Hidden Job Market Secrets

Twelve holiday networking tips.

November 15, 2007
by Debra Feldman, the JobWhiz

The holiday season holds great potential for job-hunters to expand their contacts and accelerate their campaign efforts. Spreading holiday cheer and New Year’s greetings over the phone, via e-mail or with a card is a great excuse to reconnect with people whom you don’t regularly see or with whom you correspond infrequently. What’s more, the holidays are an ideal chance for job-hunters to make a connection with someone they want to get to know by offering them a ride to a party, providing directions or inviting them or giving a ticket to an event.

Here are some tips on making the most of the holiday season’s many networking opportunities:

  1. Be selective about which events you attend. If you have multiple invitations for the same date, or just don’t want to spread yourself too thin, decide which events are worth your time based on the networking potential that each provides and/or the amount of fun you think you’ll have.
  2. Do your homework. Before the event you’re planning to attend, find out who is expected to be there. Politely ask event organizers if they can tell you who is on the invite list. Then, identify the individuals you want to meet. Prior to the event, learn as much as possible about these people and the companies they work for so you can have an intelligent discussion with them and thus make a positive impression.
  3. Plan ahead. Consider what you might say to break the ice and keep conversations flowing. People are going to ask you what you do for work, so know how to answer that question. Come up with a succinct explanation that labels you as an expert and be ready with a few success stories that illustrate what you do and distinguishes you from the rest of the pack. Also think about what you might offer the people you meet in terms of advice, an introduction or a referral.
  4. Set Goals. When you finally get yourself in front of your target contact, make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of the interaction. Do you want their business card, a referral or permission to contact them afterwards to discuss your mutual interests?
  5. Make a good first impression. In the Internet age, a social event is an invaluable opportunity to speak with people face-to-face. So give the casual attire a break and look smart for the occasion. Keep your business cards handy. Stay alert and coherent.
  6. Have a friend introduce you. If you are uncomfortable introducing yourself to someone new, find a mutual contact and ask that person to introduce you. Show your gratitude to your introducer by finding a way to help him or her. Never forget a favor.
  7. Work the room with someone. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to meet new people when you do so with another person by your side. Find someone with whom you’re socially compatible, who brings out the best in you and vice versa and introduce yourselves to someone new.
  8. Stay focused. Just as a job interview over lunch is not about the food, a holiday networking occasion is never about the libations. It’s about expanding your circle of relevant contacts, learning and remembering as much as you can from your conversations. It’s a good idea to take notes — either on the back of business cards or in a small notebook or your PDA — so that you can recall your conversation when you follow-up with people. However, do it discreetly, when you’re out of view, in your car or back at home.
  9. Quality is more important than quantity. It is better to spend your time having a meaningful conversation with a few carefully chosen contacts than to have a zillion superficial interactions. Don’t break off a productive discussion to start another one. Similarly, don’t waste anyone’s time or prevent others from doing the networking they want to do. Be respectful and courteous. Your goal is to be remembered for the right reasons. You need to be more than a name on a card or resume; you need be a resource they’ll keep on their radar for appropriate referrals and recommendations.
  10. Know when to hold your tongue. It is better to remain silent than to put your foot in your mouth, so if you don’t have anything to add to a conversation, don’t feel obligated to talk. You can’t hurt yourself by being quiet, offering a friendly smile, or nodding to indicate that you are listening appreciatively. It’s better to leave a neutral impression than to damage your reputation by speaking out of turn or making a politically incorrect statement.
  11. Be gracious. Write timely thank you notes for invitations, assistance, introductions, referrals and advice. Not only does this show you have good manners and are courteous, it also makes someone else feel appreciated and reminds them of your interaction.
  12. Follow up. To maximize the value of your networking efforts, be sure to follow up on the contacts you made in December early in the new year. Make keeping in touch regularly with your network your new year’s resolution. Persistence is a guaranteed advantage in the job market.

Happy holidays and happy networking!

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© 2007, Debra Feldman

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques profiled in Forbes magazine. In addition to her private practice, writing featured columns and conducting exclusive workshops, Debra is a recommended resource to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.