It’s a cruel twist of fate that happens every year when decorative lights take the place of Halloween candy in store aisles. As professionals, we feel the looming pressure of year-end goals and unfinished plans and at the same time it seems like business slows to a crawl because of the holidays!
If you are building your professional network, it can seem like you have to take the holidays off. Your business contacts are often focused on spending time with their families, just like you want to spend time with yours (hopefully). There’s holiday travel and children off from school who need minding. There are parties to go to and presents to buy. It can be much easier to throw our hands up and say, “I’ll put my focus on my networking in January. It will be my New Year’s Resolution!”
And of course, we all know how effective those resolutions are…
Why Holiday Networking Rocks
Done right, though, networking during the holiday season can be extremely effective. People are in good moods and this holiday cheer makes them much more receptive to building relationships. And they often have year-end professional goals just like you.
If you are looking for work, building a new business, or searching for new clients and customers, you don’t have to push off your networking until 2015. There are a number of ways to continue to build and strengthen your professional relationships as we go through the last weeks of the year:
Forget the 3 Wise Men, Here are 6 Wise Ideas
1. Don’t buy into the idea that you can’t get business done in December.
The path of least resistance is to accept the narrative that the holidays are super-busy for everyone and there’s no time for networking. I just counted and there are 34 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and you probably won’t be celebrating at parties and spending time with your family for all of them. (I love my family, but 34 days with them would be…challenging). Understand that you can get all of your holiday shopping done and still find time to network if you have a plan.
2. Network at holiday parties.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the festivities, but make an effort to be around your ideal networking connections. We often forget that you can mix business and pleasure. Most organizations, associations, and companies have a holiday party at the end of the year; use these as a chance to solidify the relationships you’ve built throughout the year. And meet new connections as well; instead of just spending time with the people you know, branch out and make some new friends for 2015.
3. Be your best self at those parties
Every company has a collection of stories on how people have misbehaved at the “Office Christmas Party”. Don’t be that person! Have a good time (it is the holidays, after all), but err on the side of caution. People will judge you if you get out of line.
Also, know when it’s time to talk business and when it’s time to stop talking about business. I’ve found that holiday parties are a great place to ask your professional contacts about the personal side of their lives: what activities they enjoy when they aren’t working, what’s exciting to them about the upcoming year, and their favorite highlights of 2014.
4. Set up meetings for the first week of 2015
Most professionals leave their networking to the beginning of January and so start the year with no momentum. If you’ve ever tried to go to the gym on January 2nd as part of your New Year’s resolutions you know how hard it can be to get started. Instead, when you meet someone in December who you’d like to follow up with, specifically ask if you can give them a call the first week of January. Even better, set up a coffee meeting with them for that week.
5. Send holiday cards before or after the holidays
Go old school and send a snail-mail holiday card! Before the advent of social media and email, it was common to send end-of-the-year cards and letters to keep in touch. If you send your connections a holiday card on December 15th, though, it’s going to get lost in the holiday hullabaloo. Send it out the week before Thanksgiving (as a “Giving thanks that I have you in my network” card), or January 10th (as a “Welcome to 2015 card”). They will be more likely to pay attention to the card because there won’t be as much “noise” to drown it out. Also, include some way that they can re-engage with you in that card – tell them about something exciting happening in your professional world and ask about what’s going on in theirs.
6. Strengthen your relationships between Christmas and the New Year
Many of us take off for the last week of the year (and if you do – enjoy!). But for those of us who are still working, it’s hard to get motivated on Monday, December 29th. To make that time effective, reach out to a list of your closest connections. They will be easier to reach out to, and sure, many of them will be out of the office. But the ones that are working are sitting there just like you – and it’s a great chance to reconnect with them.
The opportunities for successful networking will be all around you this holiday. Take the time to give yourself the gift of building strong professional relationships this December and watch your career soar in 2015!
This article originally ran at LinkedIn.com. You can find it here!