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A Great Tip for Holiday Networking

The saying, ďItís not what you know, itís who you know,Ē can be especially effective to build on over the holidays when thanks to holiday parties and similar circumstances, you come into contact for social reasons with people youíve never met.

Itís natural for people to ask what you do. Itís how we look for common topics to talk about and how we, unfortunately, tend to classify people. For the latter reason, some tend to feel embarrassed or ashamed at being unemployed. Do I need to say that thatís unnecessary to begin with, let alone these days when it seems more people are actually out of work than working?

For the employed, itís an easy answer for obvious reasons. But the conversation usually ends there and moves on to other topics, wasting the contact. For the same reason I recommend building relationships with recruiters when youíre happily employed and donít need them, itís a smart idea to build a network when youíre employed and donít need it. Next time you meet someone, start with swapping business cards.

For the unemployed who have no business card, this isnít a dead end. I have my unemployed clients build a personal business card, an idea I got from my passion for English history. In Victorian times, ladies who called on each other outside of specified ďat homeĒ visiting hours, left calling cards.

I took that idea and updated. Like the normal business card, you want your name, address, phone, and email address. Also on the front goes your function, for example: sales and marketing executive, corporate tax director, administrative assistant, or channel manager.

On the back are little bullets, much like on your resume, that specify your skills, for example: international experience, P & L responsibility, European markets. Keep each bullet short, and donít put more than six or eight. Itís not your resume. These are great for networking meetings the rest of the year too. People bring their resumes, or abbreviated versions of them to these things. Why? You hand them to someone who puts it in a folder resolving to look at it later and probably never does. Itís too much information to read and too much to retain.

On the other hand, people keep business cards. If someone wants to refer you to someone else, the card suffices, because itís a bite size piece of information they looked at immediately, and easily absorbed. Let the person who is referred to you ask you for your resume, because your friend isnít going to send it. So if youíre unemployed, make up this little personal business card, and take it with you to holiday parties. You donít need to have a job to exchange cards.

Also, weíve all heard of those elevator speeches. Job seekers labor over them for hours, and then they come out all stilted and formal. Are you really going to say that at a holiday party? Of course not. Take your off-the-cuff, holiday party, backyard BBQ version and use that as your elevator speech. Itís much more effective and natural.

So youíve exchanged business cards, personal or company, employed or unemployed. Now what? Donít stick in your pocket and forget it, for starters. Building a relationship, a connection, takes a bit of work. Easy when youíre in sixth grade and youíve got recess every day, but a bit harder when youíre in the real world with responsibilities.

First, when you get the card, make some notes on the back. Like this: 3 kids, oldest in college, wife getting teaching degree, Yankees fan, headed European division of company for a few years. Not only does it help you remember the person, but it keeps whatís relevant to them, relevant to you. Keep the cards (because it should be plural) somewhere in plain view so they remain in your conscious awareness. If you hide them away, youíll forget the card and forget the person.

Then pay attention to articles, news, and information in general. Pass it on when you come across something that might be of interest to them, and when you do that, ask how their daughter is doing with her college courses, or what they thought about the Jets game or something similar.

Now hereís the far out part that will take you totally out of your comfort zone. Have a cocktail party or some functional gathering with a reason. Invite your friends and all these people that youíve met. Or you can go out to lunch with them one at a time. I donít care, but connect again in person. Youíve got to cement this thing youíre building. Thatís how you stay in their minds.

It might not seem so important when youíre employed, but depend on it, if you get laid off, it will be a lot more comfortable for you to call them if you donít have to do it out of the blue. And donít you judge if they will be of help to you or not. You have no idea who they know or might come in contact with over the ensuing months.

When you need something from someone, most people feel more comfortable asking if they know the person with whom theyíre speaking. My point here is that if youíre going to meet someone and discuss your career expertise, then do something with it. If you donít need it now, you might need it later, and then youíll wish youíd paid more attention.

- Judi Perkins

VisionQuest

judi@findtheperfectjob.com

www.findtheperfectjob.com