Dear New Shrink,
I have been told that the holidays present an excellent time to strengthen your network. What can I do to reconnect with those that I no longer see and meet new individuals without seeming desperate or tacky?
Sometimes it can be awkward to reach out to those you have lost touch with, so the holidays provide a natural time to send a note or organize a party. However, no matter how great your timing is, it is most important that you are authentic in your approach. Sending a genuine note or really spending time to talk with someone beyond just surface questions will show that your true intent was to reestablish a connection.
‘Tis the season for giving: consider volunteering with a local community organization. You might be able to organize a group of people you haven’t seen in a while. Helping others will ignite your holiday spirit and you never know who you might meet in the process.
The holidays also present a great time to attend events or parties to reconnect. Professional associations, neighborhood councils and other business groups often hold events this time of year. This provides a great opportunity to reconnect with those that you already know in addition to meeting new people. It’s also a great time to host your own party as a way to reconnect. Consider hosting a small, intimate gathering so that you can truly have time to connect with all of your guests. Perhaps you set up a cocktail hour at a local spot and invite a small group to gather after work to connect.
This time of year can also be a great time to learn more about individuals as you talk about holiday traditions and family upbringing. Getting to know someone beyond just their career and current status will help you to establish a stronger bond.
Too late to plan something? Use this time to reconnect with a message or card. A hand-written note or individualized card has more value than a standard card or holiday letter. If you are already preparing to send out a generic holiday card or letter, take the time to write an individual message at the bottom. Even something as simple as a sentence or two asking how they are or following up on a specific situation will go a long way. Search LinkedIn or Facebook to find old friends that you have lost touch with and send an eCard or holiday note to see what they’ve been up to.
This can also be an excellent way to think of those that you’d like to reach out to but have simply been too busy to do so earlier this year. For many businesses, the last two weeks of the year are a slower time. Use this time to connect with those that you do not know to ask for informational interviews or to ask a friend for an introduction to someone new. Spending energy to expand your network is an important part of the process too.
Although the holidays are a perfect time to reconnect, this should not be the only time of the year that you do so. Creating and maintaining your network is an ongoing process. It’s not just about when you need something from someone else. You should be focusing on strengthening and supporting your network throughout the year.
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a Santa Monica-based professional college and career counselor. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Cornell University. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!