By Amanda Rosenberg
Dear Coach Kwan,
This is my first year in the States after the pandemic and I will be graduating soon. I know networking is important, and I heard the holiday season could be a great time to network. How can I optimize this holiday seasons in the US for networking post-pandemic?
Sincerely, an international student ready to network
For many people in the US, the holiday season is a time of joy and gratitude. The season kicks off with Thanksgiving, followed by various holidays throughout December and January. This special time of year can be a wonderful opportunity to do some career networking and create connections that will last.
If this is your first year in the US, you may be used to networking virtually, or you may be looking for ways to broaden your network in the US. Luckily, this is the perfect time of year to do so.
Follow along below with our top five favorite tips for networking during the holiday season.
Send Holiday Cards
“Not knowing how to maintain a connection” is the number one networking challenge for many international students. Holiday cards are a great way to show people in your network that you care and would like to connect with them further.
Make a list of people who regularly provide you with advice – such as school advisors, alumni, friends, or your former employers/supervisors and use this classic tradition of sending a thoughtful card to maintain a relationship with them.
Thanksgiving can be one opportunity to send out a card or email of gratitude. Make sure to thank people you have made connections with and who have already helped you along your career journey. Simply reminding your network that you are thinking of them and are grateful during the holiday season.
Going into December, you should also consider sending out holiday cards to people with whom you want to connect. When sending cards in the US, make sure to use the term ‘happy holidays’ rather than ‘merry Christmas,’ especially if you don’t know what the person celebrates. The US is full of religious diversity, so saying ‘happy holidays’ is a great way to be inclusive.
A holiday card can be a traditional snail-mail card, featuring some holiday-themed photos and a brief and joyous holiday message. A non-traditional route is perfectly good too – such as sending out individual emails or even quick phone calls to say Happy Holidays. Whichever way you go, make sure your message is short, sweet, and shows you care.
Prepare to Meet New People
If you plan on networking during the holidays, you should be prepared to meet new people and launch new connections. To do this, make sure you have an elevator pitch prepared. An elevator pitch is a brief (no more than 30 seconds) overview of who you are, what you have accomplished professionally, and what your career goals are.
Especially during the holiday season, people want to spend time doing what they love. By having an elevator pitch prepared, you can make career connections while minimizing the amount of time being taken up. After you’ve given your pitch, make sure you get a chance to exchange email addresses, connect on LinkedIn, and continue networking at a later date.
Attend Professional Events
The best place you can go to make new connections is to a place that is specifically set up for networking. You won’t be the only person there who is looking to expand their network. Whether it be virtual or in-person, many companies take the time during holidays to create social and networking events.
These events can be the perfect place to meet new people and to exercise that elevator pitch. If you get the chance, attending a holiday event can be a fun experience, on top of a chance to network and learn more about the company hosting the event.
This year, we recommend attending the following organization’s events:
Take Time to Reach Out
Even if you don’t send someone a card or see them at an event, you can still take the time to reach out to people you want to connect with.
You’ll want to make a shortlist of people you want to connect with during the holiday season. This list can include people like school alum, organizational leaders, professionals, and professors. Take the time to reach out with a phone call – wish them happy holidays and ask about their career and goals for the upcoming year. Hopefully, your interests will align and you can create a conversation that develops into a long connection.
Later on in the holiday season, make sure to reach back out to the new people you have met.
Developing meaningful relationships over the holiday season can create a lifelong connection. Following-up can strengthen these relationships even after the season passes, and lead to career opportunities or even a mentor/mentee relationship. Possible ways to follow-up can include a LinkedIn connection, email, card, or phone call. Ask how their goals are coming along, where their career is headed, or even just how they are doing. Showing you remember them and you are eager to connect can go a long way.
The holiday season is a wonderful time to meet new people, create connections, and form professional relationships that will last a lifetime. Keep an open mind and get ready to network!
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