Ah the holiday office party . . . Free food, open bar, and a chance to get a glimpse of your company’s most elusive executives letting loose a little.
The holiday party is a great time rub elbows with the upper echelons of your company, but, especially in big corporations, it can be hard to make an impression. Here’s how to ‘network up’ and get face time with your busiest bosses that can lead to career opportunities in 2018.
Ten Tips for “Networking Up” at Your Holiday Office Party:
Don’t be a suck up.
Executives appreciate knowing their work makes a difference but don’t “puppy-dog lick” them to death. Instead, share a specific story about how their big wins this year helped someone or made a difference in the work you do at the company.
Don’t assume they remember you.
In bigger companies, don’t assume executives know about the work you do for them. Always help them out by giving them context on what your role is, “Hi Mr. Jones, It was so exciting to be in charge of our contract with XYZ company this year, my team in the x department had a lot of fun working on that one.”
Listen More Than You Talk.
Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionately! Ask questions. Some suggestions: How did you start in business? How did you grow the business or the department? What were some of the challenges with…? Have you read any good books lately? (My favorite (after talking for a while) is: How can I help you?)
Do Your Research.
Now, this is critical, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Before the party, find out who you want to talk to and what they’re currently interested in. Ask them what project they’re most excited about working on in 2018 and invite them to tell you about it.
If you can find a way to add value to their work, you’ll be remembered. For example, I had the opportunity to talk to Richard Branson, I asked him about his latest endeavor and asked if it would be of value if we did a short video interview so that he could share the program with my audience. He loved the idea, and we shot the video for my blog.
Remember to always “honor the event.”
This is really important! Make sure when networking at a holiday party – or any non-traditional networking event – that networking is supplementary to the reason people are there, so don’t treat it like a business mixer. Be aware of the primary focus. Don’t act as if you’re in the boardroom giving a presentation, keep it natural and leave them intrigued. The real emphasis must be on ‘finesse’ at a holiday party. Yes, it is a great networking opportunity – but, if you overtly sell yourself or your efforts, you may turn people off! After all, it is a holiday.
Don’t Have More than a Couple Drinks. It’s a party, but it’s not YOUR party. You don’t want to be stinking of liquor when you approach the people you want to connect with. Impressions count. Make the right one.
When networking with powerful company execs, feeling nervous is normal. Plus, it’s usually a sign that this is the exact person you should be talking to.
Don’t Go Negative.
Whatever you do, don’t go negative. I know that sounds obvious, but it happens all the time, especially if you’re nervous. Don’t complain about how busy you are, how the bartender messed up your drink, or how bad the traffic is getting to work. You want to be remembered, but not as the person who is always negative.
Be confident of your value.
Introducing yourself to an executive can be an intimidating experience, so give yourself an informed pep talk. Before the event, make a list of the things you have done over the past year and understand how what you do may integrate into discussions. Once you’ve got this down, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good about yourself. Consider how what you’ve done can integrate with their interests.
The truth is, that if you believe that networking is about building relationships – then you can network anywhere, anytime, and anyplace – as long as you honor the event and focus on building relationships and not merely conducting transactions.