Why the holiday season is THE pinnacle networking period
It’s the start of December and the holiday season has officially begun. For many, this likely means being accosted by festive décor at your local shopping centre, weekends suddenly filling up with catch-ups you’ve been putting off for most of the year, and inboxes full of retailers advertising their ‘once a year’, ‘never seen before’ and ‘bigger than ever’ discounts.
You may also find yourself engaging in a more than average amount of small talk about holiday excitement, travel plans, and the various foods people are looking forward to consuming during this end of year period. While this may all seem rather mundane, it is a little known fact that the holiday season is actually a pretty great time to dip your toe into networking.
Not convinced? Here are three pretty solid reasons why the holiday season really is the best time to network socially.
[Disclaimer: before we jump in, if you’re looking for advice on how to network at formal industry networking events, then I would like to direct you to the following articles:
- Why networking can feel like the Bachelor
- How to look cool while networking
- Networking at industry careers fairs
The style of networking we’ll be getting into today involves the more informal, social style of networking (not to be confused with social media). Think after work drinks with colleagues you may not know that well, social holiday-themed gatherings with a university club or society, a festive trivia competition with other departments, an invitation to your friend’s work’s Christmas party as their plus one to save them from social discomfort – these type of things.]
Let’s get stuck in.
1. The aforementioned small talk
While networking can often mean more than your basic chit chat, social networking does tend to involve an awful lot of it. Finding that perfect ice breaker can be difficult for many who are uncomfortable in contrived social situations, so a casual “Hasn’t this year gone by fast! Have you got anything exciting planned over the break?” isn’t a bad way to initiate conversation, particularly at the more social style of networking gatherings.
The season also gives you a great fall back if things start getting awkwaaaard when trying to chuck in a little ‘professional’ chatter. They seem bored with your elevator pitch? Then (a) maybe practice it a bit more, and (b) you can save the conversation by brushing off the ‘work talk’ and ask them about themselves, their plans, or how their year went.
2. Increase in social events
Another upside to trying out some social networking in December is that there are more opportunities to do so. Seriously, if you work in an office or are part of a club/society, chances are you’ve already waylaid at least one holiday-themed gathering sneaking its way in to your inbox. There’s also charity events, company celebrations, trivia nights, faculty parties – it’s all happening.
So if you’re not usually the social butterfly of your group, and normally don’t get invited to many events, you’ll be hard pressed not to stumble across a social networking opportunity during this season.
3. An easy way to connect
Similarly, if you’re not feeling yourself as a conversationalist there are enough topics on hand (and likely enough people around you in a social mood) that you can ease your way in to the networking vibe by implementing some listening skills. Think of a few friendly questions you can ask, grab a friend you can bring along, and you’re all set for a relatively successful night of getting to know new people!
Plus, many of these events are organised around an activity so you’ve already got a whole new world of conversational topics open to you. Combine that with some free food and drink, a larger group of people all out to let their hair down a bit, a shared experience (if you work or study in the same field), and an expectation-free environment, and you’re bound to make at least a couple of new acquaintances – and maybe even a few friends.
Finally, why should you bother?
Networking can seem uncomfortably contrived, but really it’s just an opportunity to get to know more people who share your interests (or at least your industry). Utilising these more casual get-togethers is a great opportunity to flex your interpersonal communication skills and expand your professional reputation. Plus, knowing how to hold a conversation and build connections with people are important elements of career success in almost any field, so using the holiday season to practice is a pretty solid idea.
(And on the plus side, most of us normally get a week or two off at the end of December, so you can go back to hibernating if the socialising gets a bit much).
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
By Mia Casey