When it comes to holiday networking, think about the bigger picture, despite what you may think, this is a great time for professional networking.
The holiday season is upon us and although parties have been scaled back there are still some brave souls generous enough to host Christmas or New Year Celebrations. If the idea of that makes you want to creep under a blanket with a hot chocolate and a Netflix movie read on.
This is a great time for professional networking despite what you may think. Even introverts can safely venture off their sofas to a couple of events and have a worthwhile experience. Passing on all holiday events isn’t going to help with your job search or your career.
I am often told there’s no point going because you can’t pitch at a party. You are correct. You certainly can’t do a hard professional elevator pitch unless you want people scurrying for the canapés.
However, what you can do is build relationships and set the scene and even get an opportunity to do a soft pitch by creating a dialogue and weaving your key points into any conversation. The secret is to think big picture.
Some mental barriers
#1 Calm down
If stepping into a room with not a familiar face in sight brings you out in a cold sweat, the first step is to head for the bar or coffee station, or maybe a server will come to you. Take your beverage of choice and BREATHE. Take 6 seconds. BREATHE again.
I would go to the buffet later. Juggling plates, eating, and talking with people you don’t know is an underrated hard skill, requiring high levels of manual dexterity.
Notice yourself calming down.
#2. Reframe the situation
Remind yourself of this fact to reframe your thinking. Research from 3Plus International says:
- Only about 20% of people really enjoy networking.
- 60% think it’s a necessary evil
- 20% would rather be sticking pins into their eyes than be there,
The point of this is despite what you think most people feel like you.
#3. Find your tribe
This could be a person on their own or a small group. A simple “Happy Christmas,” “Cheers” or other seasonal greetings should be enough.
Introduce yourself. Just your name or a short fun tagline. Absolutely not the full pitch.
Research shows that people still prefer to shake hands post-COVID, but with the recent resurgence in cases, you may want to check. This can also be a good conversation starter to talk about their experiences in the pandemic and how they coped.
Make the most of holiday cards for networking – 3 Plus International
The best way is to keep things general and neutral depending on whether it’s a professional function or a private party. Topics around what they are doing for the holidays, if they are travelling and where are good opening lines. Create an exchange. If they don’t celebrate find out if they do anything instead. In the U.S. there is a tradition of Jewish people going to Chinese restaurants. Maybe they volunteer to work. This is a good segue into where.
At a private party simply ask “How do you know…x?” At a professional function ask “What is your connection to…x?” Except obviously if you work for the same company! Common sense has to prevail.
Comments about road/transport and weather conditions are all effective if uninspiring icebreaker topics.
#4 Reposition tired questions
Don’t ask someone the tired “what do you do?” or “who are you with? ” or “who do you work for?” This implies a full-time job in times of economic uncertainty when many people are unemployed. An increasing number of people also do not put their whole identity into a professional role.
You can ask where someone lives rather than where they are from, which has recently become associated with probing for someone’s heritage. Maybe you have friends or connections in common. You can ask ” This is a long shot but do you know….?”
- “Tell me your story”
- “What would you be doing if you weren’t here?”
- “What are you working on?”
- “What do you do for fun?”
- What are you passionate about currently?
In normal circumstances, the person will reciprocate. If they end up delivering a monologue of Shakespearean proportions, move on. You can’t win them all.
#4 Think big picture
Any function shouldn’t be about collecting cards, but about setting the foundations for the future. Tell the person you enjoyed meeting them and would like to stay connected. You can indeed pull a card out from your clutch bag or ask them if they are on LinkedIn. Put your LinkedIn QR code onto your phone. Connect later with a personal note. My experience is generally the business card is on its last legs.
Here’s how to use your LinkedIn QR code.
# Be kind
If you see someone on their own and struggling, invite them to join you or a group you are in. When you stand always leave a space for someone to join. There is nothing more intimidating than closed huddles of people who seem to be BFFs.
Happy holiday networking!
Networking should be a daily habit, regardless of how busy your life is. Try our Daily LinkedIn routine for today’s super busy women.