Career experts agree that networking is an essential skill every career-driven professional must master. After all, networking is the leading way to land a job or advance your career.

Networking can increase your chances of landing a job ten times if your application is accompanied by a referral. Moreover, by talking to someone from your target firm (through networking) enables you to take a peek into the company’s culture. This will give you an idea if you will fit in with the firm.

So, as the holiday approaches and your calendar fills with cocktail parties and family get-togethers, remember to make networking a priority this season. Know that December can be one of the best times to network. In brief, here are the reasons why:

  • Most people think it’s not a good time to hunt for jobs during the holidays, so this means less competition for you.
  • Most people are more positive during the holiday season; they are in a better frame of mind, in other words, or are more receptive.
  • Networking opportunities are aplenty because the holiday season means social gatherings.
  • The holiday season is the most opportune time to follow-up by sending a holiday card or email.

In this article, we will talk about how to effectively network this December. Before we go to the main piece, however, some reminders are in order:

Before Anything Else

First, remember to score invites. You check Eventbrite or Facebook for events that might interest you. Search for professional organizations’ websites and look for events. You may also ask your peers and acquaintances if they know any professional gathering (or even house parties) and if they can extend a plus-one invite. Don’t be shy to ask your peers.

And lastly, if you’re a bit hesitant about networking, remember the lightness of the season and work the room in a friendly way since people are usually open to it.

What to Remember

  1. Don’t be late. This way you’re not competing with others for attention or catching someone after one too many cocktails.
  2. Dress to kill (but appropriately). Have you ever walked into a meeting and knew instantly by the way someone was impeccably dressed that they were someone to be reckoned with? Go ahead and be that person. Leave an indelible, delightful and polished impression.
  3. Have your spiel ready. Know what to say at which parties.

What to Say

Here are some pointers as regards the things you can and cannot say when networking:

Talk less. Listen more.

The logic behind this rule is simple: People love to talk about themselves. Hence, people like people who get them to talk more about themselves. Smart networkers know that asking good questions and genuinely listening are their priorities. Remember that you are networking to build rapport and establish relationships, and listening intently and asking genuine questions is the way to do that.

Don’t just talk work.

It’s fine to talk about work, especially if you are at an office holiday party. When you do (talk about work) remember to compliment your coworker or your boss in front of their spouse or partner (that’s a trick). But mix things up a bit with a touch of the personal. Ask others questions about their families, hobbies or interests. That’s a nice way to build a good relationship and get to know them better. And you’ll discover new connections and commonalities.

Keep it low-key.

A holiday party is first and foremost a social event. So avoid make sure to keep it that way. Holiday parties are the perfect opportunity to establish a connection that provides a context for future contact. This is the initial on-ramp to building a relationship with the person. And if you are nurturing your network properly, you will follow up with them and continue to build the relationship after the holidays.

What to do

Introduce yourself.

Parties are a perfect place to meet new people and expand your network. So try to get to know at least two new people at every event you attend this season.

Remember that spouses and children often feel left out at these events, so be sure to chat them up, too. You might be surprised at how interesting — and sometimes helpful — they will to be.

Offer your business card (and ask for one). As discussed before, this is your initial contact and the start of building a new relationship with someone. Make sure you have a way to stay in touch and follow up with key people you meet after the party.

Follow up.

You are building a relationship. After the parties are over, get back in touch with the people you met.

Send a simple “great to meet you” message or phone and a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn (not the auto-connect version LinkedIn offers). It’s as easy as “I really enjoyed meeting you at such-and-such event, I’d love to hear more about what you do.” If you find an article or video you think might interest someone you chatted with, send it along with a note referencing your meeting. This only takes a few minutes.

Your new contact will feel valued and appreciated, which will strengthen and expand your network greatly in the long run.

Bring a friend.  

A holiday party is a perfect place to renew old relationships and establish new ones. If you know someone in your network who you’d like to introduce at a particular party, go for it! Share the opportunity to help others get connected. Good networking is about seeking opportunities to help others and good karma will flow your way.

Avoid awkward introductions. When you’re introducing others, the most effective method is to not only announce their names but also a little bit about what they do or where they’re from.

Otherwise, you could find yourself in the middle of that uncomfortable silence when two people get to know each other. For example, I’ll say, “Rebecca, I’d like you to meet my friend, Adrienne.  Adrienne is a producer who just shot a new advert in Fiji, and Rebecca is a tax attorney in Melbourne.” This gets the conversation going.

Just go! Yes, I understand, there are often more holiday invites than lights on your Christmas Tree, and some night’s you’d rather stay in watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But, make it a priority to show up at these events.

Keep these tips in mind as you socialize during the Holidays and this will surely be the Season that Keeps on Giving.