By Debra Davenport
Just like you can never receive too many gifts at the holidays, you can never have too many contacts in your professional network. Being well-connected connotes success and influence -- the kind of cachet every serious professional seeks to achieve.
The holidays are a great time to build your list of influential contacts. Whether you're currently employed or conducting a job search, consider every invitation a chance to create new career-building relationships.
Here are several networking strategies that have proved successful:
The Best Networking Takes Place at Home
Inviting colleagues, prospects, clients and contacts to your home establishes a more personal relationship. An invitation to your home also creates opportunities for reciprocal invitations and introductions to others' inner circle of contacts. Host a holiday open house, buffet or afternoon tea. You don't have to impress by spending a lot of money. It's the invitation that counts.
Give and You Shall Receive
Feeling altruistic this holiday season? Get involved with a charity. Volunteering leads to important connections and the development of relationships that are not just based on building business contacts, but on helping others.
Don't reject invitations to events that seem like duds -- they often turn out to offer valuable networking opportunities. You never know who's going to be there. And, while it's possible you may connect with only one person, that connection could turn into a powerful, long-term relationship.
Create Your Own Networking Opportunities
Start a holiday book club, a caroling troupe or a game night. Host a party to honor someone you admire, give an award or even create a scholarship program. There are countless ways of getting people together to enjoy the spirit of the season. All you need is one idea and an invitation.
Use the Internet
Write a holiday blog or newsletter and email it to your contacts. Include a "viral" element, such as a photo, video, news article or original quote to prompt recipients to spread your message.
Follow Up with Every Person You Meet
A handwritten note letting someone know you enjoyed meeting them is priceless today, and worth every minute. Your goal is to solidify your initial impression as a savvy professional -- and to be remembered.
Use Your Business Cards
Your business card is your best networking tool. Always have plenty on hand and don't be shy about handing them out. Include your card in your holiday mailings and attach them to business gifts. In between jobs? Personal "call me" cards printed with your name, descriptor (e.g., "Sales and Marketing Specialist"), and contact information are the perfect tool for self-promotion. Note: If you're employed but on the job hunt, it's proper protocol to use your personal cards rather than your company business cards.
Most importantly, remember that the holidays are a time of giving. Put the needs of others first while you're working the room. Benevolence is the greatest attribute of any job seeker, regardless of the season.
[Debra Davenport is president of DavenportFolio, a career counseling, mentoring, placement and search firm.]