• Kwan Segal

Maximize Your Winter Break For Career Search And Form Meaningful Connections

Updated: Jan 5

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

Dear Coach Kwan

It is now the holiday season and as I already went back home in the summer, now I'm staying on campus during this winter break. I want to use this time to be productive with career searching. However, I also want to celebrate the holidays. How do I make the most out of my winter break?


A motivated, ready-to-connect, yet overwhelmed international student

Not all international students get a chance to head back home during the holidays. If you’re staying on campus during this winter break, here’s how to make the most of your time.

You can use this time to enjoy your break and take care of yourself, while you maximize your career search. The holiday season is a great time to network. People are relaxed and ready for conversation. Please remember the best way to build a meaningful relationship is to get to know people on both the professional and personal level.

Want to have a successful networking experience during this holiday season? Here are 3 simple steps for you to take to build your new professional network in the U.S.:

1. Find the right events for you

What kind of events would be right for you? Remember networking during the holidays does not mean attending a random holiday gathering. You want to meet with the right people too. Use your international background and your areas of expertise as leverage.

There are a lot of local chapters of professional affiliations out there that organize events for their members. These events are sometimes open to the public as well - take advantage of that! I would also encourage you to consider joining as a student member, since student member dues tend to be lower. It is not too early to become a member of a professional organization!

Here are some examples:

- Want to meet with the HR professionals? Go to the SHRM website and find your local chapter. For me, I live in Chicago and there’s one event coming up on Dec 3

- Do you want to meet with Pan-Asian leaders who work in multinational companies? Visit Ascend’s website and check out the upcoming events in your area.

- Are you interested in joining one of the largest Hispanic professional communities? Check out Prospanica’s website for upcoming events and more information!

There are also so many choices of professional organizations you can participate as an international student who wants to work in Corporate America in the future. If you’d like to learn more, we have all of the strategies and game plans for you in our Module 3 Create Networking Game Plan on the ICAway Talent Platform.

2. Start the conversation

How you start conversations and the impressions made are key to how connections will form. After you find the right holiday event and the right people, you have to think about starting the conversation. You want to break the ice while simultaneously making a great first impression.

Being a friendly conversationalist is a good thing in the U.S. Maybe try to start a conversation mentioning something the other person has that you genuinely admire. Using a compliment as an ice-breaker can be effective, as long as it is sincere. Try identifying something that you think they might have put particular thought into, such as a piece of clothing or an accessory, and your attention to detail will be appreciated.

Another thing to try is to simply introduce yourself— e.g. "I don’t think we’ve met. I'm [your name].” You can keep the conversation going by talking about the experience that you and the other person are sharing. If you are attending an event hosted by a professional organization, you can ask them if they are members or simply guests, ask questions about their ties with the organization, and just keep the conversation going from there.

Don’t overthink it - just be prepared to be your authentic self. Breaking the ice may seem daunting, but just remember to talk about things that you enjoy, understand and can have a great conversation about. If you did not understand something, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain themselves. Lastly, remember to have fun with it!

3. Follow-Up

After going to the right event for you and having memorable conversations, you need to follow-up and strengthen the relationships you have created. Strengthening these professional relationships can lead to the hidden job market and/or a mentor and mentee relationship.

Following up is the golden opportunity to establish a relationship. However, you do not just want to send a follow-up email. Do not waste your follow up email to “just follow up” without providing any value. Use every email as an opportunity to build trust. Trust is key to all relationships, including professional.

Follow these tips in order to craft the perfect follow-up email:

- Pick a subject you discussed during the event whether it is a fun topic or a work topic. For example, you may find an article about their favorite vacation destination and share it with them or you can share research in the areas that the person is interested in.

- Write something along the lines of “I came across this and thought about you/our conversation”

I understand that we were all taught to write very proper English since we were young. However, effective communication in the U.S. is to make the email sound friendly and make it concise. You don’t have to worry about using fancy words or a very formal structure.

If you want to find out approaches to gaining access to the hidden job market, channels you already have connections to in order to gain access to the hidden job market, and more information to understand the concept of mentors/mentees. Preview our training in Module 2 Make People Like You on the ICAway Talent Platform.

Hopefully, you now feel prepared to build amazing connections whilst enjoying your winter break. Seizing an opportunity to maximize your career search is valuable. The holiday season is a great time to network. People are relaxed and ready for conversation. The best way to build a meaningful relationship is to get to know people on both the professional and personal level.

Want to have a successful networking experience during this holiday season? Remember the 3 simple steps for you to take and build your new professional network in the U.S.: find the right events for you, prepare a conversation starter, and follow up. Once you master these steps, you will be making the most out of your winter break!

Join the ICAway Talent Platform to learn how to build your new network in the U.S. and build a career brand that draws recruiters to you

About Coach Kwan

Kwan is an experienced human-capital consultant. Her past corporate experience includes global organizations like Deloitte, Accenture, and BMW.

Kwan moved to the U.S. in 2014, earned her Senior Professional HR certification from HRIC and joined one of the world's most prestigious consulting firms as a Senior Consultant of Human Capital Consulting Practice and managed multiple projects for Fortune 500 clients.

Today, Kwan is the CEO and Founder of ICAway, an educational consulting firm based out of Chicago. Our mission is to be an empowering community for international students and light the way for students to find jobs in the U.S.


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