Seven Tips to Networking Over The Holidays

Rachel Shannon posting for Anne Alston

Like so many of us who are eager that the year-end holidays are upon us, you are ready to sit down, relax and get some much needed rest. Well, not so fast! This time of year it is also great to network with those that may help your career move to the next level.

Networking is the number one method of communicating with others. Networking puts you out in front as someone who is not afraid of inquiring about new career opportunities.  Although technology can be an easy and fast way to communicate, over 80 percent of all jobs were filled because of personal networking. This is because people generally remember you more in-person than what they remember about you in digital form.  Additionally, you get to share your skills and background and build strong relationships while building your self-esteem, confidence and credibility. Therefore, it is in your best interest to tap into your resources and network as much as possible.

There are a number of ways in which you can network. Just be sure to have a solid plan in place so that you do not miss out on your next career opportunity. Here are seven tips to get you started.

Plan Ahead:  In order to jump start your career, you have to have a plan in place. The first step is learning when employers are doing most of the hiring.  According to Monster.com, the most popular hiring months are between January and February and September through October of each year.  With this information in hand you can start developing your plan during the Spring and Summer months. Decide what type of career move you are interested in and whom you will contact. This is the first step to building your strategy plan

Develop your career strategy plan: Now that you know what type of career you want, you need to do your research and set goals that align with your career path. These are the goals that will help you determine which organization can help you achieve your end-goal. Once you have this information, you can answer the following questions: Will this organization help me with my career goals? Do I plan to make this career change short-term or long-term? If short-term, how long do I need?  What is my next goal? For example, if your long-term goal is to become a CPA for a prestigious accounting company, you first must obtain a job as a professional accountant and use your new career to help grow your professional experience. While you are working there use this time to study for the CPA exam.  As you can see, it is very important to document each step of your goal, and then document the organization’s information that matches that goal.  Here are some examples of information you should research or document: industry type, number of employees, years in business, organization mission, vision, goals and strategies, business accomplishments, employee potential growth and other pertinent information. You can also get insight on employer information through researching other job review websites or community forums.

Build your Networking Resources:  You cannot network without good contacts. There are a number of ways in which you can build your contact list. First, start with organizations you know. Find out if there are any open opportunities. If there are connect with the hiring manager to let them know you are interested in the position. The second option is to use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter and SnapChat to reach out and connect with employers.  Just keep in mind that the administrators of these social media groups are not always responsive and you will spend a good deal of time trying to connect with the right person. You can also build your network over the telephone, email or video conferencing. Keep in mind that in-person networking is best. Therefore, to help you discern the best way to manage your contact list is to build a list based on communication preferences e.g., email, phone or in person then network with them respectively. This will keep you organized and it will also show your contacts that you care about their method of communication.

Practice your Cold Calls: Making cold calls can be nerve racking; especially if you are not comfortable speaking to people you do not know or not sure what to say. Remember that networking is all about speaking to strangers to build relationship or partnerships. If you want to grow your career, making cold calls is something you should learn to master.  Practice cold calling techniques with a family member, friend or by sitting in front a mirror and talk to yourself as if you are talking to your contact.  Listening to how you sound, speak and adjust your personality accordingly.  Also pay close attention to your word language as well as body and facial expressions as this is also a form of language too. Remember, first impressions are everything! Practice your techniques and you will be perceived as confident and professional.

Schedule your appointments early:  Depending upon the contact and the job you are trying to obtain, try and schedule an appointment with them before they go on vacation; and then follow-up with them when they return. This form of networking will keep you fresh in their mind and make you memorable. If you are not able to get an appointment, get on the next available time slot.  Continue to follow-up with them until the deal is closed – whether you get the job or not. Failing to follow-up can cost you the job offer.

Carry your professional business card:  A professional business card is your digital marketing tool. It is critical to networking with your contacts. Even if you do not have your own business, having a professional business card will show your network your level of professionalism and confidence in your expertise. It is also a great way of exchanging contact information without pulling out a pen and piece of paper.

Attend holiday party or special events: Another way of networking with potential employers is to attend their holiday party or special events. This is great opportunity to get in front of and speak with important people in the organization. You will also get to learn their business culture and see how you fit in.  This is where you can present your professional business card. Just remember you are there to build a rapport with the employer, not pitch for a job opportunity. If the employer sparks a conversation about the opportunity for you to work for them, engage in the conversation but tread carefully on how you approach your response. Otherwise, reserve the conversation for a more appropriate time by scheduling an appointment with them. In the meantime, let your personality shine and show them that you can have fun as well as be professional at the same time.

These are just a few methods I have used in the past when I networked over the holidays, or anytime throughout the year. Having a solid plan definitely helped me and I am sure it will help you build your network. Remember, networking takes practice and you may not be good at it on the first or second try. Keep trying and do not give up. As you build your resources, you will start to recognize your strong and weak areas. Work on improving those areas and use this time to perfect your strategy plan and techniques. Pretty soon, you will become a pro at networking with others.

annealstonA. Anne Alston is a graduate of UMUC where she received a dual Master’s degree in Information Technology/Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Policy. Anne is also Career Coach, Mentor and Author.

Anne is passionate about teaching others about technology and career preparation. She actively serves as a UMUC mentor and she has helped numerous students with their career goals. Anne is also an active workshop presenter for the Maryland Business Roundtable STEMnet Program and the Maryland Future Business Leaders Association where she teaches career and technology preparation skills to students in grades 8 through 12.

To learn more about Anne Alston, please visit http://alstntec.com/.  Alstntec, LLC a woman-owned consultant company that works to connect people to technologies and industries through information sharing and training services. Our primary services are: IT Business Consultation, Professional Development and Empowerment Training Services.