As a career coach for more than 20 years I hear the same thing every year at this time. “No use doing any job search now, the holidays are a waste of time.” This is a common misperception – actually the holidays are an excellent time to network and position yourself for landing a position for Christmas!
Many hiring managers are in a crunch, approved positions have gone unfilled and need to be acted upon before year end. Creating an excellent opportunity for the savvy job seeker that is active in the market. Being at the right place at the right time is critical!
For those who are networking-challenged the holidays provide an excellent low-key opportunity to make an impression on key decision makers. For those not in the crunch, many times December is a time of wrapping up this year and planning next year. With holidays, planned vacation, and holiday festivities December can be much less stressful. They are much more likely to answer the phone, read and answer email or make time to meet.
Holiday events are a target rich environment that lends itself to forming new relationships and renewing old ones. The holiday season offers so many occasions to make small talk about easy-to-open subjects like family, travel, shopping, parties, the weather, etc.
People typically find lots to share on familiar topics which can be used to break awkward silences or warm up an exchange. Each minute you extend and deepen your conversation brings you closer to identifying a possible or planned restructuring, new initiative, acquisition or divesture, retirement – the leading indicators of fresh, unadvertised opportunities.
Most professional organizations have holiday events, companies have open house type activities, or your contacts have holiday get togethers. Take plenty of business cards and use the following eight tips to maximize your holiday interactions.
- Do your homework and be selective. Try to find out in advance who is going to be there, identify one or two individuals you want to meet, clarify your message and be ready when the time is right.
- Have a clear objective. What do you want to accomplish when you finally get in front of the target contact? Do you want their card, email address, phone number or better yet permission to contact them afterwards? What are you going to say? You will be more likely to present a favorable first impression if you plan ahead of time.
- An event is an invaluable, rare, face-to-face encounter in the age of emails, telephones, and faxes. This means creating warm, interpersonal chemistry, mutual trust, and credibility.
- Your first impression COUNTS. Keep those breath mints, smile buttons, and business cards handy!! Leave the casual at home and dress up for the occasion to mingle with movers and shakers in your industry.
- Remember the golden rule: it’s better if you can do something helpful for your introducing contact – one hand washes the other, what goes round comes round, etc. Never forget a favor.
- Write timely thank you’s for assistance, introductions, referrals, advice, etc. Not only does this display your sense of courtesy but it makes your contacts feel appreciated. Gratitude is rarely, if ever, assumed.
- Where possible, find a partner to work the room. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to meet new people when you approach an individual or group in tandem. The dynamic of two strangers introducing themselves is astonishingly smoother than when a single new person attempts to break into a throng or get involved in a discussion.
- Quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to invest your time really sharing with a few carefully chosen contacts than to take away a boatload of superficial interactions. Don’t break off a productive discussion to start another one just for another notch in your belt!
Your goal is to be remembered for the right reasons, for someone to get involved enough to take action on your behalf. You need to be more than a name on a card or resume: become a resource they’ll keep on their radar for appropriate referrals and recommendations.
Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice
Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.