You couldn’t ask for a better season than Christmas when you’re on a career hunt. All year long professionals are looking for networking events… luncheons, meetings, formal and informal get-togethers…
This time of year, however, the events are looking for you! Christmas parties, New Year parties, Solstice parties, parties just for the sake of parties — if you’re like me, you’re invited to a lot of them. If you’re looking for new employment, go to every one of them.
I can hear some of you slamming on the brakes right now. “Parties aren’t a place to bring your own agenda! They’re for getting away from business! Hanging out! Getting to know each other or just plain celebrating! Eating!”
All very true, but consider what the first thing people ask you at parties: “How are you?” “What are you up to these days?” “What do you do?” Here are some easy answers, “Doing great! Looking for new opportunities!” “There’s a lot going on, including, I hope, a career transition.” “I’m a and I’m currently looking for a new company to share my skills with. Know any?”
The point is, networking isn’t an add-on agenda, it’s a part of who you are; knowing and being known. Certainly you don’t want to harp on the subject through out the party, but you do want to make contacts. Career is a part of life and we are all interested in what our friends do and want to do. Remember that a big part of networking is listening. Ask people about themselves and be willing to burrow through the polite “this and that” answer. People want to talk about themselves and once they do, they’re open to hearing more about you. It’s called friendship. (In fact, I have a friend who refuses to call it networking. He prefers “relationship building.”
Have a stack of networking/business cards on hand and if you find someone who may have some information, hand over your card, ask for theirs, and say, “can we get together soon and discuss this further?” Then be sure to follow up a few days later. Ask if you can hook up on LinkedIn, see if they know others you might talk to. Don’t work the career angle exclusively, of course; building the relationship requires more than just business.
Most important, if parties bring out the “wild” in you, especially during a career hunt, tone it down. Wild partiers don’t impress potential business contacts. Instead, smile, stay engaged, and enjoy yourself… respectfully. 🙂
Managing Writer – Career Services International