‘Tis the season to network

The holidays can provide a special time to spruce up your network.

Winter scene with a house that has snow on it. A snowman in the yard and two ornaments hanging. Image says,
Created by Kathy Jamieson

During the holidays, people get together to celebrate the season. There are work parties, family gatherings, school celebrations, club socials, community events, volunteer opportunities and many ways to bond with others. People are often cheerful and more charitable during the holidays. This makes a perfect setting for networking.

What is networking?

Networking is the act of making contact and sharing information with other people, groups, and institutions to develop mutually beneficial relationships. Networks provide support to one another. Through your network you may share job leads, make introductions to new people, learn about upcoming events or opportunities, discover a solution to a problem or even discover a new resource.

Networking is often associated with uncovering the hidden job market. These are job opportunities that are never advertised, and the positions are mainly filled by people the employer knows or through referrals.

How do I start my network?

Good news! Everyone has a network and there is no real start or end to it. If you are talking to people and building relationships, you are building your own network. Every time you participate in a school or social event, volunteer in the community, talk to a relative, neighbor or friend, or connect online, you are building your network. Your family, friends and classmates are often referred to as your personal or informal network.

This holiday season, let your network know about your interests, goals, needs and aspirations and find out about theirs. You may learn new things about each other and how you can help support one another. Michigan State University Extension suggests requesting a letter of recommendation you can add to your portfolio or online profile. Consider asking your contacts for an introduction to someone they may know who can help reach your goals.

To expand your professional network, consider signing up with LinkedIn. Here you can join groups of people with similar career interests, learn about trends, job openings, events and participate in discussions. When attending in-person professional events, consider developing and practicing your professional pitch beforehand so you will be more prepared when meeting new people. When you meet new people, ask for their business cards and make a note of how you met them on the back of the card so you can follow up with them later. You can also create a spreadsheet or chart of your contacts with details on the relationship and when you last contacted each person.

Maintaining your network

To maintain your network, you need to stay connected and active. You need to show the people in your network that you care about them and are interested in their lives. So, make sure to say thank you if someone has helped you. Invite people in your network to an event you think they might enjoy. Share an interesting story, picture, idea, resource, or news clip. Make a quick call, send a text, write an e-mail to say hello and show you have been thinking of them. Congratulate them on an accomplishment. Share an update about yourself. Or just take a moment to reach out and wish them “Happy Holidays!” These small gestures go a long way to turning new relationships into lasting ones.

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