How To Capitalize On Holiday Networking

Office Christmas party
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With all of the socializing that happens during the holiday season -- the parties, the celebrations, the family gatherings -- there's a good chance you'll meet a few people you'll want to stay in touch with and maybe even one or two you think might prove useful in your job search in the new year.

But when should you follow up with these contacts? How do you reconnect without being a pest? Here are a few tips for making the most out of your new relationships.

1. Follow up sooner rather than later: While it's a good idea to wait until the busy holiday season has passed before reaching out to a new contact, it's also important not to wait too long.

"Follow up early in 2012. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be remembered," says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." "Be sure to remind your new friend how and where you two were introduced and how much you enjoyed the conversation. Offer a reminder, too, as to a shared interest or goal that was discussed."

2. Use the new year to break the ice: If you haven't seen or spoken with a new connection since your initial meeting, you may be unsure of how to start a follow-up conversation. Fortunately, a New Year's greeting card or email message is a great excuse to contact a new friend.

"Greetings for the new year are usually appropriate and cannot steer you wrong," says Angie Maizlish, president of First Impressions, a career and résumé service based in Utah.

Start by wishing the person a happy New Year and asking how the remainder of her holiday season was. From there, express how much you enjoyed meeting her and how you hope to get together to talk further.

3. Connect on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with professional contacts, because it allows you to get in front of your network without being too personal or requiring people to commit too much of their time or resources.

"Your new friends will now have a chance to see your updates -- and you theirs. In general, keeping tabs on someone is easy on LinkedIn and a very low-impact way to stay in touch," Maizlish says.

4. Don't be a pest: If you ask your contact for a phone call, face-to-face meeting or introduction to another person or company, give him ample time to respond before following up again.

"Let them know you'd like to stay in touch, and remind them of what you are seeking and how they may be of help to you," says Patti DeNucci, author of "The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals and Results in Business." "You can invite them to coffee or lunch -- your treat -- but don't assume that their schedule will allow it. Thank them and sign off. If you'd like to follow up again, wait a few weeks. At that time, offer any updates. Do not cross the line into being a pest. Remain upbeat, respectful and humble."

5. Share relevant information: One of the best ways to stay in touch with someone without overstepping your boundaries or becoming annoying is to share useful information and events.

"If you hear of a professional event or get invited to one that would be of interest to this individual, share the details. That's a great excuse to reconnect," Cohen says.

By becoming a valuable resource for your contacts, they will be more inclined to help you should you need their assistance in the future.

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