The holiday season is upon us and with it comes opportunities to eat, drink and network.

Yes, network.

It is tempting to relax into the mix of parties, eggnog and ugly Christmas sweaters that is the holiday season but in doing so, you might be letting opportunities pass you by. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sound like a walking infomercial. Take advantage of the cheer and kindness in the air to expand your network.

If you find yourself at these common holiday gatherings, try out these simple tips:

Work Holiday Lunch
Take a break from hanging out with your office bestie and sit next to someone you want to work with more closely. Maybe they are someone you admire, or you are hoping to collaborate with on an upcoming project. Build rapport with them – ask them about their holiday plans, talk about their kids, favorite sports teams, etc. Skip the shop talk and get to know them better. Then mention that you would love to get on their calendar.

The Big Office Party
This is your time to shine in front of colleagues, current clients, board members and potential clients. Know the key stats, players and projects in your company and industry. After you’ve talked about holiday chitchat, impress your guests and help them to put a face to your name.

Family Holiday Dinners
Okay, we know how annoying it is when your relatives constantly ask when you’re going to get married, have a child, have another child, etc. But, they’re not just family, they are part of your network. Talk about your skills and what you would like to do. Then ask, “Know anyone who could use my help?” It beats stuffing your face with pie in the hopes of dodging their intrusive questions.

A Friend’s Cocktail Party
Make it your goal to introduce yourself to one new person you’ve never met before. Ask them how they know the host and what they do for a living. You’ll make them feel welcome and you will have expanded your network.

Nonprofits often need a larger number of volunteers than usual during the holidays. They would love your help, especially if you can help with marketing or fundraising. And, volunteering is a great way to meet people who are oftentimes well-connected in the community. Nonprofit staff or board members might know of a great job opportunity for you.

Networking Tips for All Occasions

Here are a few more networking tips to use for all occasions:

  • Say Yes – You can’t meet people if you don’t get out of the house. Accept as many invites as your schedule and energy level allow. You never know who you might meet and the more people you meet, the better your odds of finding that next great opportunity.
  • Build Rapport – No one likes the guy who “machine guns” their business card to everyone they meet. Take the time to get to know the people you meet. What are the challenges they face in their business? How can you help or offer advice? Can you connect them to someone who can grow their business? People do business with people they know and like. Get to know the community around you, support others and they will support you in return.
  • Ask for Advice – In general, people like being helpful. And while you don’t want to ask for a job right off the bat, you can ask questions like “I’m interested in learning more …” or “Do you know of any good resources to learn more about …” Use questions as small stepping stones to get you to your goal.
  • Take Notes and Follow Up – After a party, write down on the back of their business card, or whatever method you use to keep track of contact information, how you met them, when and where, and what you discussed. Use this information when you send a follow up email or connect on LinkedIn with the people you meet.

Networking, especially during the holidays, might not feel natural at first. But it can lead to some great connections. Don’t pass up the chance of a lifetime because you feel a moment of discomfort. Say yes to that next invitation, introduce yourself to someone new, and make a connection. Make this season of giving a season of networking. You just might greet the New Year with a new job.