As the holiday season approaches, so do the holiday parties. These events bring up mixed feelings for most of us. In a way, look forward to the parties, anticipating that they'll be at least a little bit fun, but there is also so much to do around this time of year, and extra social events can feel like a waste of time. But, holiday parties are actually rife with opportunity – not just to enjoy ourselves, but to do a little professional networking while we're at it.
Here are some tips for networking at holiday parties:
Never say no to a holiday party invitation, especially if you're looking for work right now. Instead, go to all of them, and bring your best self along with you. Talk to the hosts beforehand about who will be attending, and make a point to introduce yourself around once you've arrived. These parties can be great networking opportunities, but you have to be there in order to reap the potential rewards.
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2. Be comfortable and casual about it.
The idea of networking, much less the practice, can make a lot of people feel pretty uncomfortable. But, there are ways to network without the yuck. Holiday parties are a great excuse for doing just that. Networking is really all about building connections and bonds with other professionals. You don't even need to talk directly about work to be doing it! Relax and enjoy your holiday party, and strike up conversations with people you don't talk with often or folks you've never spoken with before. If you're comfortable and relaxed, they will be, too.
3. Find common ground that isn't work-related.
It seems counter-intuitive to network professionally without talking about work, but finding some things in common with others outside of the office is a great way to get the ball rolling. The most useful and beneficial members of our networks are often also our closest friends. So, focus on firming up some old friendships, or establishing new ones. These are the folks that are most likely to lead you to your next professional opportunity or help you out of a jam. Strike up conversations about topics of common interests or hobbies that aren't work-related. Plus, a lot of people don't really want to talk about work at a holiday party. They want to relax and have some fun. Join them.
4. Be mindful of body language.
When we're engaged in conversation with potential professional consequences, either good or bad, we are very careful with our words. But, we often neglect to be mindful of what our movements, our eye contact, etc., are communicating. Body language is really important when establishing trust, which is a great thing to focus on when attempting to network. Be aware of tone, eye contact, and also don't be afraid to smile. Communicate, through your body language, that you are open, friendly, and trustworthy. This can go a long way toward complementing your words and actions and helping others realize that they can trust you.
5. Follow up with more plans.
Holiday parties can be great networking opportunities, but why stop there? If you're enjoying conversation with someone at the party, follow up with them the next week and invite them to lunch. Or, consider sending an email to the organizer of the bash letting them know that you enjoyed yourself. Don't wait until next year to continue building these connections, keep that ball rolling and make some plans to get together with some of your new pals. Now you're really networking.