We’ve all been there: Stuck at a company holiday party you’d rather not attend, or maybe your next-door neighbors are throwing an event you just can’t avoid. Whatever the occasion, these parties can be draining during the holidays. This is especially true for those of us who are introverts, or those of us who have other commitments such as children or demanding jobs.
But if you’re planning to enter the job market soon, holiday parties can truly be the perfect places to kick off your search. Where else will you find such a large group of warm, friendly people in one room? These parties are often composed of friends you haven’t seen in a while who genuinely want to know how you’re doing and what you’re up to. They are often looking to reconnect again outside of the event.
Holiday parties are also cost-effective, as they are typically free, requiring at most a small host gift or a bottle of wine.
The best part is you don’t have to wear a suit, nor do you need to deliver your whole elevator pitch. You’ll know most people, and mutual a friend will introduce you to the attendees you don’t know. Conversations will be easier, more interesting, and less forced than they would be at a typical networking event.
To make the most of your holiday parties this year, plan ahead. Try to get enough rest in advance, and be ready to share the latest news in your life. Offer personal updates, including changes in your family, your home, or your work. Do your best to keep your news positive. Holiday parties are meant to be festive occasions.
If you find conversations with new people difficult, prepare a list of questions in advance. Ask how their family is doing. Ask if they have any plans to travel or take a vacation soon. Ask about their hobbies and interests.
Remember to bring business cards, and exchange them with other guests when (and if) it seems appropriate. This will help you stay in touch with new friends and update your contact information with old ones. If you’re not currently working, a simple card will do. Include your name, phone number, and email address.
After the event, make a point to follow up with the folks with whom you want to stay in touch. Invite them to your next party. Ask them to have lunch or coffee. Be sure to connect on LinkedIn.
These small interactions build your friendships and grow your network. When the new year comes, you’ll be prepared to put your best foot forward.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.