The holiday season is filled with business events that materialize from every direction. Sometimes these are formal affairs and the jobseeker has the advantage of planning for the event. Sometimes the “holiday party with business colleagues” can be an impromptu, unexpected gathering at a restaurant, mall or other public venue. Every situation provides potential opportunities for jobseekers.
It goes without saying that preparation is key.
TOP TIPS for the Holidays:
- Your goal is to simply make a good impression and open the door for a future conversation.
- Holiday gatherings are social events without a specific business agenda— even if the event is held on the business property.
- Conversation should be light, positive, and pleasant.
- Talking about business or your situation as a jobseeker is fine, only if the other person brings it up.
- End with something like, “It was terrific to chat with you. May I connect with you after the first of the year?”
- Avoid everything and anything that might be construed as a negative message. This includes unusual color schemes, buttons, pins, odd ties or tie tacks, jewelry, weird shoes, unusual clothing. In other words: fit in. (Maybe rethink wearing your garden sweats at the mall or a run for a quick hair trim.)
There is no way to know what people may ask. And although the situation is social, someone may ask you a pointed question. Thorough preparation can save an awkward situation and open the door for a future conversation.
Here are a few pointers:
- Research the guest list if possible.
- Identify potential decision makers and try to meet briefly with them.
- Prepare for standard questions about yourself.
NOTE: It’s ill-advised, at a business-social engagement, to go into the usual networking chat that jobseekers can usually recite in their sleep. “Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a business analyst…etc.” (Avoid this. Again, the goal is to set up a future conversation…when the person is much more likely to give you their undivided attention.)
- Ensure your online presence is solid (LinkedIn).
- Bring business cards. Offer them only if asked.
Prepare for standard questions:
- Although the questions may be the standard “business-party-event” questions, your answers should not be the standard “jobseeker-looking-for-a-job” answers. Again, the goal is to find opportunities to connect after the first of the year and have a discussion without background music and party noise.
- Usual Questions:
- “Where are you working?
- “What do you do?”
- “How is your jobsearch going? Any good leads?”
- “What are you looking for?”
…but DON’T ANSWER THEM!!!!:
- DO NOT answer these questions. Really. Don’t do it! The minute you get to the most important phrase of your elevator speech—an announcer will blare through the microphone that a free dance with Reindeer Rudolph will be awarded to the lucky person in the back corner, eating a stuffed mushroom. Even if Rudolph’s dance card is full, someone may inadvertently drop the platter with the mushrooms…Don’t answer those questions.
- Briefly answer the question and turn the conversation back to the other person.
- End your “brief encounter” with something like, “Thank you for the chat. Maybe we could connect after the first of the year?” (Look for a nod. Did you get it? YES! Good work!)
- If the person focuses on your jobsearch, redirect the conversation to focus on your hopes for the future and your ability to add value in your next position.
E.g. “My time at (business name) was great. I learned a lot. Some difficult business decisions had to be made and now I’m investigating the ________ industry, where I believe I can add value.”
- Keep the conversation light. People should be comfortable around you. The easiest way to do this is to ask people about themselves, the holiday, etc.
- Connect with decision makers if possible. Obviously everyone isn’t a decision maker, however many people know who they are, And they may offer to help you connect or advise you on how to approach key people.
- Educate people about your business value and skills only when appropriate—which is when they ask. Then – keep it short and ask to follow-up after the holidays.
- Promote a demeanor that is confident, relaxed, and work-ready.
- Exchange business cards for possible follow-up.
Holiday Party Dos and Don’ts:
- Do not make any derogatory or negative comments about your situation, the economy, your former employer, your spouse, or political leader, anything in the news or anything else that isn’t on this list… In short: keep it positive and neutral.
- Avoid sarcasm, which is too easily misunderstood.
- Do not ask in-depth questions about the company. E.g. “What are the technological challenges facing your company?” Yes, it’s a great question – save it for the follow-up meeting.
- Do not beg for a job, ask about openings in their company, or ask them to take a look at your résumé, or bio. (You are at a social gathering …these steps come later, if and when they are appropriate.)
- When talking to decision makers, keep it about them until they ask about you. Then, don’t ask about company concerns. Instead, ask if you can connect with him or her after the first of the year.
- Dress appropriately, conservatively, and without any visual distractions.
- Keep conversation pleasant and without controversial content.
- Don’t call on the first business day following New Year’s Day and ask for an appointment. Give them time to “dig-out” from the torrential emails, phone calls, and unforeseen emergencies. Suggestion: Call during the second work-week of the year.
Holiday Party Follow-up
- As soon as possible after the event, make some notes about the people you met, the conversation you had and any specific information that may be helpful in future conversations.
- Send a LinkedIn Invitation to connect with people you meet following the event.
- Sometime in the second week of the new year, call or email your new contacts and ask for a 30-minute conversation.
There is no shame if you have been laid off, or if you are a recent grad and haven’t found a job. The shame is that so many people wait to get help. Don’t wait. Call today: (860) 833-4072.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.