While corporate productivity tends to slip during the holiday season, networking opportunities abound through the extra parties and events during this time of the year. Whether you are home from college and looking for an internship or full-time job, or considering a career change, networking in November and December is a great way to set yourself up for big opportunities in January. And as we approach a new year, what better way to get a head start resetting and refocusing your career than by expanding your network?
Be prepared. You never know when you might meet someone in your industry of choice or at your dream company. Always carry a handful of business cards so you can share your contact information easily. For example, my husband and I met the CEO of his company’s main competitor at a post-Thanksgiving party a few years ago - what better way to meet someone from your industry than through a mutual friend at a party? Also, make sure to have an updated resume ready to email out anytime; you never know when you might get a request for your resume, and you don't want to wait more than 24 hours to follow up on the request. Which takes us to number two...
Follow up - within 24 hours. A quick follow up not only shows that you are excited about the connection, but it also increases the odds that the other person will remember you. It’s easy to be forgotten during the busiest time of the year, and the longer you wait, the easier you are to forget. On the other hand, a fast and thoughtful follow up sharing how much you appreciated meeting the other person will go a long way toward building a real connection.
Strategize. Just because you are going home for the holidays doesn’t mean your job search has to go on vacation, because your network at home is probably bigger than you realize. Think about the careers and networks of your family, family friends, and neighbors for a minute. Until I started looking for a job, I never realized the people and companies that were represented in my network or thought about how I could use these relationships to gain an introduction or information on a company. Along with your immediate family, websites like LinkedIn make researching your home network simple and fast.
Practice your pitch. There are a plethora of opportunities to meet people during the holiday season, which means there are just as many opportunities to introduce yourself. Prepare and practice your “elevator pitch”; a 30 second summary of you, your current situation (student, employed in such-and-such field, etc) and your career interests. Do not let a prime introduction opportunity go to waste because you aren’t prepared!