(This is a repost from last year …. people seem to like it as much as the spiked punch, so here you go, a tad early for Christmas but in time for Thanksgiving weekend soirees ….)
Happy holidays, one and all! ‘Tis the season of festiveness — twinkly lights, favorite sweets, Aunt Jule’s Famous egg nog, and the holiday parties that go with them.
Yes, yes, it’s mostly about merry-making, but it’s also about reconnection – we review our year, celebrating our gains and blessings as the true gifts of the season, and with that, we often reconnect with people that were a part of our lives, either in the past year, or years past.
The holidays are the perfect time to say hello to both dear friends and old acquaintances, via holiday cards and of course, at those parties of all shapes & sizes, from cookie exchanges with your girl friends to your spouse/significant other’s office soiree. Although the 12 days of Christmas officially start on December 26th, the holiday parties start, well, they’ve already started!
For a job seeker, and the savvy career-minded employee alike, holiday parties are a great time for both building new network connections, and touching base with established ones.
I offer you my cheesy as the spinach dip on the buffet table attempt at “The 12 Days of Christmas Networking” — Tips and Ideas for Merry Connection Making. Feel free to hum along if it helps . . .
1. On the first party of Christmas Networking my true love gave to me . . . The Office Party Opp-or-tunity! Okay, so I can’t figure out a way to work in either a partridge, or a pear tree here, so go with the rhyme attempt, if you would!
Yes, you might dread the pressure (or potential boredom) of making chit chat with your sweetie’s office mates and boss’ wife. But grab (one, no more than two) glasses of bubbly & do it anyway, because it’s a room full of NEW people with all sorts of unopened gifts – i.e. opportunities for real life connections with people that know of, or know someone that knows of . . . a job opening . . . a potential project collaboration partner . . . an eager donor or volunteer for your daughter’s school, or non-profit’s next fundraiser . . . the gifts of the Office Party connection can only be discovered if you:
2. Have Two Turtle Dove (chocolate) bar cookies at the dessert table, and strike up a conversation with, well, whoever shares you sweet tooth! Hey, at least you immediately have something in common, how good the sweets are at this party . . . all we need sometimes is the simplest of openers to get the conversation started!
3. Don’t be a (French) Hen . . . what I’m stretching this to mean is this – make sure you don’t end up in the corner with a gaggle of gossipy geese (or ganders) that just want to criticize someone’s dress choice or who’s had a few too many or, . . . well, you get the idea. Only spread holiday cheer, not jeer! Jingle jingle, get out there & mingle!
4. Calling Words. . . After the party sometime, make an old-fashioned follow up phone call to reconnect, and perhaps continue the conversation. When you call, the perfect ice breaking words are “Hi, it’s Jennifer from the cookie exchange; it was so great to talk with you at Mary’s! Thanks so much for sending out the recipe for those turtle bars . . .
5. Golden Rings . . . Want your phone to start buzzing with follow up calls? Make sure you have at the ready: your 10 second version of your 30-second “commercial” or “elevator speech” (for the warm up intro . . . if the listener shows interest, you’ll have the ultra casual delivery of the 30 second version of who you are (brand) and what you’re looking for (job, connections for your current job, etc.) ready to share over the shrimp cocktail. Also have a business card (or networking card if you’re currently looking for your next career move) ready to exchange later.
6. No Geese a Laying! (Ever notice how this song has lots of bird references?) Don’t make the ‘fowl’ move of sitting in the same spot all night waiting for something to happen. Gracefully jump in to the water, or at least get your feet wet like . . .
7. Swans a Swimming . . . circulate, articulate, why you’re great, your best trait, and it must be fate, thanks to your mate, we’ve now met and any rate, we must set a date to communicate, and oh, wait, it’s getting late . . . (so take that bait and head for the exit gate . . . ) In other words:
8. Don’t be a Milking Maid .. . which means remember when to naturally, gracefully move on. Try not to milk the new contact for all they’re worth right there in front of the veggie tray.
Make a connection, a genuine one, establish a way to reconnect (either right then, or, make sure you ‘recirculate’ back before you (and they) leave the party to offer and ask for a business card or some plan to meet up at another time.) And then, exit stage left, the punch bowl is calling your name.
9. Or maybe it’s time to join the Ladies Dancing! Of course the party’s not all about business – enjoy yourself, have fun! And . . .
10. BE fun! Be a Lord a’ Leaping – into whatever’s going on. Try your hand at a round of darts, give karaoke a go, or even, yes, participate in the Macarena. Why not? It’s all in good fun!
Be a joiner, be a doer, it makes you more approachable, likeable, and a good sport. As long as it’s within reasonable, established, accepted social norms of office/party behavior (watch that spiked egg nog, it can sneak up on the best of us!), it will make you more memorable, in a good way, to the folks you connected with.
Besides, it gives them a memory jogger when you reconnect later – “Oh, Dave, right, the Bing Crosby wanna-be from the Shultz’s Sleigh Bell Shindig, how could I forget?”)
11. Pipe in, Piper! Make sure you chime in as you can, adding something absolutely fascinating of course . . . or, at least relevant and either a) mildly interesting, b) funny, or both (if you can swing it!) to whatever conversation you happen upon.
Some people like to read the paper or peruse Twitter or other online sources of timely conversation starters beforehand. Speaking of which, I talk about how to use social media as a way to network for your career and/or job search in my newsletter, and in posts onResume Confidence’s Facebook page, so stay tuned.
It’s also a way to reconnect with party-goers after you’ve all gone home, too. Look through your mutual friend’s Facebook friends list & “friend request” them (or similar actions on Twitter, or LinkedIn). I like to include a brief intro/reminder note when I do this: “Hi Chris, great to meet you at Cindy’s Silly Santa White Elephant exchange last Saturday. Hope you’ve found that Chia Pet a sunny window to call home!”
And on the twelth day of Christmas Networking, my true love’s party gave to me . . .
12. Drummers Drumming, and other common interests. Everyone loves music, or Guitar Hero. It’s easy to figure out safe topics to find some common interest – comment on the music, for example. “Oh, man, this song reminds me of the concert I saw at (local venue) in the late 90’s – do you like (band, type of music, that venue, whatever)?
Same thing works at the buffet table, “Do you know who brought this lemon tart? I’d love the recipe, especially for my son’s school’s bake sale.’ (now you have established you have kids, always a conversation opener, too!)
By the way, about some of the Twelve Days of Christmas bird references, I read some citations saying they are Christian symbolism noted for each day. Wikipedia says, though, for example, that the fourth day’s gift is often stated as four “calling” birds but originally was four “colly” birds, using another word for a blackbird, and the fifth day’s gift of gold rings refers not to jewelry but to ring-necked birds such as the ring necked pheasant.
Why all the birds in the first place, though? The feasts of Christmas maybe? The writer was a nature lover? I don’t think anyone knows for sure.
If you get desperate, though, you can always try these bits of trivia as a conversation starter. And then, you can segue it into an opener for business networking by saying, “a great job/career coach wrote this article and she included that odd fact in it last week . . . “
See, and now I’ve given you the gift of a way to work your career networking opener into just about any holiday get together! It’s not quite as odd as a White Elephant gifted Chia Pet, at least!