By Amanda Rosenberg and Daniel Burke
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 valuable 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 even 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. You do not need to be particularly detailed or intimate; just a simple “thank you for your hard work” or “thanks for your help” can be enough. Simply remind 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, messages over LinkedIn, or even quick phone calls to say Happy Holidays. Whichever way you go, make sure your message is short, sweet, and shows you care.
If you do find yourself struggling with what to write, you can look up examples and templates on the internet. Just try searching up something like “Merry Christmas Messages” on Google.
As you are new in the U.S. you may be trying to add new people to your network. It seems quite intimidating, doesn’t it? Reaching out to essentially strangers? If that is the case, here’s a tip! Keep it simple! Try and tell them who you are, why you are interested in them, and that you would like to continue contact with them. Hopefully they will respond in kind and you can continue communicating to create a new relationship.
Since this process can be intimidating, though, here is a template you can use to get started.
I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to say thank you for all of your generous advice and support this year to help me launch my career in the U.S.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with peace and joy!
As stated previously, this is just a start. If you can fill in the email with details more specific to the person you are networking with and their relationship to you, then do so.
Prepare to Meet New People
Make a shortlist of people you want to connect with over the holiday season. During this time, work slows down and people will have more time to make phone calls. This list could include school alum, organizational leaders, professionals, and professors. Because we are also nearing the end of the year, it’ll be the perfect time to ask them about their goals, priorities, and initiatives for next year. Mention aspects of your interests that match theirs to develop a relationship, but keep the conversation on them. Maybe your goals for the upcoming year will align.
Also, please 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. Think of it like a commercial where the product you’re trying to sell is yourself.
There are two other key parts to a strong elevator pitch. The first is to know your audience. You want to advertise yourself in a way that appeals to the person you are speaking to. For example, your skills with mathematics won’t be of interest if you are trying to connect to a writer. Knowing how to tailor your pitch to your audience can be an incredibly useful skill, as you will also need to know how to market yourself during job interviews.
The other key to a well-crafted elevator pitch is delivery. Once you move beyond the writing stage, practice saying your pitch out loud. Record yourself and listen back to see how you sound. It is important to speak clearly and slowly, which can be difficult if you’re nervous. Practice will help you get used to saying your pitch naturally. No matter how well written your elevator pitch is, it won’t be helpful if no one can understand what you’re saying, so try your best not to mumble or speak too quickly. Deliver your elevator pitch with confidence.
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 or phone numbers, 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.
Remember to prepare yourself for the event. Make sure to look into the company that is hosting the event, as well as any other groups that may be involved. If the networking event is virtual, try to prepare a good, comfortable space to join in from. You should also check your tech before the event starts. This includes your camera, your microphone if you have one, and most importantly your internet connection. These can all contribute to your experience at virtual events, so do your best to be prepared.
Something else you can do to prepare for the event is, if possible, look into the other participants as well as the host. Often virtual events will have some form of registration or sign-up record you can find easily. Take the time to look some of the people attending up on LinkedIn. If you know who you want to add to your network before the event starts, it will be easier to tailor your preparations to their interests.
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 or email – 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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