Hob-Nob Over the Egg
'Tis the season to network.
Lisa Derrenbacker plans to attend three holiday parties in the next two weeks. At each -- one with friends from the gym, another with former colleagues and a third at her financial planner's home -- the 45-year-old former senior systems analyst intends to tell people she meets that she is out of work and looking for any help they can offer. On New Year's Day, she will attend a holiday recovery party a neighbor throws every year and make her pitch there as well.
Ms. Derrenbacker, who lives in Reston, Va., hopes to add even more events to her social calendar before the year is out. "I've got to try to get out there and meet some different people to find work," she says.
Forget the popular misconception that the holidays are a dead time for job seekers. In fact, the season offers plenty of ways to keep your job search moving forward -- especially some of the best chances to network you will find all year. More career experts are telling job seekers to treat the month of December like any other when it comes to job hunting.
The season calls for a cautiously aggressive approach. At holiday parties, it is best to act casual, since the setting is meant to be informal and festive, experts say. Most advise against bringing a résumé, for instance.
"The holiday party is a perfect time to build rapport, and the pressure should be off," says Diane Darling , chief executive of Effective Networking Inc., a networking-consulting firm in Boston. She is offering classes by telephone in the coming weeks, specifically on how to network at holiday parties. Her primary piece of advice is to maintain a professional image while keeping the conversation informal.
"It seems like small talk, but that's how you get to know somebody," she says. "And that's how people get hired." She also recommends sending holiday cards to keep personal and business contacts fresh.
Kate Wendleton, president of Five O'Clock Club, a New York career-counseling and outplacement company, says it is OK to ask for someone's card at a holiday party, but "you don't want to start having a meeting with them right then." If you give them a card, write on it something memorable from the conversation that you can reference in a follow-up letter.
It is "totally irrelevant" to ask if someone has a job opening right now, Ms. Wendleton says. But you will have an advantage if you meet a hiring manager in December, while many hiring budgets are being approved, before jobs are even advertised, she says.
Part-time holiday positions also present networking opportunities. Retail and customer-service positions open up during the holidays, and firms frequently need to staff up to complete year-end projects or to fill the position of someone on vacation. Charities also need help now, and volunteer positions can be a fulfilling way to give back and meet people at the same time. "It expresses goodwill," says Linda Paulk, president of Snelling & Snelling Inc., a Dallas staffing firm. "I think it's something that will be viewed positively by hiring authorities."
During the holidays, people are apt to be "smitten by the tone of the season" and to give more freely of their time, says Herb Rappaport, a professor of psychology at Temple University and author of "Holiday Blues: Rediscovering the Art of Celebration."
A.J. Lawrence, for one, is hoping the holiday spirit will make his new networking scheme a success. On behalf of himself and about 100 other unemployed people who are friends and contacts, including many he has met online, the 33-year-old is sending out an electronic letter that begins, "Dear Santa, Help me find a job. ..." It will be sent via online networking groups to several thousand other contacts, who can in turn click on an Internet link for http://www.helpmefindwork.com/ to provide industry resources or offer other assistance.
Mr. Lawrence, the former director of business development for Daedalus Technology Group, a New York consulting company, says he got the idea when he was joking around with his girlfriend and asked, "Am I too old to send in a 'Dear Santa' letter?"
Updated December 3, 2002
To distribute multiple copies of this article, visit the Dow Jones Reprints site.
Corrections Contact Us Help About Dow Jones Mobile Devices
Copyright © 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright and reprint information