As the holiday season quickly approaches, now is the time when you start to get invited to holiday parties and events by colleagues, contacts, friends, family, team members, and that woman you always see at the grocery store. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea- there are countless opportunities to connect and spend time with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations that otherwise might not happen. Holiday networking is not your standard networking, and you really need to be thoughtful in how you approach it! These are my 3 tips for holiday networking and how to present yourself.
Holiday parties should never be looked at as an opportunity to further your career or find a new job, but rather to simply catch up with friends and family, meet new friends, and share the cheer. It isn’t appropriate to accost people and start reeling off your last three jobs, what programming languages you have under your belt, or what your five year plan is. Get to know people, spread the warmth, and celebrate the year!
1) Be Ready to Help and Bring a Small Gift
Unless it is a fully catered event at a venue, I would always come ready to help your host or hostess with whatever they may need. Yes, they probably do have everything under control buuuut they may have forgotten that while they need to be taking hors d’oeuvres out of the oven at the same time that they need to be greeting guests. They also may be incredibly tired afterwards and appreciate a little bit of help in getting all of the dishes to the kitchen! They very well may turn down your offer (which is completely fine), but you also might save them a lot of stress. The offer and help will be remembered!
Also, bring a small gift for whomever is hosting the event- they will remember you as a guest and feel appreciated! It doesn’t have to be a huge gift, but a bottle of wine, some baking, or a mug and coffee/tea is a small but thoughtful way to thank them for all of their time and work. If it is a work party or a more formal event, it may be easier/ more convenient to bring it to work a day or two afterwards instead of to the party itself. In any case, a small card is more than appropriate!
2) Keep Business Cards on Hand
Okay, I know that I said above that you should not be pushing your career, but if your job comes up organically, do have a few business cards handy to give to people. I do find that my blog does naturally come up in conversation, so it would be appropriate to give a business card at that point if they are truly interested. I don’t mean when someone says “Oh, we are going to Mexico in February,” and you respond “In February I will be finishing my fourth course in Java, if anyone is looking for programming help”. If someone specifically says that they are looking for an interior designer and you happen to work for one, or in my case, they mention a ballet that I have reviewed recently, it fits naturally. Don’t shoe horn it in!
If you do give someone your gift card at a holiday party, I would quickly write “Happy Holidays” or something to that effect on it so that you a) honour the spirit of the event and b) they can remember when they got the card. If you can find a good deal (I like Vistaprint because of how often they offer coupons), I would order a few holiday-ish business cards if you find that it does come up frequently for you!
3) Having Fun Should Be Your Focus
At the end of the day, Christmas parties and holiday parties exist for you to celebrate the year you are finishing and the year to come with your loved ones! For the most part, we don’t take a lot of time in our busy and hectic lives to appreciate those around us, and this is the perfect place to do it. Put your phone away, leave work at the door, and just have fun with each other! Whatever the tone of the party is, match it- if it is an ugly sweater party, wear the ugliest sweater you have. If it is a fun pyjama party, grab those footie PJs and go to town! Not only for your host, but also for you, be present at the party and actually enjoy what you are doing.