Whether you’re looking for a job or hoping to move forward in the one you have, networking is a constant fact of life. The need to make new professional contacts never goes away — not even during the holidays, when you’ve got a million other things on your mind.
Fortunately, the time leading up to and following the holidays can be a fantastic time to add new names to your list of contacts. That’s according to career expert and Jobhuntercoach founder Arnie Fertig, who’s written a terrific U.S. News & World Reports piece titled “Job Seekers, Follow These 5 Year-End Networking Tips.”
Fernig’s first tip is to remember that while “there is no ‘bad’ time for networking, this is a particularly good time.” Think about it: During the holidays, everyone is sending cards and newsletters and emails explaining what they’ve been up to for the last 12 months. The month of December offers built-in opportunities to ask about other people and offer your services (a key part of networking) in 2016.
The next piece of advice is to pace yourself. As Fertig says, building a network takes time, and one easy way to get the ball rolling is to reach out to people who you haven’t interacted with in some time. These could be old high school or college buddies or former coworkers — anyone you’ve lost touch with who might be worth knowing again. When it comes to finding them, tools like LinkedIn can work wonders. Fertig warns against starting things off by asking for something, though. Just say hello and try to keep the conversation moving. The rest will come later.
Fertig’s third tip is to rethink the ways in which you project yourself. Don’t go around staring off into space, telling sob stories about your dead-end career, and describing yourself with boring stories that go on and on. Look directly at the people you’re talking to and use short, positive language. You want to seem smart and engaging — not tired and washed up.
One way to come across as more compelling: “give refreshing answers to standard questions.” When someone asks how you’re doing, Fertig says, shoot back with something like, “Living the dream!” This will naturally spark curiosity (why are you living the dream?) and facilitate “a real conversation with someone who is interested in what you have to share,” Fertig says.
Lastly, Fertig says, you should follow up with folks based on things you chat about during your initial conversations. He recommends making little notes — “talked to Bob at the New Year’s party about the product he’s about to launch” — and then creating calendar reminders to check back and see how they’re doing. It’s a great way to show you’re a thoughtful, curious person who listens when others speak and doesn’t simply forget everything once the conversation finishes.