Job seekers often hear that holiday gatherings are a great place to network. But how do you do that without being annoying? After all, no one likes being hit up for job leads at a party. Here are tips on converting a social event into a networking opportunity in a tactful way.
- Start slow. Always begin at a purely social level.
- Be friendly and open towards new people
- Listen and get to know others
- Be inquisitive, asking questions and showing interest
- Establish rapport and find commonalities.
- If it feels natural, ask about people’s professional life. It’s not out of place to say “What do you do?” or “How’s work?” at a social gathering.
- Use the other person’s response to gauge whether he or she is interested in the topic of work.
- If work is a topic of interest, you may have the opportunity to share who you are and what you are looking for
What social events are really good for is getting to know new people so you can follow-up with them afterward. Don’t worry about pitching yourself on the spot. That is often not appropriate and will come off poorly. Instead, get acquainted socially and promise a follow-up in the days to come. You may say, “I’d love to talk to you more about your work. Let’s enjoy the party tonight but can I contact you next week to talk further?”
If there is someone specific you would like to meet at a social event:
- Ask a mutual friend for an introduction
- If you can’t get an introduction, introduce yourself but be careful not to appear to be stalking!
- Consider that industry leaders and executives may not like being hit for career help at social events. They are there to socialize and enjoy.
- Keep it social unless things naturally move in the direction of work-talk. You’ve still made the connection and can follow-up afterward.
Email your new contact within a few days of the social event:
- If you did not get his or her email address, locate through LinkedIn or via a mutual friend
- Remind him or her of your social encounter
- Express a desire for a professional conversation
Perhaps your contact has down time around the holidays and would welcome a coffee date. Or perhaps this is his or her busy time of year. If so, contact in the New Year may work better. Either way, you’ve successfully used a social event to expand your professional network!