From Hors D’oeuvres to Opportunities 

netowrking opportunity party

It’s party time!! It’s that time of year when it feels like there is a holiday party every day and twice somedays. But this is no time just to pop canapes in your mouth and drink punch. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Why? Because this is marathon networking time.” It’s just holiday lunch,” a colleague of mine shrugged off the other day. Oh, friend, it’s never “just lunch.” Or coffee. Or cocktails. It’s an opportunity.

In every interaction, you are selling yourself. Your personal brand is what impression you leave on others. So, try approaching this holiday networking season just as if you’d approach a job interview…ready to sell ‘em!

Company holiday parties are so much more than “just a party.”

Maybe your team is hybrid – this is your chance to mingle with fellow coworkers who you might not see in person very often. Here, you can build relationships and even connect with people in other departments you don’t always get to work with. You never know when you (or they) will need a favor, so establishing a connection here can be mutually beneficial in the future. You can even gamify the party. Can you meet three new people by the end of the night? Maybe your coworker’s husband has a friend who is the perfect fit for a position you’re trying to fill. Or maybe you meet a co-worker who can help you on a project. The opportunities are endless!

Besides attending your own company party, you’re likely to be a guest at many others – clients, friends, partners, etc. Instead of grabbing your hors d’oeuvres, saying hi, and heading out the door, stop for a moment and acknowledge the potential in the room. Outside of the holiday season, most networking events are not free, so take advantage of the season by changing your POV. It’s a chance to get outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to meet new people who could even be prospects.

We don’t want to come off as tacky and immediately start talking business, but you’ll find most company party conversations inevitably lead to the “so, what do you do?” or “how do you know [the host]?” type of questions. You can start building relationships and use your mutual connection/party experience to follow up in the New Year. It can look something like this:
“Happy New Year, [so and so]! It was so great meeting you at [the XYZ company holiday party]. I’m still dreaming about the mac ‘n cheese. I’d love to reconnect over coffee or lunch sometime this month. What does your availability look like?” This way, you’re not just another random LinkedIn message in their inbox. Pro tip: make your phone lock screen a QR code that leads to your LinkedIn profile for easy connections.

Let’s touch on some holiday party etiquette.

Just because the event is after hours and everyone is wearing velvet and sequins does not automatically remove the velvet manners rope. Everyone knows someone who’s had one too many at the company party (if you don’t, it might be you).  You are selling people on the version of yourself that you want them to remember. You definitely do not want a reputation of being a hot mess spilling into your career. Let’s avoid anything happening at the holiday party that can come back to haunt you on Monday. This rule also counts for spouses/partners and plus ones. They’re selling themselves as a reflection of you. Avoiding sensitive and controversial topics, like politics and religion, you know the drill. You can still have fun while maintaining and respecting your and your coworker’s boundaries!

We also know that holiday parties can induce panic in some folks (ahem, introverts, we’re talking to you). Here’s some advice on how to make a plan to ease any social anxiety.

  1. Check out the guest list – if you’re able to review the guest list beforehand, you can map out who you’ll sit next to and pick three people to chat with.
  2. Practice small talk – nobody really wants to talk about the weather. Plan out a few easy, relevant questions to ask the people you’re chatting with if there’s ever a lull in the conversation. Here are a few to use: Are you traveling for the holidays? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given/received? Do you have a favorite holiday food or tradition?
  3. Take breaks – in our founder, Dr. Cindy’s first book, Every Job is a Sales Job, she talks about how draining networking can really be, even for an extrovert. Our social batteries are draining faster than ever. One suggestion is to chat with three people, take a break to yourself, and then repeat.
  4. Have a graceful exit plan – you don’t want to get stuck talking with the ‘close talker,’ so make sure you have a way to excuse yourself if things get too close. And leaving without saying goodbye could be seen as impolite. Certainly, a lot of planning and coordinating went into making the event possible, so it’s always a good idea to share your gratitude with the host.

Your best self.

Whether you’re attending a party or grabbing coffee or lunch with a friend, coworker, or stranger, you are building relationships and selling yourself. Presenting the best version of you possible will always pay off in the long run. Maybe you’ll be top of mind when they hear about a stellar position in their department, or they’re eventually in need of a service you offer, maybe they lead you to a book club or other community resource or connection. Fostering these relationships and building a network through parties, coffee, and lunch can help you meet goals, get support and encouragement, and ultimately feel a sense of belonging.

So, when you get your next party invite…remember, it’s not just a party – it’s POTENTIAL!

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for letting us visit your inbox each month. We hope you have a safe and happy holiday season, and we look forward to helping you #GROWBIGORGOHOME in the New Year.