For women looking to re-enter the workplace or undergoing a career change, December can seem daunting. There’s a lot to prepare on the home front for the holidays, and a feeling that hiring managers have checked out in the weeks leading to Christmas and Hanukkah.
As a result, many job seekers put their searches on pause until after the New Year.
This is a mistake. That’s because, although interviewing can take a dip in December, it often accelerates in January and February when budgets are finalized and new projects are given the green light. That means if you take advantage of networking opportunities that arise in December, you may be primed to capitalize on a hot job market come January.
One place to start: holiday parties.
“It is a perfect opportunity,” says Judy Robinett, author of “How To Be A Power Connector.” “People are generous and giving during this time of year.”
Indeed, by following a few strategies, women can use these invitations to cocktail parties and cookie swaps as networking opportunities while being respectful of the many folks that will not be in work mode.
DO: Show Up
It sounds obvious, but once Thanksgiving passes, many women feel pulled in ten directions, with gifts to get, kids out of school and last-minute travel plans to make, all of which can leave less time for socializing.
Instead of putting invitations on the backburner until closer to the date, “when the invites arrive, check your calendar and RSVP,” says Susan RoAne, Keynote Speaker and author of Best-seller How To Work a Room® and The Secrets of Savvy Networking. “And then show up. The benefits of being present, visible and prepared are often serendipitous. Why? You never know who you’ll meet.”
Just like you would a job interview or networking chat, prepare for each party you’re attending.
“Read several online content curators and a newspaper or two so that you have a good grasp of current events and news,” says RoAne. “Identify several topics to talk about. Bring your cards that have your easy-to-read contact information. Take a photo of your card in case you run out. Right then and there, you can text people your card.”
Depending on your relationship with the host or hostess, “find out in advance who might be there and plan ahead who you would like to meet,” says Robinett. Then, “ask the party organizer for an introduction.”
DON’T: Make It All About You
When it comes time to talk shop, make sure, in addition to discussing work or your job search that you inquire about your audience.
“Ignore those who denigrate ‘small talk,’” says RoAne. “People connect with us on those small topics such as favorite books, teams, restaurants, movies, or vacation spots. It segues into ‘big talk.’”
In that spirit, if you don’t have as many holiday party networking opportunities as you would like this year, create them.
Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of “The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like,” suggests organizing a toy drive, in which you put a callout to friends and their friends to bring a toy for a needy family or food for a local shelter to your home and enjoy coffee, tea and cookies upon dropoff.
Or, “host a gift buying or wrapping party,” she says. “Invite friends to a jewelry or trunk show at your home or just get together and wrap presents.” By suggesting your friends invite one friend you don’t know, you are expanding your circle and chances of networking with someone you haven’t yet met.
DO: Follow Up
Finally, close the loop. “When given a lead, idea, support, or recommendation, follow up on it. Thank the person who’s giving you the idea or lead,” via email, a call or a holiday card,” says RoAne.
The key here? Keep every new acquaintance in your orbit so you can tap them when you next need to.
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