Over the course of the past several weeks, you’ve probably received a host of cards, newsletters and other communications from companies offering you holiday greetings and appreciation for your past business.
The American consumer is continually bombarded with time-sensitive special offers for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, pre- and post-Christmas markdowns and year-end clearance sales. While you are encouraged to think of all these events and special prices as benefits to you, the real motivation, of course, is increased sales for the businesses.
Job hunters take note: just as businesses are always trying to expand their customer base, you must also constantly expand your network to maintain career progression. That’s not just to get a job now, but also to build the overall, long-term career arc to which you aspire. Many hires are made because someone knows someone, a result of networking.
If you meet and speak with someone once, it might just be a transactional interchange. But multiple communications over time turn a transaction into a relationship, and a contact into a potentially important part of your personal or professional network.
As you build your network this holiday season, keep these tips in mind.
1. There is no “bad” time for networking, but this is a particularly good time. This is a great time for checking in with people in your network to give updates about yourself, extend best wishes, inquire about others and offer to be of help in the year ahead.
2. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Building your network is a never-ending process. Everyone has multiple networks: family members, friends, neighbors, childhood friends, classmates, people in your house of worship, current and former co-workers and other contacts.
This is a good time of year to give your networking a boost by reaching out to people with whom you haven’t interacted for some time. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you might look for Facebook groups for your old hometown, high school and college. Scan and post an old photo from your scrapbook or yearbook and you’ll be amazed at what connections come out of the woodwork.
Or try looking for old classmates, friends and colleagues from former places of employment on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Reconnect without asking anything from them. Share a memory, ask what they have been up to for the past decade or decades and look for opportunities to engage in further conversation and be helpful before asking them for anything.
3. Think about the image of yourself you want to project. Whether you’ve been out of work for quite some time, or are currently employed and looking to move on to the next stage in your career, it is important to understand how others view your language, appearance and personal energy.
If you are with someone in a meeting or event and constantly looking down or away, you aren’t engaging. If you are telling your whole life’s story when a couple sentences will do, you’ll be seen as wasting time and not getting to the point. If you relate your down-and-out stories you’ll be seen as unsuccessful — not fresh, vital and ready to take on new challenges.
Instead, keep your language and stories short and upbeat, your eyes facing forward toward the person to whom you are speaking and create a compelling personal presence whenever you are networking or in an interview.
4. Give refreshing answers to standard questions. How do you respond to, “How are you?” Do you say, “Same-old, same-old,” “Fine,” or “OK. How about You?” When you offer the expected, you don’t stimulate anything but the most cursory conversation.
Instead, offer engaging and upbeat responses. Say, “I’m living the dream.” Or say, “This has been an incredible month.” Answers like these stimulate further questions, such as “Tell me more.” Then you have an invitation for a real conversation with someone who is interested in what you have to share.
5. Create follow-up reminders — and act on them. Keep an ear out for statements that give an entree for a follow-up conversation weeks or months later. It might be anything from an upcoming birthday or something business-related, such as a product launch.
As soon afterward as possible put reminders in your calendar to call or email so-and-so about such-and-such. Imagine what an impression you’ll make down the road some months from now when you write something like this:
“Hi [insert name here], I remember when we spoke around New Year’s that you mentioned that such-and-such was scheduled for around now. I just wanted to follow up and let you know I’m thinking of you. What’s the latest?”
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Job Seekers, Follow These 5 Year-End Networking Tips originally appeared on usnews.com