The holiday party season is almost upon us, and while many people dread the thought of attending, holiday parties can be an integral part of your success in life.
Whether you are interested in securing a new job, or growing your business or personal brand in the next year, here are some success strategies to manage the seven common holiday party missteps:
1. Accept the invitation.
Embarrassed about being out of work, underemployed or just plain miserable at their current job, many job seekers opt not to attend holiday parties so they can avoid embarrassing questions. Push past the discomfort and go anyway. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you need. A holiday party is the perfect place to renew old relationships and establish new ones. Bring a friend, promise yourself a treat…do whatever you must do to motivate yourself to go!
2. Practice telling your story well.
Once you have made the decision to go, understand that how you talk about your situation will determine peoples’ response to you. It is a party. No one wants to hear a tale of woe. Craft a positive, upbeat response to the question: “What do you do?” Focus on the “do,” not the job title or employment status. Replace phrases that start with “I am…” with “I (verb)…..”
3. Share the spotlight.
Fearful about how to explain their situation, anxious job seekers sometimes offer too much information. When you combine over talking with telling your story poorly, you leave others with a terrible impression of you. The best way to control the flow of information is to be the person asking the questions. After you introduce yourself with “I (verb)…,” quickly ask a question to shift the focus away from you. Show an interest in others by learning about what they do. People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions that are “other” focused allows you to uncover who might be in a position to help you. It also allows you to begin to build rapport and establish relationships.
4. Stay positive.
It doesn’t matter how horrible your current employer is or your former employer was: it never serves you well to speak poorly of the company, personnel, or products with which you have been associated. It simply casts you as a malcontent. People may enjoy the juicy gossip, but they will think twice about adding you to their team for fear of how you might speak of them behind their backs. While you don’t need to sugar coat any negative experiences, take the high road, keep your comments neutral and let your listeners draw their own conclusions.
5. Save the resume for later.
It is a party, not a job fair. Handing out your resume to people at a holiday party reeks of desperation.Remember: your objective at a party is simply to establish a connection that provides a context for future contact. This is not the time or place to close the deal. Think about it as creating an on-ramp to building a relationship with the person. You can call to set up a follow-up meeting after the holidays.
6. Leave the business cards at home.
Contrary to popular belief, the person who collects/distributes the most business cards by the end of the evening is NOT the winner. Establish a connection first! Once a connection has been established, then it is important to exchange business cards.
7. Stay sober.
You are completely responsible for what you bring to every situation. People must have a pleasant, positive experience of you as a confident professional. Know your limit, or better yet, order club soda with a twist or create a custom “mocktail” to help you stay in control.
Kathleen Brady, CPC, is a career coach and corporate trainer with more than 25 years of experience helping people realize their professional goals. In GET A JOB! 10 Steps to Career Success(Inkwater Press, 2013), Brady shares her secrets for navigating the job search process from start to finish as well as practical exercises for job seekers at every level.