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

Current Strengths and Future Potential

When you really stop and notice, you can discover things about yourself that you would have otherwise missed. Consider the strengths you become aware of and tune in to. These are the key to activating your potential.

But what, exactly, is potential?

I believe your potential is what you are capable of doing, being or contributing. Perhaps ironically, most of us have never been introduced to our potential for a number of reasons. It could be because of overly supportive parents who created an easy road and life for us. It could be a micromanaging boss who told you what to do and how to do it. It could be a school system that moved you only as far as the middle of the pack because it is easier to provide the same education to everyone delivered in the same way.

In each of these situations, we were not introduced to or able to develop our strengths, to see what we came equipped with and are made of. We can’t see this until we have a chance to use it.

This is your wake-up call, to seek and act on your true potential. After all, we can’t change and improve things if we first can’t see what is happening. So many of us don’t know how capable we are because we haven’t developed our self-awareness and self-belief. The result is that we have learned we can just get by instead of making a profound difference.

Though it is certainly easier to blame our environments, the process of developing into our greatest selves is our personal work to do. It’s not the responsibility of your parents, boss or the school system. It is up to each of us to spend time knowing ourselves so we can discover what unique abilities we were born with, then constantly work to discover how to bring those abilities to our lives and our world. This is the process of potential.

No one was born with an owner’s manual that summarizes our abilities. We learn them as we live and as we make time to discover them. Once discovered, it’s up to you to develop your abilities to create your strengths. Then, with this knowledge, you have the ability to bring these strengths into your day in a managed and intentional way. This is how you achieve your potential.

Take Action
Information is key to understanding yourself. If you are not aware of your strengths, consider taking an online assessment, work with a coach or carve out some quiet time to reflect on these questions:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • How can I use this to reach my potential?

Use your strengths – they are your key to being remarkable.   

Know your best, bring your best, do great things. This is how to build a great life and a great world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Do Average, Make it an Experience

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Believe in Heroes

One of the self-discovery activities I use to help people develop their self-awareness includes this question: “When you were younger, who was your hero?”

When I’ve asked this question over the years, I have heard that certain teachers were heroes for their ability to help someone who never felt heard or valuable feel both heard and valuable.

I have heard that a parent can be a hero because of the way they live their life – always responding to and caring for others; being creative and authentic no matter what; believing deeply in the greatness in their kids; having a unrelenting faith or actually allowing others to determine their own beliefs.

I have heard that a boss or a colleague can be a hero for the way they create or support a workplace that is fair, focused on achievement and inclusive, and never gossips, demeans or belittles anyone.

I have heard that a friend can be a hero because of the way they stay with you through your ups and downs, without any judgment.

The purpose of this question is to help you identify the attributes you see in others that are important to you. We need heroes in our lives because they give us three important things:

  1. Heroes teach us. They do what they do so well that we take note. Maybe we see who we want to be, or how we want to connect with others, or how we want to live, or how to develop and live deep beliefs. Their commitment to who they are expands what we think about, see and consider. Heroes help us learn.
  2. Heroes help us define our values. As we watch and are impressed by others, we start to identify why we are impressed; we start to identify the things that are important to us. It may be that they treat people kindly and fairly; we see these are our values. It may be that they are resilient and tenacious; we see this and we want to be this. It may be that they are excellent negotiators and always seem to find a way to achieve their goals; it identifies that achievement is important to us. By watching others, we frequently get clear of our own values.
  3. Heroes encourage us to be our best selves. Heroes bring their A-game. The show up. They step up. They stand out. The don’t play small. They sit on the sidelines. We see their effort and focus and are encouraged and inspired to tap into ours. We see the impact they have and connect it to the effort they bring.

The thing I have found most amazing about heroes is that they never intend to be heroes. They are humble. They are authentic. They just do what they do because they believe it to be true for them.

My dad was one of my heroes. He defined his values in life and lived them boldly, openly and lovingly. He brought his best to others. He did it not to impress, but to make the world a better place. This was particularly difficult to do raising six kids.

Take Action
Watch for heroes. Believe in heroes. Believe that we can each live consciously, intentionally and boldly what really matters to us, to make things better for all of us.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Imagine Game

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