From accepting your office holiday party invitation to making the most of your connections, the holidays offer amazing opportunities for professional networking.

It's the holiday season, which should mean lots of fun, joy, laughter, and office holiday parties right around the corner. Yet, a survey by human resources software provider TriNet found that a large majority of employees would happily trade their employer's holiday party for other perks, like cash bonuses or extra personal time off. If you fall into this category, you might consider taking a different perspective and utilizing holiday gatherings as a way to network with co-workers, especially those you don't know all that well. Plus, if you play your cards right, holiday parties could help advance your career.  To get you into the spirit, here are some networking tips to make the most out of your office holiday party.

Accept the invitation

You've probably heard about the power of saying yes. In this situation, it rings true. When you get invited to a holiday gathering, whether it's a department happy hour, the company holiday party, or even dinner at your spouse's boss's place, just go for it.

Your brain might immediately think about all of the reasons why you don't want to do it, but stop and think about the good possibilities. The best way to find new connections — and strengthen your current ones —  is to get out and spend time with them in an informal setting. Saying yes is just the first step.

Be prepared with a game plan

Once you let it sink in that your company holiday party could be a great way to network and advance your career, give some thought as to your plan of action. 

  • Will you take a date? 

  • Who will you attempt to speak to? 

  • How many business cards will you take? 

  • How will you take notes discretely if you desire to do so? 

Don't fret — all of these questions are addressed in the following tips.

Consider going solo

You might be inclined to take a date to your holiday party, especially if you're feeling hesitant to go in the first place. If your plan is to network, then going solo is the best plan of action. It will give you the opportunity to float around the room with free reign; you can go wherever you want and speak with whomever you want without the need to worry about your date.

Consider your wardrobe

Dress to impress while keeping your attire simple, classy, and appropriate. You don't want your attire to be distracting because it's out of place, see-through, or shows too much skin for an office holiday party.

Related: A Guide for What to Wear to a Company Christmas Party

Network with the right people

You'll want to keep the networking strategy list you created handy to ensure you don't miss speaking to someone of importance at the party. You might consider approaching those who are higher up in the company, who work in an area where you'd like to work, who do work that interests you, or those who can support you in advancing your career, such as a potential mentor. A holiday party is a rare opportunity where you'll have a large group of unique people all gathered together, so take advantage of it.

Keep your business cards handy

The last thing you want to do is show up without your business cards — and then someone asks for one. Also, when you're asked for your business card, ask for one in return; this can be your tool to take notes on about the individual once the party is over. Taking notes will allow you to quickly recall who each person is that you spoke to, and who you might be able to reach out to if the opportunity or need arises. If you need to jot down a quick note on the fly during the party, consider downloading one of these free or low-cost note-taking apps to your phone before the event takes place, or if you have an iPhone, the notes app is already installed.

Be mindful of your bubbly intake

This should go without saying, but I've seen more than one holiday party where an employee regretted how much they drank once the morning came. If you're going to network, you want to keep a clear mind and definitely don't want to be slurring your words. Eat first, and drink slowly and lightly.

Focus on having fun

Keep in mind that you're at a holiday party, so even though your goal is to network, you also want to keep the shop talk to a minimum. Plus, people tend to be drawn to relatable characteristics and stories, so sharing just enough personal details with someone could help build relationships and keep your name in mind if a new position opens up in that person's department. A word of caution, however:  You don't want to go overboard or share too much. Instead, use good judgment about what you share.

Related: 5 Tips for Surviving Your Office Holiday Party

Listen, then talk

When you introduce yourself — and you do want to introduce yourself each time you walk up to a new face — be sure to ask questions and listen. Get a feel for who you're talking to and what their personality is like. People like to speak about themselves, and they appreciate it when people listen. Active listening can be rare, so people often take notice when they truly feel heard, which means you could leave a lasting impression with this strategy.

Keep the flow moving

You only have so much time to mingle and network with everyone your list, and you also don't want to monopolize any single person's time. Keep the flow going as you make your rounds, and when it's time to leave, trust your intuition and make your exit. Don't be “that guy” — you know, the one that goes to every event and never stops talking about the big project he's working on. 

It's the holidays, which means people want to relax and enjoy themselves. Keep conversations light and fun.  If you make a great connection and want the opportunity to talk shop, ask them about what they are working on. By showing interest in their work, you'll open the door for casual career talk that is not intrusive.

Follow up

If you find someone you hit it off with someone or make a great connection, follow up with them the week after the party or after the holidays if they'll be out of the office. Send a simple email letting them know it was great to meet them and that you look forward to connecting again soon. Keep it short and to the point.

Don't wait until next year

Don't wait for New Year's to make your networking resolutions. Some of your best opportunities are during the holiday season itself. Take a breath, say yes, get in the spirit, and give your career the gift it really wants this year. Hopefully, you'll make some great new connections and have fun doing it!

Is your resume ready for this holiday season networking spree? Request a free resume critique today!

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