How not to be an unemployed 'downer' at spouse's holiday office party

holiday partySoon after the last turkey leg is eaten, planning Christmas parties will begin.

For the unemployed who no longer have a workplace holiday party to attend, the next best thing can be going to a Christmas party at their spouse's workplace. Or maybe their friend's workplace. Or a friend of a friend.
Not to drink and whoop it up, but to expand their job-hunting network.

And as I've said many times before, good networking can be as simple as having good manners.

So in your quest to expand your network in the hope of it leading to a job, let's start with the premise that if you're lucky enough to be invited to someone else's office party, don't necessarily turn it into a networking event. It's a party and meant to be enjoyed, and the hosts probably wouldn't appreciate a jobless interloper passing out business cards.

So keep it low-key and simply be talkative.

Here are some other office networking tips, many from

Party preparation
  • Find out who will be there and study up on them.
  • Arrive early, allowing conversation with as many people as possible to help ensure that you spread your name and feel comfortable.
  • Start conversations, don't wait for people to talk to you.
  • Prepare business cards with name, e-mail and telephone number and update your LinkedIn profile. While you want to be prepared in case someone asks for your card, don't hand it out to everyone you meet. That policy should hold whether it's an office party or formal networking event.
At the event
  • Initiate conversations, but don't dwell on the fact that you're unemployed, even if the other guests know about your situation. Be positive about what you're doing and your outlook for the future. No one wants to hear "sob stories" about unemployment at a holiday party. Again, that advice should hold true at other networking events.
  • Don't say you're unemployed. Say you're in career transition. I don't know if I agree with this advice. You want to be honest, so if asked admit you're unemployed. There's no shame in that. Just quickly add that you're looking for work and what your work experience is.
  • Know how to get out of conversations because time is limited and you're there for a purpose. Ask for a card and say it was a pleasure to meet them and hand them one of yours if they want it.
  • Roam the room. Make friends, smile, be polite and listen. Listening makes people feel more comfortable around you, so enter the conversation when an opportunity arises.
Follow up
  • Don't think of this one event as a chance to find a job on the spot or the next day. Networking takes weeks and months, so think of the long-term opportunities.
  • People hire people they know and trust. This is your first meeting with someone, so give them a chance to know you better by following up with e-mails, phone calls or talking in person.
  • Don't ask for an interview. If you have advice or thoughts on how to help the company, offer them.
  • Ask if they have time to talk informally over coffee sometime soon to discuss how your skills would benefit the company, or how you should go about finding people there who can help get you hired.
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