Become a Networking Natural This Holiday Season

With holiday cheer in the air, I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity. We spend time with our families, exchange gifts and revel in the warmth of giving. It is the season of kindness, generosity and benevolence. The holiday spirit naturally invokes a sense of positivity, joy and kindness.

Lately I’ve begun to realize that networking has parallels to the generous cheer of the holidays. Networking too is about generosity, a willingness to offer help without expecting something in return. Developing a deep and meaningful network occurs when you genuinely want to help other people and approach with the attitude that everyone in the room (including you) is of equal value. It’s about generosity, a willingness to offer help without expecting something in return. People will notice and genuinely like you, making your network stronger and your connections far more reliable.

In the spirit of holiday cheer and giving, here are some tips on becoming a networking natural.

1. Network full time

Networking doesn’t begin and end with an event, it’s a full time job. Strengthening connections occurs anytime you go out of your way to help someone without expecting to gain from it. Take a moment out of your day to be a listening ear for your friend, refer a qualified relative to a relevant job posting, or send a coworker an interesting article.

2. Soul search

Do a little soul-searching. Understand what your value is. Think about your strengths, talents and connections. Even as a novice, early-career networker, you have confidence, ambition and generosity to offer. People will take note and will want to stay in touch with such a person.

3. Ditch the agenda

You might be tempted to talk to people who can help you get a job or otherwise have some personal value to you. Suppress this urge and forget the schmoozing. People will be wary of what you want from them. Generosity is key. Make it your goal to be open, friendly and generous. Don’t worry about being a little awkward. It makes the situation a little less stiff. Integrity and generosity are attractive qualities, and people will remember you.

4. Listen

In the course of talking to people, really listen to what they tell you. Don’t dismiss anyone as irrelevant. Though an individual may not have a flashy job, he or she could have valuable knowledge or connections. They may also have interests that align with someone else you know. If that is the case, don’t hesitate to connect the two people. The best way to network is to find a way to be helpful. Connecting people who might benefit from each other (even if you just met them) is a great way to act on this rule.

5. Talk about what you can do

Consider preparing a few talking points prior to any networking opportunity. Try two to three sentences describing your strengths and talents or even your thoughts on an interesting (but relevant) article or report. Be mindful of how often and when you bring these snippets up. Keep the focus on what you can do rather than what you have done in the past. You don’t want to sound boastful or conceited; you want to come off as forward-thinking and energetic.

6. Offer help

While you may be the one networking to find a job opportunity, always approach new contacts with the attitude of being ready to help. Feel free to explicitly ask what you can do for your contact. Your contact will both appreciate and remember it.

7. Follow up

Always follow up after meeting new people or engaging with existing contacts. Connect with the contact on LinkedIn, send them an email or even follow them on Twitter. Let them know you enjoyed chatting and that you wish to stay in contact. Reference your conversation and offer something they would be interested in (perhaps some information -an article, report, etc.). Demonstrate how you can and want to help, even after your conversation.

There you have it. Networking holiday-style. Remember to be kind, friendly and generous. Then shake off the jitters and enjoy yourself. Happy Holidays and happy networking!