Question: Ever since I got out of the Army, I've despised the holiday season for one reason: networking events, parties and meetings. Is there any way I could learn to like them?
Answer: You're certainly not alone. While it seems everyone around you is "ho ho ho-ing" around the holidays, you might be feeling more "ho-hum" and that's normal. Networking is hard, and networking when others seem more festive or relaxed than you do makes it more stressful.
Here are five tips for navigating holiday networking when you're not feeling it:
1. Accept that Your Feelings Are Shared by Others
It might seem that everyone else in the room is in a jolly mood, but they could be pretending just to get through the event. If you're being asked to participate in holiday parties, know that others also might feel intimidated, anxious or hesitant to attend as well. Maybe seek those people out as they could be more approachable to initiate conversations with than someone who's well into their third or fourth holiday beverage.
2. Create a Game Plan
Before you go to the holiday meeting or event, decide:
- Why am I attending? Does my boss want me to have more visibility with the team? Will our clients be present? Am I supposed to show an example to my direct reports? Be clear on the goals.
- Who should I meet there? If your boss' boss will be present, for example, decide how you'll introduce yourself to them, what topics you'd like to discuss and if you have any ideas for a follow-up that you could prepare in advance.
- What's the intention of the event? If you're asked to bring a gift, deliver a speech or exchange business cards, prepare in advance. Think about your gift, speech and ways to introduce yourself to set the right impression with people you're meeting for the first time.
- How and when will you leave? Knowing that you won't be there forever can help manage your apprehension to attend. Set a goal for how long you'll stay, and always give yourself permission to extend the time if you're enjoying yourself.
3. Don't Overdo It
If you're asked or invited to attend many events, and you don't have the energy, passion or interest to do so, select only the most meaningful ones. This may require a conversation with your boss to evaluate the potential of each meeting. Be careful not to overextend yourself as you could end up resentful and unpleasant to be around (thus negatively impacting your reputation).
4. Give Yourself Time to Recharge
Even the most outgoing and social extrovert needs to recharge. Find what works best for you. Do you enjoy exercising to clear your mind and refuel your energy? For some, reading a good book, visiting a museum or spending time with family and friends are ways they recharge and find the enthusiasm to go to holiday events and meet new people.
5. Focus on the Follow-up
If you offer to connect with someone online, for instance, after meeting at a holiday event, then do it. When your client requests information about your new services, have a plan to follow up. Follow up on all promises made during holiday events. Consider keeping a small note pad or paper with you where you can quickly jot down notes about who you spoke with, what was promised and when it's expected.
The holidays are a stressful time for most people. Even if you're around family and friends and relishing in a successful year, the energy, lights, excitement and pace of the holidays can feel exhausting. Give yourself grace to turn down events that you can't muster the energy to attend, don't feel you have to meet every person in the room, and remain authentic to who you are (instead of trying to be someone you're not) to get the most value from this time of year.
The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.
A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.
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