The holiday season is upon us and social engagements are filling up what little time is still open on our Outlook calendars. While it can feel overwhelming, you may want to think twice before turning down your next invite. Every event, whether it’s a family gathering or an office party, is an opportunity for you to make a connection that could change your career for the better. Here are four tips for getting the most out of your holiday season networking.

1. Practice Your Introduction

We all know practice makes perfect but few people designate time to prepare before heading out to an event. Little things, like practicing your introduction, can make a big difference in how other guests perceive you. If you stumble over your words while trying to explain what you do for a living, you won’t instill confidence in those you meet.

2. Dress The Part

The first thing most people notice about a person is their appearance. When trying to make new connections, you want to send the right message. Stick to the instructions on the invite – if it says cocktail attire, this is not the time to bust out your new favorite jeans and cozy sweater. Save your casual attire for an open house or a get-together with friends. If a dress code hasn’t been identified, err on the side of caution and select a more formal getup. There is no downside to being the best-dressed person in the room.

3. Have a Game Plan

Every social situation is different and requires a unique, networking game plan.

Friendsgiving – Attending a holiday party at a friend’s house may not be the best place to present the perfect pitch. Instead, focus on making new friends and see if a professional relationship develops organically.

Family Dinner – Take advantage of your annual family get-together at grandma’s house. If there’s anyone you can be honest with, it’s your family. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, let them know. Confidently explaining what you currently do and then sharing what you would like to do in the future is a great way to showcase your experience and the direction you’re headed. And who knows – your cousin’s husband could be a valuable resource when trying to land your dream job.

Office Party – Networking isn’t just about finding a new job. It’s often about elevating your position within your current company. An office party is a great place to communicate your goals for the year and introduce yourself to the people who can help make them happen. If you’re interested in working on a specific client, try spending time with the account team and showing an interest in the work they do.

4. Listen As Much As You Speak

You’ve prepped everything you’re going to say, selected the perfect outfit and created a game plan for how to get the most out of your next event. All of this is great, as long as you remember to do your fair share of listening. Yes, you want to make sure the night is a success, but remember that you aren’t the only person trying to get somewhere. Networking is a two-way street. You could play a key role in helping someone else achieve their success. If you monopolize the conversation, you are limiting those around you from checking the necessary items of their list, making them less likely to help you in turn.

If you’re still uneasy about your networking skills, we have plenty of insights to get you on the path to success at Arizona Advertising Guild. Check out our blog with everything you need to know about networking before heading out to your next corporate mixer or industry conference. Happy networking!