‘Tis the season to network

The holidays can provide a special time to spruce up your network.

During the holidays, people get together to celebrate the season. There are work parties, family gatherings, school celebrations, club socials, community events, volunteer opportunities and many ways to bond with others. People are often cheerful and more charitable during the holidays. This makes a perfect setting for networking.

What is networking?

Networking is the act of making contact and sharing information with other people, groups and institutions to develop mutually beneficial relationships. Networks provide support to one another. Through your network you may share job leads, make introductions to new people, learn about upcoming events or opportunities, discover a solution to a problem or even discover a new resource.

Networking is often associated with uncovering the hidden job market. These are job opportunities that are never advertised and mainly filled by people they know or through referrals.

How do I start my network?

Good news! Everyone has a network and there is no real start or end to it. As long as you are talking to people and building relationships, you are building your own network. Every time you participate in a school or social event, volunteer in the community, talk to a relative, neighbor or friend, or connect online, you are building your network. Your family, friends and classmates are often referred to as your personal or informal network.

This holiday season, let your personal network know about your interests, goals, needs and aspirations and find out about theirs. You may learn new things about each other and how you can help support one another. Michigan State University Extension suggests requesting a recommendation you can add to your portfolio or online profile. Consider asking your contacts for an introduction to someone they may know that can help reach your goals.

A professional network consists of individuals that can help you develop or advance in a career. This network may also include members of your personal network. To expand your professional network, participate in new activities and join groups of career interest (both online and off). Develop and practice your professional pitch. Start collecting business cards from people you meet. Conduct information interviews to find the best networking resources for a career field you want to get into.

Maintaining your network

To maintain your network you need to stay connected and active. Make sure to say thank you if someone has helped you. Invite your network to events you think they might enjoy. Share an interesting story, picture, idea, resource or news clip. Make a quick call, send a text, write an e-mail to say hello and show you have been thinking of them. Share an update about yourself. Take a moment to reach out and wish them “Happy Holidays!”

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