It’s that time of year. As your calendar fills up (and your shopping list, too), it is tempting to put the pause button on your networking efforts until the new year. You’ll get back out there when you’ve got that 2015 fire in your belly. Besides, isn’t everyone busy around the holidays?
You’re wise to recognize that you may need to adjust your networking strategies in December, but you certainly don’t need to forego them altogether. In fact, the high volume of events, the spirit of giving and general good cheer makes this a prime time to continue making new connections and to strengthen those you already have.
Say yes to what you can
You probably won’t be able to attend every event you are invited to this season, but I would encourage you to go to a couple. You should prioritize any event your organization is hosting as well as other professional affairs. But don’t overlook the possibility of making a great connection at a neighborhood gathering or a party thrown by other parents at your child’s school. This season provides a rare opportunity to grow your network in creative and unexpected directions through face-to-face interactions with people you might not have thought to look up online.
Prepare your pitch
Come ready with a concise response to the question you’ll be asked a hundred times by strangers and old friends alike: “What do you do?”, or it’s more casual but no less intimidating cousin, “What are you up to?” Whether you’re in a role you love, recently laid-off or in the middle of a job search, the attitude with which you answer is as important as the content of your response. Be honest, of course, but frame the situation in the light in which you would like others to view it.
Bring a wingman
If you can, bring a pal along to an event where you won’t know many of the attendees. It’s easier to rave about the awesome tech company your friend started than it is to try to gracefully brag about the success of your last campaign at work. Having a friend ensures you have an advocate, and the more you focus on making them look good, the more comfortable you will be.
Don’t miss your own office party
Don’t overlook the networking opportunities at your own organization’s holiday celebration. This might be a rare, low-pressure opportunity to rub elbows with more senior people or to socialize with colleagues from other departments. Try to steer clear of talking shop and demonstrate some curiosity about your coworkers’ lives by asking good questions and listening well. If nothing else, having a few more friends at work can make the office feel a lot more welcoming.
While parties and celebrations abound, this might not be the best time of year for one-on-one coffee dates or phone calls. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, but just be sure to give the other party an out. It is enough to simply say, “If it would be better for you to wait until the new year, I will get back in touch then.”
This season provides a natural moment for individuals, and companies alike to be a bit more inclusive and a lot more generous, as we celebrate the year and look forward to the next. You don’t want to miss it.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.