Ring in the New Year Right

By Jess Hofberger for Career Brief Blog.

‘Tis the networking season. Holiday parties and get-togethers mean more than mini-meatballs, they are an opportunity to refresh your friendships and to meet new people.

Networking comes in many forms: from conversation at a basketball game, to coffee meetings, holiday parties or conference events.
Whenever you can, seize the opportunity to spread peace on earth by meeting people. In the spirit of the holidays, instead of dreading social interaction, make it your goal to save others from any awkwardness. Consider making it your job to meet other people, to make them feel comfortable in your presence, and leave having made a good impression.

Here are 10 tips to get the most from your holiday networking:

  1. Make it your job to meet people. Set a goal of how many people you will meet, and stick to it. This gives your networking a sense of purpose and direction. Limit yourself to no food and only one beverage until you meet your goal. This will give you some motivation to meet people quick, chat for a few minutes and move on.
  2. Introduce yourself to the person standing alone. They will be grateful for your conversation! By approaching them and starting a conversation, you are rescuing them from what they perceive to be a glaring light shining on their aloneness. Congratulations, you are in the holiday spirit!
  3. Get your “elevator pitch” or “personal statement” ready. Having a great ice breaker memorized takes the pressure off. Just walk up to someone and launch into it. A good introduction says: “Who you are”; “What you do”; and “Why you do it” in a way that shows value to a person, business, or community. “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m John Doe and I’m studying law at the University of Utah and hoping to become a business lawyer so I can support my entrepreneurial friends who are struggling to start small businesses.”
  4. Ask open-ended questions. Instead of “nice party, huh?” ask, “What did you think of the boss’ presentation?” or “Who do you know here?” You are seeking to start a conversation, not conduct an interrogation. Open-ended questions show your willingness to engage.
  5. Look for the other person’s favorite subject. When talking with someone new, seek out things that make them smile or laugh rather than topics that cause their face to droop. At the holidays, many of us like to talk about returning home to see family or family holiday traditions.
  6. At the company party, greet your boss and your boss’ boss. If it’s your spouse’s party, do the same. Smile and keep the conversation brief (unless they keep talking). Thank them for the party. Even though they likely had nothing to do with the planning and preparation, it’s polite to thank them since they are the “host”.
  7. Be yourself. Authenticity is the most attractive feature in people. When we feel someone is genuine, we feel most at ease in their presence.
  8. Alternatively, a little play-acting is good too. If it helps, tell yourself, “tonight I will play the part of the charming party host who greets everyone and introduces people to each other.”
  9. Introduce people you just met to each other. Introduce people with a “thoughtful detail” you just learned about them. “Jim, this is Brian who came here with his wife Gail. Brian is originally from Seattle. Where did you grow up Jim?”
  10. Remember to follow up. Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you. Leave your contact with a Business Card. There is no reason you shouldn’t have a professional business card.

By making networking your job, you assume responsibility for making others feel comfortable. Isn’t that part of the spirit of the holidays? Others will appreciate your generosity, and you will make a positive impression going into the New Year.