  What do you say?  Well, you could say, “I have been deeply depressed as I look for a job and have been sending out hundreds of resumes without having any interviews scheduled.”  Or, you could say, “I have been working on a career campaign and have been meeting new people, upgrading my skills through volunteer work, and increasing my industry knowledge through continuing education courses.” Think they will be impressed? Who will they share this with and possibly introduce you to? You never know.

7. Review your brand – While you should be doing this on a regular basis, the holidays offer you another opportunity to do a quick update.  Look at your LinkedIn Profile and see if it needs tweaking to reflect new things that you have been up to.  Look at your facebook page to see if it needs work and prepare a bunch of Tweets to send out through Twitter that are geared to the holidays. Also, while you will not be bringing your resume to these networking events, you will be bringing your business cards.  Look them over to see if they need a freshening up or a whole new re-vamp. Use this as an occasion to make a change.

8. Setting dates to get together – Following up with people is a very important part of the networking process.  This can be achieved in many different ways.  For example, you have to be smart in the way that you spend your valuable time.  So, if you think that going to a party or other networking event is not an option at the time, respond to the invitation with a “No, but let’s schedule a date now to get together.” On the other hand, when you are attending networking events, try to set follow up dates not too long thereafter.  Set as a goal filling your January calendar with meetings so that you can be set right after the first of the year instead of playing catch up to schedule times when everyone is crazy busy after the first of the year.  Don’t forget that you can be scheduling informational interviews during this time.  It is the connecting part that is key as well as getting the information.

9. Prepare a Networking Overview Sheet – Now that you will be having these networking connections and they know that you are in search, prepare a Networking Overview Sheet to be prepared for when they ask you for your resume.  I like my clients to be in control of their resumes so that they can tailor them to the specific position they are applying for and not just send them out to anyone.  The Networking Overview Sheet provides you with an opportunity to send out something in response that contains your Value Proposition so that they know who you are, your skills, your proof, your accomplishments and targets of companies that you are interested in.  But, be specific. People can only help you if you are targeted and provide specific information such as names of companies that you are looking for. If you are vague and say, “I am looking for a position that will help me use my skills to achieve world peace,” they will not know what to do. However, if you tell them the names of the five non-profits that mesh with your goals, you never know who they know who can help you get there.  You can find a sample on my networking page on the website. See page three of How to Prepare for a Networking Meeting for the sample:

10. Be gracious and generous – Generosity is the overriding theme you hear throughout the holiday time of year.  Give the gifts of your time, your compassion and concern and, if you can, give the gift of business contacts and referrals.  When you are generous, people appreciate it and remember the type of person that you are. Showing your gratitude also adds to their thoughts of you as the type of person they want to relate to.

So there you have it.  Ten tips for networking during the holiday season.  I hope that I have helped you. Please leave me a comment and let me know. As always, if you need help with your search, please contact me at [email protected] or 203-323-9977.

Let’s Get to Work!

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