Three Holiday Networking Opportunities You Don't Want to Miss!
In the nonprofit world, there is an unwritten “rule” that you are never really on vacation or taking a day off. This issue is another post entirely, but I do know that this tends to be the way that we think in our industry. So, as the holidays are quickly approaching I want to share with you some easy ways to build your network with events that you are probably already attending. Remember, when networking you must always have the goal of helping others without asking anything in return! This is the absolute best way to build quality relationships with others who will keep you in mind and want to help you later down the road.
1. Networking Events
Chamber of Commerce organizations and many other business organizations take advantage of the holiday season by hosting special holiday events. Your inbox is probably already full of invitations to these events and you tend to skim over them with no interest in attending. However, if you are going to attend an after-hours networking event, the “holiday” ones are by far the best to choose! In general, these special events tend to have much higher attendance and better food and drinks. These events also are typically a little more “laid back” as far as the networking goes so they are great for first-timers. Make the most of the holiday season by going to a local holiday networking event and being able to reach a broader audience of people who (like you) may not regularly attend networking events. Don’t forget your business cards!
2. Staff Holiday Party
Depending on the size of your organization the opportunity for network building will be different for each staff gathering. If you work in a large organization this is a great time to meet those who work in different departments. Ask how you can make their job easier, could you be collaborating more to solve problems, explain exactly what it is you do in your position, etc… Take this chance to connect in a social setting and set yourself up for better, more transparent, and cohesive relationships in the coming year. If you work in a smaller organization, you probably don’t have much time to socialize or get to know your coworkers in a personal way. Make an effort during your staff holiday party to talk about personal interests, family, and hobbies. Even just asking a few questions will make people feel like you care and create a friendlier workplace. Also, you never know what you will learn about someone and how seemingly small conversations can turn into real professional development or career opportunities.
3. Family Events
I know, the last thing you want to do at the family Christmas party is to talk about work. But, as a nonprofit professional, chances are that what you do is interesting to people. My advice here is not to use this time to “market” to your family. I recommend using your family down time to practice your elevator pitch and think about your branding. When Uncle Ned asks about what you are doing these days, does your answer actually make sense? This is such a great chance to test out your new mission statement or tagline. Your family is removed from your typical network (and therefore unbiased) and usually happy to be honest with you. I showed my family the logo of a nonprofit that I worked with to get their feedback (to make sure I wasn’t crazy) and not one person could identify what the subject in the logo was. This was valuable information that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had asked people I work with or people in the industry.
Do you attend holiday networking events? What do you do at the end of the year to make sure you start the next year off strong?