Your head tells you, “No one is hiring.” I am here to tell you that it is not true. This is actually the time we get to have fun with this process! The holidays present many leads to pursue and an abundance of opportunities to expand your network. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, here are practices you can do to make job searching and holiday networking easier for you during this season:
(1) Networking is not only about attending events—use the phone. Each day call one friend and one former co-worker to whom you have not spoken to in a while and see how they are doing. Then let the conversation gravitate to what you are up to…naturally.
(2) Gravitate towards the positive people. Stay clear of the ‘bah-humbug’ crowd. It is imperative to stay positive during the holidays. I am all for helping people with a pick-me-up. But if you feel someone is just a Debbie Downer who is going to bring you down with him/her, then find someone else to chat with, learn about and help. This is networking not therapy. Help someone who wants your help.
(3) When attending events, enter the event thinking, “Who can I help?” versus having the “Ugh, I don’t know anyone!” or “What are they going to think of me?” mindset. You will appear more genuine and less stressed if you want to offer assistance than if you are feeling you have to fit in with the crowd.
(4) Do your homework before choosing to attend events. Does it make sense for you to attend the event? If two events present themselves, pick one and do it well. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Research who will be attending to evaluate how it can fulfill your personal or professional goals. Make sure attending serves a purpose for you—even if it is just to have fun.
(5) Not sure what to say or ask? Read The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine. Choose 4-5 questions out of this book to help you get a conversation started. Or use it to create some of your own standbys. This will help reduce the awkward silences that can arise. Some of my favs that get things rolling: a. How are you connected to this group? What brings you to the event? b. What kind of day did you have today? c. What do you enjoy most about what you do? What do you find most challenging? d. Plans for the weekend?
(6) Find a buddy to attend the event with you. But do not spend the event chatting with each other. You can do that anytime. Plan to facilitate introductions for each other as you meet people throughout the event.
(7) Get there early whenever possible—it is easier to start conversations with the early crowd. It can be a challenge to enter conversations already started if you are late.
(8) Have an eloquent, concise way to describe where you are in life and what you are looking to do in the next phase of your career. Be prepared to explain that you are looking for a new position and the kind of job you seek, when it is appropriate to share.
(9) Be curious. Ask questions and learn about problems/opportunities within your contact’s industry to make mental notes of items to research and explore after the event. This could lead to your next job.
(10) Don’t ask about job openings at their company. Instead, ask questions to gain information about the person you are talking to and learn about their company, interests, and passions.
(11) Networking events are about the people—not the food. Can’t believe I said that! Seriously, though, do not spend time with the canapés, no matter how fabulous they may be. You are there to expand your network and increase your opportunities—focus people!
(12) Give 100% of your attention to the person to whom you are speaking—don’t let your eyes wander. People can sense if you are looking for someone more interesting to talk to—so even if that is happening to you, you must be polite to your immediate audience. Excuse yourself gracefully, if need be. Always treat everyone with respect and attention.
(13) Follow up after the event. If you enjoyed meeting someone, email them saying so. Call them asking to meet for coffee over the next few weeks. This is how relationships start.
(14) Do not stress yourself out—Keep your purpose for these events in perspective. You are there to meet people and make connections. You will not find a job at the event, so relax. You would not ask someone to marry you on the first date nor would you want to be asked. Well, networking opportunities are not even the first date! So set realistic, attainable goals in performing networking activities and you will feel less pressure throughout the season.
These tips should help make this holiday season the one that brings you the job you are looking for. Have fun. Do it right. And above all else, present the best you so potential employers can see exactly why you are perfect for them.