In addition to shopping and overeating, the holidays also mean networking. This is a great opportunity to reconnect with people you lost touch with, expand your circle of connections, and jump start your career and job search.
At the same time, you might feel intimidated by the holiday party scene, or networking in general. Here are three foolproof tips that even the shyest person can use to get through this holiday networking season:
Forget the elevator pitch. As a career coach, I work a lot on my clients’ networking pitches because a compelling pitch can dramatically improve your job search and career. That said, if you haven’t prepared or practiced, a once-a-year holiday gathering is not the time to wing it. You’ll waste your time and energy being anxious about having to introduce yourself.
Forget about pitching – just introduce yourself very simply with your name, company and title. If you are in-between jobs, give your name and why you’re attending the event. Then, stop talking and listen closely. Move the focus away from you and onto the other person. Aim to identify at least one thing they care about so you can follow up with something that matters.
Be a matchmaker. Go to an event with a friend, and focus on finding good leads for your friend. This goes even further than the point above to taking the focus off of you. Know what your friend is interested in and how to introduce her.
Many people find it easier to talk about others than themselves. For the people you meet you need to know how they might connect with your friend. This forces you to listen very actively. Ideally, you can have your friend do the same for you, and both of you benefit from the generosity of each other.
Expand your view of what constitutes networking. Networking is not just attending large group events. It is also about meeting someone for lunch (or breakfast, dinner or tea), hosting a gathering on your turf, sending out holiday cards, being active on social media, making a phone call, or reaching out by email. Maybe you are better with one-on-one interaction. Maybe you prefer planned opportunities like a lunch date. Maybe your schedule allows for short bursts like phone calls and emails rather than an entire evening away.
It is true that you may want to expand past your comfort zone, but you also want to play to your strengths. Recognize that there are many ways to network, and you don’t have to attend holiday mixers if you can grow and maintain a strong network by other means.
This post also appeared on my Forbes.com Work In Progress blog: http://blogs.forbes.com/work-in-progress/2010/12/03/the-shy-persons-survival-guide-to-holiday-networking-events/