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Five ways to network your way to a new job this holiday season


Your inbox is likely crammed with holiday invitations right now. Whether it is your workplace, your volunteer organization, your kid’s school, your faith group or your alumni association, everyone seems to want a piece of your time with festive gatherings.

While many people blow off these events, they can actually be career springboards with very real effects – such as hearing about new opportunities, making critical connections and paving the way for promotions.

“People are not intentional enough about them. They just show up, not quite sure about what the plan is or what is supposed to happen,” says Michael Melcher, executive coach and author of the new book “Your Invisible Network.”

"These are very underused resources,” Melcher said.

Tread carefully, though: While holiday networking can supercharge your career prospects for 2024, it can also be a potential minefield.

In fact, 63% of people harbor regrets about their conduct at past gatherings, according to a new survey by the site FinanceBuzz. Those regrets include office-party classics like drinking too much, gossiping, and flirting.

To maximize the positive and minimize the negative, here are a few pointers.

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Holiday gatherings can feel like a hassle, especially with so much other stuff on your to-do list at this time of year. In fact, 70% of employees say they feel pressured to attend, according to the FinanceBuzz survey.

But if you do not go, you will miss out.

“We shouldn’t look at these as negative or as a ‘gauntlet,’ nor should we skip out on them,” says Matt Abrahams, a Stanford University lecturer and author of the new book “Think Faster, Talk Smarter.”

Many of these situations might allow for deeper connection, learning and potential collaborations in the future, Abrahams says.

"See these situations as opportunities, rather than threats and obligations,” he adds.

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There is a lot of anxiety around networking chitchat, especially for introverts. To alleviate some of that anxiety, it could be helpful to do some prep work in advance.

“It’s OK to develop a plan, and it’s OK to be strategic,” says Selena Rezvani, a leadership expert and author of the book “Quick Confidence.”

“It’s about using your time well and their time well."

Rezvani's advice? Understand who is attending, and even make a list of people you want to meet, if you need to.

"I use three categories: Relationships I want to start, to sustain and to revive,” Rezvani says.

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How often do you actually get to spend in-person time with your bosses or your bosses’ bosses? Perhaps not much, especially with the rise of remote work.

As a result, they may not even be aware of your latest project, skills you may have developed or new paths you want to explore.

Holiday events are your chance to shine.

“This is especially important for younger workers, who might be intimidated by power dynamics,” Melcher says. “But the person you want to meet is there, already giving their time, at an event that’s already set up, at the shrimp table just like you. So go ahead and ask them a question.”

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Many people have trouble with networking events because they can feel so transactional, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. To avoid that, make your primary goal helping others rather than helping yourself.

“It’s not just about working the room for your own benefit,” Rezvani says. “It’s also about giving a hoot about other people.

"Maybe people are looking for mentors, or peers are looking to build new skill sets, or clients are looking to break into different industries. You can be the one to make the introductions and make that happen.”

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Once you have made contacts from the holiday networking Olympics, the next step is to follow up and actually do something with those relationships. It usually takes a few weeks to schedule one-on-one times, so start designing your 2024 calendar now.

“It’s a great idea to reach out on LinkedIn, write a personal note and reference what you talked about,” says Rezvani. “Wait until the holiday blitz clears, and then start arranging follow-ups for January. Not everyone does this, so it makes you that much more memorable.”

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