Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Post: A New Twist on the Holiday Parties

How to Make the Most of the Holiday Season for Networking

The holidays are a great time to enjoy festivities with friends and family. However, they can also be a great time to build business contacts. While everyone else is chugging back the eggnog and planning a rendezvous under the mistletoe, you can be networking and laying the groundwork for your next job or your next big deal.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips for how you can make the most of the holiday season for networking:

Fill Your Dance Card
Everyone is in the mood for a party during the holidays. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet as many new people as you can and accept all the invitations that you are given. Even if the invite comes from your annoying neighbor who's been unemployed for months, you never know if one of the guests will include an uncle who works at one of the biggest companies in town or an old high school friend who just so happens to be the hiring manager of a company you've been trying to work at for years.

Host Your Own Party
Even though you already know all the people you'd be inviting to a party, you never know who those people may bring along. Host a large party, and invite as many people in your contact list as you can afford to host. Then encourage those people to invite friends. You can also invite clients and former clients, some of whom may become repeat customers or who could help lead you to new opportunities.

Mix Business and Pleasure
When you network at parties, you have to know when to talk business and when to just have a good time. No one wants to be cornered at the cheese table to talk about that investing opportunity you think is going to be gold. Make sure you strike the right balance between having a good time and making social conversation and talking about business plans and opportunities. Remember: If the time isn't right now, you can always plant the seed for follow up later.

Send Cards and Small Gifts
Even if you can't meet your contacts in person through parties and other holiday events, you can still connect by sending out cards and small gifts. By doing so, you are supporting your ongoing relationship and smoothing the way for future networking opportunities -- like when you hear about a job opening at that person's company in a few month's time. Be sure to include a personalized note with your card or gift.

Follow Up
Once the parties have ended and the cards have all been trashed, make sure to follow up on the work you have done to strengthen those connections. Send an e-mail after a few weeks, or make a personal phone call. Ask to meet for coffee or lunch to talk about your ideas or to explore opportunities together. Networking is about building and fostering relationships, so you should follow up regularly to maintain the connection.

The holidays are a great time to network because everyone is in a festive mood and is ready to rub elbows with new people. Take advantage of this time to reach out to new contacts and to reconnect with old ones. You never know what new opportunities you may discover!
How do you network at the holidays? Share your tips for success in the comments!

Sarah Clare is a writer and oversees the site, where she has recently been researching project scheduling software. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking and scrap-booking.

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