Use your time over the holiday break to boost your networking connections. Here's why:
You'll see a wide variety of people
During the holidays, you'll likely see relatives, family friends, neighbors, former classmates and previous employers, all of whom have their own circles of connections and acquaintances. Tell as many as you can about your career aspirations — you never know when the opportunity may arise for someone to put in a good word for you.
Organizations have holiday parties too
Check out the websites and calendars for professional organizations in your career field. Many are happy to welcome interested students to their events, which creates a chance for you to meet and impress a large number of potential connections.
You have an extended period of free time
If you're not working, you may have time to job-shadow for a week or more, or even volunteer to complete a small project for one of the companies you'd eventually like to work for. This offers a potential employer the opportunity to see your skills while you provide a valuable service, and it allows you to make connections with the employer and staff (who may also recommend you to their own connections later).
You have time to travel
With a stretch of two to four weeks away from school, you will have time to travel to a distant city or employer that appeals to you. Contact companies in your desired area and ask about opportunities for informational interviews, career exploration discussions and job-shadowing in your field.
The pressure's not on
Since you have time before graduation, making connections now provides plenty of opportunity to develop relationships without appearing to try to land a full-time job. Perhaps the professional you met at the neighborhood holiday party will become a mentor throughout your college years and early career, or maybe a potential employer you visit now will become an internship opportunity for next summer.
Before you head out to your first potential networking event, make sure you:
- Have prepared a brief summary of your goals. Nail a casual yet professional 30-second networking speech about what you want to do and why.
- Have contact cards and resumes on hand. Be ready if people ask if they can have a colleague or acquaintance contact you.
- Set up your profile on LinkedIn and other social networks. Even if someone doesn't seem interested right away, he or she may have occasion later to try to find out more about you.
- Clean up your social media accounts. Your contacts and their connections may check you out before agreeing to an informational interview or calling you. Make sure they don't have reason to call someone else instead.
And, always remember to say thank you, whether it's for a person's time, an introduction to someone else or a potential opportunity.