The holidays offer lots of opportunities to get out and circulate, to network in person, over the phone, via email and through holiday cards. To maximize the value of your networking efforts, be sure to follow up on the contacts early in the New Year by getting back in touch and staying current on their radar screen. And don’t stay a stranger. Make it your new year’s resolution to keep in touch regularly. Out of touch is often out of mind and you want to be on the radar screen and top of mind just in case something up your alley pops up among your network. Persistence is a guaranteed advantage in the job market. For any job hunters who find setting up networking meetings difficult, holiday time is an ideal chance to invite someone you need to or want to know to join you for a festivity – offer them a ride, provide directions, give them an admission ticket, remind them about location, time and date, etc.
The holiday season offers so many occasions to make small talk about subjects most of us are comfortable discussing like family, holidays, shopping, parties, the weather, special plans, etc. People find lots to share when it comes to the holidays; these universal topics will help to break awkward silences or can be used to warm up a conversation. It’s about connecting with individuals which further strengthens and builds relationships. These good interpersonal interactions promote positive networking experiences that can be leveraged to identify unadvertised positions or openings in the hidden job market. These may include leads about possible or planned restructurings, new initiatives, expansions, consolidations, relocations, acquisitions and divestitures, mergers, retirements and other situations that produce new challenges for an organization.
Here are some quick tips to whet your networking appetite, break the ice, rev up contact-making opportunities, increase confidence and maximize holiday time interactions to expand your network purposefully, possibly unearth a new career challenge or strengthen current affiliations.
1. Do your homework. Find out in advance who is expected to be there. Before venturing into unknown territory prepare for the adventure. Study your targeted introductions - their bio, their company website, recent news reports and PR. List the best and the worst possibilities and make notes on how you will handle them. Make interactions count and come away with the next step -- to keep the networking moving forward by maintaining contact or initiating referral recommendations.
2. Is this event worth it? Is this an event worth your appearing or should you allocate your time and money to a cause with more networking potential or a higher quotient of fun? What do you want to accomplish when you finally get in front of the target contact? Do you want their card, email address, telephone number or permission to contact them afterwards to discuss your mutual interests, a referral to someone they know that you need to meet? How are you going to approach them? What are you going to say to break the ice and keep the conversation flowing? What can you do to help them? You’ll increase your confidence by organizing and planning ahead to make the most out of this opportunity.
3. Learn. Just like a job interview over lunch is not about the food, a holiday networking occasion is never about the libations. It’s for you to focus on learning as much as you can (and remembering all you can - take notes discreetly to jog your recollection and for thank you notes) from whomever you speak with and concentrate on expanding your circle of relevant direct contacts.
4. First Impressions Count. An event is an invaluable, rare face-to- face encounter in the age of cyberspace, emails, telephones and faxes. This means that it is important to create good, warm, interpersonal chemistry that will be the building block for a future relationship. Your first impression COUNTS. Keep those breath mints, smile buttons and business cards handy!! Leave the casual at home and dress up for the occasion to mingle with some movers and shakers in your industry.
5. Prepare. Research those you will be meeting. Check out the vitals on the company, bios of decisions makers, recent industry trends and current events. Be ready to discuss at least one or two specific items or issues that you have studied in depth—so you can make a good impression and maybe surprise someone with your knowledge, understanding and obvious initiative. Explore the company website or online business databases to prep for meetings. Remember that it is better to remain silent than to put your foot into your mouth. If you don’t having anything to add, no need to talk. You can’t hurt yourself being quiet and nodding, offering a friendly smile, and acknowledging that you are listening appreciatively. Better to leave a neutral impression than to damage your reputation by speaking out of turn or making a politically correct statement.
6. Go with a purpose. Your time and everyone else’s who is there is valuable. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s, be respectful and courteous. If there is a certain person who you want to meet, it would be best to get introduced to them by a mutual contact. This is easier than walking up cold to introduce yourself.
7. Ask for Help. Identify a third party that who knows whom you need to know and ask them if they will introduce you to the individual you need to meet. It’s better if you can then do something helpful for your introducer - one hand washes the other, what goes round comes round, etc. Never forget a favor.
8. Say Thank You. Write timely thank you’s for assistance, introductions, referrals, advice, etc. Not only does this make a favorable impression and show that you have good manners and are courteous, it makes someone else feel good to know they are appreciated and reminds them about your interaction.
9. Double-Team. Work the room with someone compatible that will enhance your presence. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to meet new people when the two of you approach an individual or group. You can start by introducing yourselves to the third person you don’t already know. The dynamics of two strangers approaching is less daunting for some people who are uncomfortable with one on one conversation.
10. Quality is more important than quantity. It is better to invest your time really sharing and talking to a few carefully chosen contacts than to have a zillion superficial interactions. Don’t break off a productive discussion to start another one leaving your first partner hanging without your contact info! Your goal is to be remembered for the right reasons and for someone to get involved enough to take action on your behalf. You need to be more than a name on a card or resume, be a resource they’ll keep on their radar for appropriate referrals and recommendations.
Happy Holidays! Happy Networking!
Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally recognized executive talent agent and job search expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, customized senior level executive campaigns that provide lifetime career insurance. Her gift for Networking Purposefully™ -- executed with high energy and savvy panache – banishes employment roadblocks, expands inside connections and leverages virtual relationships to accelerate targeted leads within the hidden job market. Learn more about her groundbreaking techniques that eliminate gatekeepers and put you back in control. Contact Debra now at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your professional ascent.