It´s that time of year again. Okay, so maybe you turn your office upside down and get rid of anything that´s just taking up space. Or you´re thinking about how you might be able to get out of the annual December luncheon. Your office might even close between Christmas and New Year´s and that´s the only thing on your mind. Well, Ilise Benun, author of Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive, reminded me in her e-mail today that the holiday season is a great time to be networking.
Even if you´ve never thought of networking as a concept to be included in employee development it is something that can be started anytime, but there´s something really appealing about initiating a push during this time of year. Sure, a holiday party might be the last place someone wants to talk about her job, but on the other hand a casual December get-together could be the perfect time to chat about work. Why not help your people get prepared?
First, remind them to carry their business cards. "Oh, yeah, right, I´m going to hand someone my card after I take that glass of punch . . . " Well, what´s wrong with that? Even if you´re people think you´re nuts for teaching them a few things about how to talk to people keep going. Tell them why it´s important to cultivate relationships wherever you go. Let them know that it´s not just about your company but also about their own future. Be honest and say something like, "Look, I don´t expect you to be here forever, so why not add as many people as possible to your virtual Rolodex (does anyone use a real one anymore?) and later, maybe a few months down the line, you might call on them and see if there´s anything our company can do for their business?" Sometimes it´s just timing, but before that you need to explain the strategy and let them know, too, that it´s not about being shallow or using people. It´s about business. This is how the world goes round. It´s much easier and more comfortable to work with people with whom you have some connection no matter how flimsy.
Still, you do have to be careful to some extent-you never want to place more meaning than what is real in a relationship. In other words, if you´re introduced to someone at a holiday networking event and not given an opportunity to really talk, then it´s probably a bad idea to call that person and assume a closeness that doesn´t really exist. It´s fine and more acceptable to follow up more honestly and say something like, "Hi, Madge. It was nice to meet you recently at the XYZ event. I´m sorry we didn´t have more time to talk. I wanted to tell you a little bit more about what we´re doing at my company. There may be something we can help you with . . . " And then, probably more important than anything else at all when it comes to networking in this way, you must tell your staff to respect an individual´s time and possible response of "no thank you."
So as your company gears up for the holiday madness try to instill a little employee development into your activities. Make sure everyone has business cards, hold a meeting and ask for creative input as to how the shy and timid among you can make the best of their holiday reveling, and let people know that in some way, even if it´s just about the good feeling one gets by helping to grow a company, they will be rewarded.
Next time: something about those dicey situations that result in too much reveling . . .