Your relationships define your career results. So if you’ve already decided 2021 is going to be the year you step up your networking efforts, good job. And if you’ve decided not to wait until the new year to kick off your resolution, even better. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’ll be networking during the holidays.
Time is a precious resource around this time of the year, says Sophie Babinski, communications professional at Natursource and founder of Imposter, Interrupted, a community that offers mentoring and networking opportunities.
“Don’t expect people to have much time to spare during the holiday season. Balancing family and work obligations and preparing for kids to be out of school takes a big toll on people’s schedules. The holidays are not the right time to ‘pick the brain’ of potential mentors or future colleagues,” she says.
So, should you ditch your attempts at building your network altogether during the holidays? No, but you do need to adapt your tactics. According to Babinski, it’s important to understand the patterns professionals tend to live by. Not to mention the fact we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic.
“The fall and the holiday season can be really busy in most industries, whereas summer is a little slower and the days feel longer. Concentrate your more active networking efforts in the summer season. Throughout the busy months, keep your network activated with short e-mail updates and check-ins, but avoid asking for people’s time.”
Here are some holiday networking do’s and don’ts to make your life a little easier and help you get the most of the season that is, after all, prime time for human connection — when approached tastefully.
Get creative with cards
Effective networking is not a sprint — it’s about building and nurturing genuine relationships over time. And the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to send a thoughtful note to your contacts.
“Send thoughtful notes and cute cards to those members of your network you would usually grab a holiday drink with. People are feeling isolated and lonely. A handwritten note feels personal, and is always a classy touch,” says Babinski.
Make gift giving your love language
“Quality time is out of the question this year. Small, thoughtful, and personalized gifts are a great way to stay connected and send good vibes to colleagues and connections who are especially important to you,” says Babinski.
Want to hit two birds with one stone? Send your colleagues items purchased from local businesses who could really use the support right now. “Being conscientious and supporting your community in dark times is always a good look.”
Be intentional about virtual meetings
A lot of companies are hosting virtual events for their teams, and you might have a few digital opportunities to connect coming up yourself. These occasions are great ways to network if you show up intentionally.
“Zoom fatigue is real, so networkers will have to be a little more thoughtful this year than simply sending out a Zoom link and expecting the conversation to flow,” says Babinski.
She recommends you come prepared to all phone calls and meetings with a list of questions and the desired outcome.
“Attending a holiday team-building event? Make sure you pinpoint who you want to connect with and consider developing a list of questions or points you will want to bring up to them. Be organized!”
Don’t ask for people’s time
Between Covid and the fact the days just seem to be flying by, now is not a good time to ask people for meetings.
“Time is always a precious resource and during the holidays, it is even more scarce. Respect people’s boundaries and avoid asking for phone calls or meetings during the holiday season. It is a time for people to rest and recharge so that they can be more generous with their time and resources in the spring,” says Babinski.
Don’t expect anything
You’ll also want to avoid having rigid expectations or getting discouraged. It’s possible you’ll send out messages and get no response. It’s also possible people will get back to you in Q1.
Whatever the outcome, don’t take it personally (which is easier to do when you keep your expectations low and don’t expect anything in return). Plus, you can always follow up later.
“Don’t expect quick responses during the holiday season. Everyone is doing their best. If you do reach out and don’t get a response, don’t sweat it! Follow up in the spring.”