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Making the Most of Holiday Networking

Making the Most of Holiday Networking

Seasonal festivities offer excellent opportunities to hobnob in laid-back settings

The holiday season is an excellent time of year for job hunters. Spreading holiday cheer and New Year's greetings over the phone, via e-mail or with a card is a great excuse to reconnect with people you don't regularly see or with whom you correspond infrequently. And all the seasonal festivities - whether they be gatherings at your local church or synagogue, cocktail parties at neighbours' houses or concerts at your kids' schools - present ample opportunities to network in relaxed, convivial settings. It's so much easier to make small talk about things like family, holiday plans, shopping and gifts at this time of year, and those universal topics help break awkward silences and warm up conversations that you can eventually direct toward your networking needs. What's more, holiday time is an ideal chance for job hunters, especially those who find setting up networking meetings difficult, to make a connection with someone they want to get to know by offering them a ride to a party, providing directions or giving them an admission ticket to an event.

Savvy job seekers don't dread these social events; they embrace them, and you should too. If you feel that your recent job-seeking efforts haven't been getting you anywhere, taking advantage of all the networking opportunities that the season offers is certain to improve your odds. These positive networking experiences can help you unearth unadvertised positions or leads on companies going through new challenges that could use your help. In fact, many hiring managers are more receptive to job seekers' offers of pro bono or contract work (as a way to get their feet in the door) at this time of year because the managers are scrambling to meet deadlines right when they and their staffs want to take time off.

Here are some tips on making the most of the holiday season's ample networking opportunities:

1. Be selective about which events you attend. If you have multiple invitations for the same date or just don't want to spread yourself too thin, decide which events are worth your time based on the networking potential that each provides and/or the amount of fun you think you'll have.

2. Do your homework. Before the event you're planning to attend, find out who is expected to be there. Politely ask the person organizing the event if they might tell you whom they invited. Then identify the individuals you want to meet. Learn about these people and the companies they work for so you can have an intelligent discussion with them and thus make a positive impression.

3. Plan ahead. Consider what you might say to break the ice and keep conversations flowing. People are going to ask you what you do for work, so know how to answer that question: Come up with a succinct explanation or anecdote that illustrates what you do and distinguishes you from the rest of the pack. Also think about what you might offer the people you meet in terms of advice, an introduction or a referral. Planning ahead will help you make the most of the event and increase your confidence going into it.

4. Know what you want to accomplish. When you finally get in front of your target contacts, what do you want to get out of the interactions? Do you want their business card, or a referral or permission to contact them afterward to discuss your mutual interests?

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