Ah, the office holiday party: free food, open bar, and a chance to see your company's most elusive executives let loose a little.
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The holiday party is a great time rub elbows with the upper echelons of your company, but it can be hard to make an impression, especially when you work in a big corporation.
Here are a few tips on how to "network up" with your busiest bosses and potentially set yourself up for career opportunities in 2018.
1. Don't Be a Suck-Up
Executives appreciate hearing their work makes a difference, but you shouldn'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.
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2. Don't Assume They Remember You
In a bigger company, you can't assume executives know about the work you do for them. Always give them context — e.g., "Hi, Mr. Jones! It was so exciting to be in charge of our contract with XYZ company this year. My team in X department had a lot of fun working on that one."
3. Listen More Than You Talk
A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionately!
Ask questions to get executives talking. Some suggestions include: How did you start in business? How did you grow the business or the department? What were some of the challenges you faced with X project? Have you read any good books lately?
My favorite question — after talking with the executive for a while — is, "How can I help you?"
4. Do Your Research
This is critical. Before the party, figure out which executives you'd like to meet and what they're currently interested in. When you meet the executive, ask them about the projects for which they're most excited in 2018. Invite them to share details with you.
5. Add Value
If you can find a way to add value to an executive's work, you'll be remembered.
For example, I once had the opportunity to talk to Richard Branson. I asked him about his latest endeavor, and then I asked if it would be of value to shoot a brief video interview so he could share the program with my audience. He loved the idea, and we shot the video for my blog.
6. Remember to Always Honor the Event
When networking at a holiday party — or any nontraditional networking event — your networking should be supplementary to the primary reason for the event.
In other words: Don't treat the holiday party like a business mixer. Don't act as if you're in the boardroom giving a presentation. Keep your conversations natural and leave people intrigued.
Finesse matters 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.
7. Don't Have More Than Two Drinks
It's a party, but it's not your party. You don't want to stink of liquor when you approach the people with whom you want to connect. Impressions count. Make the right ones.
8. Embrace Discomfort
It is normal to feel nervous when networking with powerful company execs. Plus, the discomfort is usually a sign that this is the exact person to whom you should be talking.
9. Don't Go Negative
I know that sounds obvious, but it happens all the time, especially when you're nervous. Don't complain about how busy you are, how the bartender messed up your drink, or how bad the traffic was getting to work. You want to be remembered, but not as the person who always complains.
10. 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. Think about how your achievements may fit into discussions with executives. Once you've got this down, you have every reason to feel good about yourself.
The truth is that if you believe networking is about building relationships, then you can network anywhere, anytime, and anyplace — as long as you focus on building relationships, not conducting transactions.