Turns out, there's a built-in holiday gift in the corporate calendar come December. Thanks to a more relaxed office environment, company parties with HR-approved booze, and the carte blanche opportunity to reach out to pretty much anyone via a "season's greetings!" card, the holidays are pretty much made for networking.
We know, we know. "Networking" sounds so corporate and out of place during the one time of the year when even your boss says it's okay to chill out. But when you do it right, networking requires minimal effort and can pay off in the form of client recommendations, career tips, and potential promotions down the road. And best of all: It's just adding a tiny bit of focus to the stuff you're already doing this time of year. So break out the bubbly and get ready for holiday-party season to pay off big time.
You Have More Opportunities To Talk To Higher-Ups You could spend the office holiday party hanging out with your work wife. But you should spend at least part of it seeking out your boss — or your boss's boss — and having a brief conversation with them. Let them know how glad you are to be at the company, how much you enjoyed working on a recent project, and compliment them on one of their recent moves. You shouldn't monopolize their time; they want to have fun there, too. But it is an awesome opportunity to get face time, especially if it's a rare commodity.
You May See Your Boss In A More Informal Setting If you work at a smaller company, your boss may open up her home to you for a holiday party. Or your manager may have a small team dinner or happy hour. Either way, it's a great way to get to know your boss as a person — which can have long-term positive effects in terms of forging a bond and staying in touch. We're not saying to peer into her medicine cabinet, but if you notice she has framed photos from Paris on her mantel or a few postcards advertising French films on her fridge, it's a good sign she's a Francophile — which is a great nugget of knowledge to bring up in future interactions, like when you get stuck in the elevator together.
You Can Learn The Gossip The combination of open bottles of wine and lowered office lighting pretty much invites over-sharing. Instead of jumping in with your own anecdotes or observations when the conversation turns to what's really going on when your boss holds closed-door meetings, listen up. You may hear chatter about potential shakeups before they happen. Obviously, you shouldn't share this news with anyone or assume it's public knowledge, but being privy to private info can help you assess your next strategic moves.
Downtime = Time To Revamp Your Résumé If work isn't super crazy, this can be a great time of year to get basic admin stuff done that you haven't had a chance to do — including polishing your LinkedIn profile and making sure your résumé is up to date.
You Can Connect To Old Mentors Holiday cards are an amazingly easy way to keep in touch with old bosses, coworkers, and internship supervisors. A few tips: Make sure the card is a general "holiday"-themed card, and, if you're sending to professional contacts, it's best to skip the picture of you and your dog and stick to a generic winter scene. Keep your greeting positive, say you hope your paths cross in the future, and include your email address, so it's easy for them to get in touch with you. Don't know their personal address? Just send it to their office. And if the person is someone you want to catch up with in the new year, follow up in mid-January — don't try to cram a coffee date on the calendar in December.
Your High School Class? Also Your "Network" Yes, it's annoying to have the same "what do you do" conversation with your cousins, your mom's best friend, and that guy you sat next to in 10th grade geometry class, but you never know who people know. Talking shop — at least for a bit — could lead to a coveted introduction at an amazing company, or give you a heads-up about an opportunity you've never considered before.
It's The Best Excuse To Throw Your Own Party The holidays can be a great leveler. While it may not occur to you to invite your manager to a huge party at your house on a Saturday, it's entirely appropriate to invite her to an open house at your place on a weekend afternoon, especially if you're close and your work environment is relatively informal. She may not come, but offering an invite can strengthen your bond.
You Can Prove Your Loyalty To Your Boss Are you one of the people stuck in the office during the so-called dead zone between Christmas and New Years? That can actually be an awesome time to prove just how much you care about your work, especially to the higher-ups who are stuck coming in with you. By showing up at your desk on time, being cheerful, and offering a hand with anything they have on their plates, you're totally showing you know how to go the extra mile when it counts.
Some HR Teams Are Hustling to Hire For some companies, December is the month when they're under pressure to hire so they can start January off strong. If you are actively searching for a new job, you don't need to pause for the month. Instead, you may find the interview process fast-tracked.
Holiday Help Can Turn Into A Full-Time Job If you're still actively seeking a job, getting a foot in the door at a company through temping for the holidays or signing a holiday-only contract can give you a leg up if the company turns out to have the budget to hire full-time for the year. Even if the job's temporary, going the extra mile during the gig puts you in the optimal position to be hired once the time is right.
New At Your Job? It's The Easiest Time To Meet People For some reason, the holidays make it easier to say "hi" in the elevator, to ask your coworker if they're down for a caffeine run, or to start up a conversation at the holiday party. If you haven't already, use the month to start to connect with your coworkers — asking if you can crash their Uber ride from the holiday party or commiserating over an early morning post-party can be great for office bonding.
You're Not As Focused On Work Sounds counterintuitive, but when you have a lot of other things going on in your life, it's easy to not obsess over landing a specific interview or networking with a certain person and just let conversations flow. A discussion with a stranger at a holiday party over New Year's Eve plans is a way more organic way to make a connection than the generic "what do you do?" conversation. And once you do get around to talking about work, you may find you have a similar career field — setting yourself up for a valuable work connection (and a new friend!).
You Can Get Advice From Different Sources What, exactly, does Aunt Jane do for a living? If you've always tuned out that part of dinner conversation, then it might be time to listen up. We're not saying you should go directly to your relatives for career advice, which can be a minefield, but you may find they have some hard-won experience that may be relevant to your own career.
Connecting Over Volunteer Opportunities Is Awesome Of course, you shouldn't volunteer only to try to advance your career, but it is one benefit. Volunteering for causes you're passionate about allows you to meet people who have different careers, experiences, and lifestyles than you and may result in creating connections that could lead to a job down the road. The same goes for donating to causes you're passionate about. Often, the end of the year is when organizations have thank-you parties for volunteers and donors and, again, it's a great way to meet people you otherwise may not.