With the completion of Thanksgiving weekend, the holiday party season will kick into high gear. Time for wine and cheese gatherings at the neighbors, a dinner with your spouse’s office, or celebration events with an alumni club/nonprofit/professional group. These gatherings are great opportunities to reconnect with past contacts or develop new relationships…so how does one use the holiday party season if career advancement is at the top of the Christmas wish-list?
- Meet People: If you want to use the holiday party scene to help you build your network of contacts, get out of the apartment/house and go to the event. Once there, go up and introduce yourself to new people as opposed to hanging out with the same old crowd. Hint: If possible, try to find out who are some of the expected attendees and conduct some research/prep before the gathering to increase your chances of making an insightful contributions to conversations.
- Listen: We have two ears and one mouth…this means we should listen twice as much as we speak. When at a gathering, get the other person talking by asking questions and listening to what he/she has to say. With your research/prep completed and listening to what the person has to say, you increase your chances of positively adding to the conversation…and thus making a good impression. Don’t be the person who dominates the conversation by talking about himself for 90% of the time as it sends a bad message.
- Timing: Have you ever been involved in a conversation where the other person would not let the topic come to a close? You really want to move to another spot in the room but the individual will not let you leave. When talking business during a party, be mindful of time – if you feel that you have spending too much time on work related topics or the conversation is getting to a point where it is no longer appropriate for such a public setting, ask, “I don’t want to take your time from the party, would I be able to set up a meeting with you in the coming weeks to continue our discussion?”
- Boundaries: Remember, it is a party – no one wants to talk shop all evening. Also, the content of the discussions should be appropriate for the public nature of a party setting. Going into personal issues such as salary, why you were laid off from your last job, etc. are not appropriate for a public venue. Be sure your questions are appropriate and would not put someone in an uncomfortable position. You can make a good impression without having to talk business – listen to the other person for clues about their interests and find common ground to build upon.
- Assist: One of the best ways to receive help is to offer your assistance first. By focusing on how you can help someone else (need the name of a good plumber? good daycare for their kids?) you begin a relationship on a good first step. This elevates the impression you create with the contact and increases the willingness of the individual to reciprocate in the future.
- Follow-Up: Send a note within 1-2 business days of the party to follow-up with the contact. Stating you enjoyed the conversation, wishing the person well for the holiday season, arrange the meeting you asked for, etc. are all good reasons to send a follow-up note to the individual. Also, if you don’t the person is sure to forget you by the next party he/she attends!
When using holiday parties for career networking, always be sure to put yourself in the other person’s place. Would you want someone to corner you for 2 hours, talking your ear off about what is going wrong at your company and asking you about your compensation package? Remember the focus of the event is to celebrate the holidays, be sure to keep that in mind and use these helpful hints when talking shop at the next party.