'Tis the season to network
Whether you’re looking for your first hospitality job or have decades of experience working in the industry, you know how important networking can be for advancing your career. But are you aware that the holiday season is actually one of the best times of the year for connecting with other professionals who may be able to assist you in your job search? From staff and client parties to caroling and cocktails, it’s definitely the season to network – as long as you do it correctly.
Identify your targets in advance. Each event you attend will likely put you in contact with a different group of professionals. Consider the guest list, who you may meet, and how your acquaintance with them can benefit you in the future. For example, if you’re attending a staff holiday lunch or dinner at your hotel, you can plan to sit next to an executive you admire and would love to have as a mentor, or the supervisor of a department into which you’d like to transfer. If you’re attending a friend’s holiday cocktail gathering and the guest list includes employees of a restaurant you’d love to work for, you can make a point to connect with them for at least a few moments during the evening.
Helpful tip: If you want to create personal connections quickly, take the time to research your party targets in advance. The more you learn about them (from LinkedIn, other social media, online search, the host/hostess), the easier it will be to strike up a conversation about a topic that will interest them.
Don’t spend all your time talking about work. Holiday gatherings – even those held at your place of work – offer a more informal opportunity to build personal connections with other professionals. While it’s perfectly appropriate to include where you work or what you do when introducing yourself, you should then move the conversation on to more festive topics such as plans for the season, favorite holiday memories or who is wearing the best ‘ugly’ Christmas sweater.
Helpful tip: Don’t do all of the talking. Ask your targets lots of open-ended questions and show a genuine interest in their lives and experiences.
Make sure you get the information you’ll need to reconnect later. At the end of your party conversation with a networking target, mention that you’d love to connect later to learn more about his or her hotel or restaurant’s staffing needs, get advice on the next step you should take in your hospitality career, continue your discussion of the evolution of the industry, or whatever makes sense in each particular situation. Exchange business cards or jot down his or her email address.
Helpful tip: Don’t hand out your resume at holiday events. Instead, attach it to the thank you note you send after the event (more on that below).
Send a brief thank you note after the event. Thanking someone for his or her time in writing, even after a casual party conversation, can really make an impression. Send your notes as soon as possible – preferably the next business day – so your interaction will still be fresh in the minds of the people with whom you spoke. If they don’t respond immediately, don’t give up. You can follow up periodically without becoming a pest. However, you should take them off your networking roster if you haven’t received a response after three attempts.
You don’t have to limit your networking to parties. While the holiday season is usually a busy time for professionals on the front lines of hospitality, recruiters and executives may actually have less going on during the months of November and December. This means the holidays are a great time to reach out to potential hiring decision makers at the next hotel or restaurant you’d like to work for. You may even find one or two who have time for an informational interview or brief chat over coffee.