There was a time when “social” and “networking” had different meanings. Professionals scheduled time to meet in person and share a meal, play some golf, or have a drink to discuss business opportunities and to get to know one another a bit better- mixing some social with their networking. This face-to-face, human interaction was instrumental in closing thousands of deals and cementing business relationships. Unfortunately, with the explosion of online social networks, much of the “social” side of networking, has become obsolete or exists only in the virtual world. Handshakes are replaced by “likes”, we send pics rather than picking up the phone to share memories, and we “follow” colleagues rather than sitting down face-to-face. Lots of “networking” without much socializing.

In defense of this new dynamic, “social networking” is simpler to manage. With the typical workday stretching well beyond 9-5 and the unending demands of life, there isn’t much wiggle room in our schedules for more than a brief click; and as the holidays roll around, the demands on our time increase 10 fold. Personal commitments fill our holiday weekends before October has even come to a close, and the last thing you have time for (or interest in) is an evening spent making idle small talk with colleagues you’ve never met before. So when the evite arrives from the local chapter of a marketing group or sales organization, your first instinct is to reply with a resounding “No, I don’t have time.”

Not so fast. This year, as the holiday season descends upon us, and the opportunities for in-person connections begin to fill your inbox, it would be a great time to bring back the “social”, solidify those base line relationships, and more importantly, build new ones in a more genuine, face to face capacity.

5 Tips for Putting the Social Back in Networking This Holiday Season
  1. Prioritize your events. Chances are, there will be many holiday socials to choose from. Take this opportunity to attend the events for the organizations you want to know more about or whose members you have not had the chance to speak with during prior events. The more you click with a group and its members, the less it will feel like work, and the more fun you will have!
  2. Timing is everything. Choose wisely and be realistic about your commitments and your calendar. Spacing out your social networking opportunities to one or two per week will prevent you from burning-out while allowing you to enjoy the social aspect.
  3. Cast a wide net. Use the social season to explore new groups or organizations you’ve heard about or whose meetings you have not been able to attend in the past. Not only will you be able to learn more about the group itself, but you will likely form new relationships.
  4. Don’t go it alone. Because holiday socials do not include an educational component and are purely for socializing, use this as an opportunity to bring a friend, vendor or client and introduce them to the group.
  5. Get to know THEM. Don’t lead with your business card and keep quiet about your latest sales numbers. Grab a glass of wine and a bacon-wrapped date. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Engage in conversations beyond 140 characters. Introduce them to others you might know at the event. Share a bit about yourself beyond your title and company, but don’t boast and engage others.
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