Taking Advantage of Holiday Networking Events to Advance (or Change) Your Career

Your job plays a big role in your life. It’s the way you earn money to afford to live the life you want. It has the potential to create great experiences with colleagues and in the work you do. But it also has the potential to weigh on you, whether it’s working with a challenging boss or client, or realizing the job you do is not aligned to things you really care about.

As we approach the end of the year, you will likely have the opportunity to attend many holiday events that can be great places to network. So, whether you are attending your organization’s event or events supported by your industry, friends or family, it can provide you the opportunity for you to share your abilities, interests and goals with others. Remember that the people you meet professionally and socially at these events have the potential to connect you to new opportunities, expand your thinking about new options or directions, or provide you with contacts who may be searching for someone just like you.

With the expanded contact you will have at this time of the year, both in and out of your organization, consider these tips to get the most out of your networking efforts.

  1. Ask more than tell. Asking questions engages and involves people in a conversation, especially when those questions are genuine questions about getting to know others. Though networking events are designed to be focused on jobs and roles within an industry, attendees still have lives outside of work. Ask about their family or pets. Ask about what they like to do outside of work. Ask about any recent trips they’ve taken (for work or personal). Sometimes, these questions can inspire greater conversations that otherwise may not have happened.
  2. Be an active listener. Networking events are often touted as intimate events giving attendees the chance to meet others in the industry and connect with their peers. But networking events are considered parties for a reason. There are frequently lots of people and the combination of loud voices and loud music make it challenging to hear – let alone have – a conversation. So train yourself to be an active listener. Listen for key pieces of information when you connect with someone, including their name, where they work and what they like to do for fun. This not only helps you connect with people at a more human level, but it also opens the door for greater conversation opportunities when there is a potential to connect through mutual interests outside of work. And always remember to get their business card before you leave. Not only will this help you find them on any relevant social channels later, but it also gives you a cheat-sheet of sorts where you can write down any interesting conversational tidbits you gathered during your time with them.
  3. Know who you are.  If you were to tell someone your top three strengths – without any advanced preparation – would you know what to say? Could you deliver those three strengths with great confidence and without stumbling? What are you passionate about? What goals have you created for yourself for the new year? Many people move through life on autopilot, doing the work assigned without much thought as to the impact it has in the long run, both for the organization and for each unique person. Take some time before any networking event to revisit your list of abilities, interests and goals. You may only have a brief moment to share this information with someone else. Be sure you know how to deliver it in a concise and memorable way.

If your company, industry, friends or family host a holiday networking event, take advantage of it! You’ll never know who you’ll connect – or reconnect – with and what opportunities may present themselves as a result. To make the most out of your time there, be prepared to share who you are and what is important to you, but more importantly, be prepared to actively listen to whatever information is being shared with you. Listen for new ideas and opportunities. Listen for what great people are doing and contributing. Listen for what is new and exciting. Expand what you think about, consider and who you spend time with. Your world will increase and with it your opportunities and the ability to show up as your best self.

This article first appeared on The Ladders on November 20, 2019: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-holiday-networking-can-boost-your-career.

By Jay Forte

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