Use Holiday Parties to Network!

Many people view the holidays as a “slow” time for any business, except retail. A time when businesses prepare for year end, putting new projects on hold and instituting hiring freezes until after the holidays. But viewing this as a time to put away your business cards and shelve your resume could be a big mistake.

The holidays are a great excuse to network and because of the often relaxed and jovial atmosphere of a party, you can be poised to make a lasting impression in a much more personal way.

Even though businesses may not be buying or hiring at this time of year, the people that populate those businesses are primed and ready to make new connections – connections that could end up generating leads for you in the New Year.

Dress for the Part

Whether you’re going to friend’s house or a business gathering, make sure you’re dressed appropriately in clean, dressy and circumspect attire. Though this is after-hours, it’s still a first impression, so make it a great one. You don’t have to wear what you would to the office but you should definitely leave the club clothes in the closet. Most important of all – wear a smile, it’s everyone’s best accessory.

No Hard-Sell

Networking doesn’t mean marketing, selling or advertising. Networking is a friendly and informal way to let people get to know you and what you have to offer. If the boom of social media has shown us anything, it’s that people like to deal with someone they know and trust. So enjoy yourself, meet new people and when the topic invariably veers towards work – share what you do, whether you’re starting a new business or looking to branch out. If you make a connection or they’re interested enough to ask more about your venture, leave them with a business card. Just don’t palm your card to every person in the room – it’s tacky and won’t win you any new contacts.

Limit the Libations

It’s a party, invariably there will be drinks, but remember this is not happy hour with your best friends.  Keeping your wits about you while maintaining a fun but professional demeanor will serve you well when that next potential client or future supervisor asks why you’re a better fit for their job opportunities than the competition.

Listen

People enjoy sharing about themselves. You endear yourself to others by being a good and interested listener. Nervous about how to approach someone new? Ask questions about them. Excellent icebreakers are those that get people sharing stories like, “How do you know (the host)?”  Avoid questions that only leave room for yes or no answers.

Relax

This is not a job interview, go ahead and have fun. Laugh, dance and chat people up. Be yourself – just at your best. Go, not with the intention of landing a new job or client, but rather a new friend or connection. Be genuine and of course, helpful. If the host needs an extra hand carrying out a tray of snacks or if you have a tip for your new acquaintance – share it. Give generously, by helping them solve a problem or just sharing your experience with a similar situation. There is no better way to make a great first impression than by being kind and generous of spirit  (while networking) – especially during the holidays.

You never know what gifts those holiday parties could yield in the New Year.

Copyright 2010, Cecile Peterkin. All rights reserved.

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