One of the best job-hunting strategies is to network with friends and casual acquaintances, and the holidays should be no different. In fact, holiday parties might be your best opportunity to network when individuals are typically more casual and you have the opportunity to cultivate relationships in a lighter setting.
Here are some strategies to maximize the holiday parties and turn them into a successful networking gig:
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
Be prepared to pitch yourself in 15 seconds or less. Resist the urge to give a 10-minute introduction about yourself. Boring!
Instead, highlight your career points and top skills. Be creative, and think about how you can frame your accomplishments in a way that gets other guests’ attention.
One exercise that might be useful is to consider your favorite company to help identify your own brand, and use that as a way to highlight your strengths. For example, maybe you enjoy Apple products because they are cutting edge, sleek and fast. These are all attributes you could mention during the course of a conversation.
Be an interviewer and ask questions — but don’t ask for a job. It’s a holiday party, so people are more relaxed, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed. So be casual, upbeat and friendly.
Some questions you could try out include, “What do you do for work?” or “What’s the best thing that has happened to your business this year?” or “What makes a good client for you?”
Dump the resume
Bring business cards to the event, but leave your resume at home. A business card goes into someone’s pocket and can be easily found, whereas a resume is usually filed away. Plus, a resume can feel pushy, but a business card is more of an invitation to continue the conversation.
A little research goes a long way
Research isn’t just for interviews! If you have an idea of who will be at the holiday party, research what they’re about ahead of time and make a point to talk with each of those people throughout the night. It not only provides you with some good talking points, it will help them remember you as someone who pays attention to detail.
Holiday parties are a great excuse to wear fun outfits, but don’t go overboard. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight and too short. Try to avoid going ultra-casual as it may be a reflection of someone who doesn’t care about their appearance. Keep your jeans and t-shirt for the weekends or bumming around at home.
Open the door
The end game is to open the door for follow up. The party may end, but your connections shouldn’t. After the party, spend a few minutes jotting down the people you met and a few key details about them, as well as an excuse to get back in touch. Create a course of action that will help you further connect with these important individuals.
Keep your alternatives in mind
If holiday networking parties aren’t your style, try volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Professional businessmen and women volunteer at non-profits, too! Not only will you help your community and feel good about what you’ve done, you could have the opportunity to network with someone who owns a business or knows about a job opening.
Jennifer DePaul is a tax reporter for The Bond Buyer in Washington, D.C. She hails from New Hampshire and loves to cook and travel. You can follow her on Twitter: @BondBuyerJen.