Holiday Networking

December 04, 2013

 

Using the holiday season to reconnect

Last week, way before many Thanksgiving dinners landed on dining room tables, retailers threw open their doors in the great hopes they could lure in each and every customer carrying a few extra bucks. They did so with good reason. Thanksgiving arrived unusually late this year, leaving retailers with a shortened gift-buying season.

Shops around the world are not the only ones taking note of this year’s brief holiday season. Already, it’s December 4th. With Christmas Day arriving in exactly three weeks, every student and new professional has only 16 or 17 remaining days to make the most of this year’s holiday season.

Following are some holiday strategies students and new professionals can employ to build their professional networks.

 

Student holiday count down

As I type, every successful law school and business school student is hunkered down in preparation for final exams. Don’t let those tests consume you. Beyond exams, focus on a series of other strategies that can help you build your professional network and launch your career.

At a minimum, I recommend you commit to accomplishing the following five activities during the next few weeks:

1. Between final exam preparation, invest time sending holiday wishes to every professional and prospective employer you encountered during the previous 12 months. For more casual acquaintances, emailing those wishes can be perfectly appropriate. In the case of a prospective employer, past employer, or alumni of the school, consider sending a holiday card with a brief personal note. Just writing one or two lines will help you become memorable, and being remembered in a positive light is exactly what every student should want.

2. During the winter break, you may return to a city where you worked as a summer associate or intern just a few months ago. Use the upcoming holiday break to reconnect face to face with contacts you established in that city, especially contacts with potential employers. On more than one occasion, a quick coffee or lunch has revealed a previously unknown job opportunity.

3. In addition to meeting with prospective employers, use the winter break to build your professional networks. The holiday season can be the perfect time to reconnect with peers who have gone off in other directions. If you’re a law student, search out college classmates who have headed to business school. If you’re a business school student, find someone you know who landed in law school. Eventually and inevitably business people will need lawyers and vice versa. Use this holiday season to start creating those relationships.

4. In my experience, many organizations experience their quietest time of year between Christmas and New Years. That means key decision-makers, who have chosen not to take a vacation, have more time than usual to meet with students who have expressed an interest in a particular company or industry. Take a risk this holiday season. Reach out to every prospective employer with whom you have an interest and don’t stop until you’ve scheduled at least one meeting during the holiday break.

5. Spend some focused time during the winter break setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited) goals for the upcoming year. Begin by asking a series of questions, including: Who do you need to know? Who can help you make a connection with a potential key employer? How should you best reach out to that person or persons? When? And what specifically should you say to that individual or ask of them? Remember, you never accomplish a goal that you don’t set.

 

New professional holiday count down

If you’ve just entered the workforce you’re about to participate in your first season of holiday parties. Each and every one of these events offers you lots of opportunities and some concomitant risks.

At a minimum, you should commit to accomplishing the following five activities in the weeks ahead:

1. Attend every holiday party to which you are invited. Each of these events serves as an important opportunity for you to connect with coworkers and clients. As soon as an invitation arrives, RSVP indicating you will attend. (From that point on, only an absolute emergency excuses your absence.) If several events are scheduled on a single night, make an appearance at as many events as possible.

2. Keep communications festive. Holiday parties are intended to be happy, social gatherings. They are not the time to press for a raise or a promotion or to close a deal. Be prepared to congratulate others on the special successes they achieved during the previous year. If you have no idea what else to say, ask others about their holiday plans.

3. Successful new professionals use holiday office parties to build their networks. That means you should introduce yourself to lots of people and shake hands. To keep your hands neat and clean, before attending a holiday party, eat a small snack. That should keep you from rushing the buffet table. Then, as soon as you arrive, request a beverage and hold it in your left hand, a stance that helps you look comfortable and approachable. If you’re starving and need a nibble, by all means choose something from the buffet that you can eat neatly. But please, never make the mistake of obtaining both food and beverage at the same time.

4. Send holiday greetings (paper or electronic) to every key contact you’ve made during the previous year. It’s a great way to get your name in front of another person and further that relationship. To the extent you take time to add a personal note (one or two sentences will suffice) you become more memorable. Creating a professional network is all about building relationships, so use these holiday greetings to reconnect.

5. Before you even think about giving a holiday gift to someone at work, check with HR to ensure you know and understand the organization’s gift-giving policies. If your organization has banned gift giving at work, by all means adhere to the rule. Otherwise, feel free to give small tokens of your appreciation to the people at work who have helped you accomplish your job. And remember, as a general rule of business etiquette, you are never expected to gift a supervisor or a boss.

 

In the words of one Christmas jingle, the holiday season truly can be “the most wonderful time of the year.” The smartest students and new professionals will make it doubly so by using the next few weeks to advance their careers.

 

What You Need to Know

Use the holiday season to reconnect with people who are or should be in your professional network. At a minimum, send holiday greetings (electronic or paper) to every professional contact you have made, and when possible, reconnect face-to-face at holiday parties.
 


 




 



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