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12 Holiday Networking Tips for Job Seekers

November 2017- by Phyllis Mufson, Career Coach, Catalyst for Personal & Professional Growth

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The holiday season, with its plethora of parties and social gatherings, is a great time to make and renew connections with friends, family, and colleagues. And if you’re in the middle of searching for a new job or career opportunities, it’s also a great time for quality networking!

What is networking?
Networking is developing mutually beneficial relationships to use for information, advice, support, and establishing further connections. If you approach networking with an attitude of giving - offering resources and help to others - you’ll find that your professional relationships will help you achieve your goals as well.

Networking is an essential skill for job seekers. Estimates vary by industry, but the vast majority of jobs are found through networking. An active network will multiply your chances of finding a position by acting as additional eyes and ears, updating you on many more openings than you would hear about on your own. Your network can also help you navigate the ‘six degrees of separation’ and connect you with others who may have or know of job opportunities. Think of your network as your professional safety net.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of holiday networking, and feel confident while doing so:

  1. Fire off those applications. Many people take a break from searching during the holidays, thinking that the period after Thanksgiving is a slow time for hiring. Not true! Hiring in December is almost as strong as January, the highest point of the year. Companies need to fill open positions both to spend down their budgets and also to have the right staff secured for the new year.

  2. Be at the front of the line of applicants. December is also when many of the January hiring decisions begin, so keep up the momentum of your search to get ahead of the competition. You’ll already be in the pipeline for January decisions while other candidates are just getting started.

  3. Make personal business cards. When you’re unemployed or conducting a ‘stealth’ search (looking while you have a job) you’ll need personal business cards for networking. Include your desired job title or a brief summary of the qualifications you seek to use in your new position, e-mail address, phone number, LinkedIn URL, and other important websites such as your online portfolio. If you’re short on cash to use a professional printer, you can make cards on your computer using a package of inexpensive snap-off cards from office supply stores.

  4. Arm yourself with responses to career inquiries. Prepare for holiday parties and family gatherings with “Teflon” answers to embarrassing questions about your career situation. Teflon answers make tactless questions slide right off you while satisfying the person who asked. For example, “You haven’t landed a new job yet. How awful. How do you feel?” “I’m interested in the opportunities I’m finding, but I haven’t found the right fit yet. Thanks for your concern.” Think ahead and prepare Teflon answers to avoid awkward and uncomfortable moments.

  5. Redirect unhelpful advice from family and friends.Handle well-meaning but misguided advice from family and friends by thanking them and then redirecting their interest to what would really help you. Tell them about the kind of job you want and ask for introductions to people at target companies, to recruiters, to people who will be willing to share their expertise about a role or industry through informational interviews, or to any information or connections that will advance your search.

  6. Search for possible networking gatherings. Begin looking for opportunities for holiday professional networking now. Check professional associations in your field, your college alumni association, and relevant MeetUp groups. Ask friends and colleagues for suggestions. Perhaps you can wrangle invitations to holiday parties at corporations on your target list. Add these essential events to your calendar. Feeling shy? Invite a friend to come with you.

  7. Write your elevator speech. Prepare for professional parties by writing a brief introduction: who you are, what you do and what makes you stand out, or what problems you solve. Focus your introduction on the needs of the guests of the particular event you’ll be attending. Rehearse your introduction until you feel comfortable. For ease, wear something with pockets and carry your cards in the right pocket for easy access, plus a pen. (Use the pen to write reminders after each conversation about the person and how you’ll follow up – or enter the information directly into your phone).

  8. Be considerate of others’ time.In your eagerness to make professional connections, don’t forget that holiday parties are social events. Turn your attention to connecting personally and genuinely. Focus on asking questions and listening. After you build rapport, you can ask to meet for a networking meeting, for a referral, or for other future links. Remember that others are there to see their friends and have fun, so don’t monopolize their time with your needs.

  9. Check in with recruiters. The holidays, particularly the last two weeks of December, are also a great time to reach out directly to recruiters, hiring managers, and other key people. Offices are quieter, there are fewer meetings, and jobs slow down. Many people are on vacation which makes it easier to reach the people you want to reach on the phone. Take advantage of this lull to book one-on-one meetings at a more relaxed pace.

  10. Schedule one-on-one meetings. One-on-one meetings are a natural next step to deepen connections with people you’ve met at holiday parties. Here’s where you’re expected to be explicit about: the purpose of the meeting and the kind of help you are seeking, whether it be an informational interview to help you clarify your direction or a meeting for job search networking. In either case, focus on three main goals: connecting and learning about each other, sharing information, and gathering referrals to other potentially useful people. Ask open-ended questions to draw the other person out. Send thank you notes after each meeting and, if you’ve been given referrals, let them know how those meetings go as well.

  11. Reciprocate with generosity. When you’re in transition it can be easy to feel like you don’t have a lot to give to the people who are so generously helping you. Money may be tight but you can reciprocate thoughtfully. The people who are being helpful to you in your career and job search can benefit from your connections. Who can you introduce to their mutual advantage? Can you find an article or useful information to advance their careers? Do a little research and send them the results. They’ll be grateful. Also, consider expanding your holiday card list to acknowledge everyone who has helped you this year. Include a brief note of thanks.

  12. Consider volunteering. The holidays present many opportunities to volunteer where you can make a difference and meet like-minded people. You can find volunteer opportunities near you through Create the Good, Charity Navigator, the United Way, or contact your favorite local charity. Volunteering not only makes you feel good, it can also lead to meeting new people who may be appropriate career mentors or able to help you in your search. Don’t miss out on opportunities to expand your network in thoughtful, generous ways!

Throughout all of your holiday activities; planning and preparing, parties and meetings, follow up notes and cards, and volunteering, focus on being a ‘go-giver,’ by concentrating on the needs of the other person first. Not only will you reach your career goals, but you’ll feel happier and more confident along the way.

Happy Holidays!

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