Best Practices

A collection of Flowtips from our monthly newsletter, Flownotes

  1. To turn your social capital into social income, know your goals, be clear about your goals and share your goals with your network!

  2. Plan a connection strategy prior to contacting someone. Make sure that you have a clear and concise objective for meet- ing with the person. The key here is to take the act of connecting to a conscious level so that we can determine the best method for approaching a contact. Connecting with a first degree contact (i.e. Family member) will be much different then connecting with a second degree contact (i.e. friend of a friend). We need to think about how we will connect if we are going to increase the likelihood that they will be able to help us with our goal. Should you email or phone this per- son? Should you get someone to introduce you or simply mention that someone has referred you? These are all consid- erations and must be thought out prior to making contact if you are to maximize the potential of success.
  3. Link contacts to goals. Once you have established your goals, start to think about contacts in your network who may help you attain them. If it's not obvious at first, create a goal to interview some of your contacts to share your goals and to find out more about them. At the same time, find out how you may potentially be able to help them. The key is to share your goals with as many contacts as possible to find out the resources that exist within your network. By doing this, you stand a better chance of linking a contact to a goal(s).

  4. Build social capital by introducing your contacts to each other. When's the last time you introduced one of your contacts to someone you knew who was in need of help. Many times we tend to shy away from this practice for one reason or an- other. Subconsciously, we might be thinking that we will lose control by providing a direct connection to each member in our network. However, there is a greater upside to this practice and you don't need to feel that you will lose control. The act of connecting two of you contacts together provides you with the opportunity to "give" to the network. This will enable you to build some social capital that will inevitably give you some return on your investment. When we help people ac- complish their goals by connecting them to the right people, it helps us when we require help in the future. This is a great way to give to your network and strengthen the relationships you have.

  5. The key to accessing social resources is to make sure that you're aware about how you feel about leveraging your contacts for help. For example, if you're uncomfortable with initiating contact with someone you hardly know, develop a strategy to connect with that individual rather than not connecting at all. Research has been conducted to identify the competencies re- quired to be successful at accessing social resources. It's been demonstrated that effective networking is a learnable, train- able skill and the key is to take it from the unconscious to the conscious level. Make sure you are aware of your strengths, and at the same time become equally aware of your challenges. The more you know about yourself the greater the likeli- hood that you will be able to overcome your challenges to connecting with others to accomplish your goals.

  6. Before asking a contact for help, make sure you've explored how you can help them. Many times we go to our network for help and forget to think about how we can help those people in return. The next time you require some- thing from your network, take time to explore your situation with the individual and discuss how you can pay back the favor. This is sometimes overlooked and can make the difference between getting the help you need and not getting any help at all. For example, if you require a colleague at work to help you with something make sure that they are aware that once your task is done, you're willing to help them with something right away or in the future. And most importantly, is to make sure you actually stick to your promise. In order for you to continue to leverage your network to accomplish your goals, you have to equally give back to the network. With out this trust, very few people are going to go out of their way to help you.

  7. Whether you're trying to get in shape or complete a project at work, your motivation plays a critical factor in your success. The same goes for networking. What motivates you to continue to network in a meaningful, mutually beneficial way? Research at Flowork on this topic has identified two simple ways; one, be realistic and two, maintain an appropriate activity level. If you're not realistic about what you hope to gain from networking the less likely you are to see success and the less likely you are to continue to network. Make sure you're realistic on what you hope to accomplish (set SMART goals) and determine who in your network is most likely to help you. Additionally, if your networking activity is limited (which is essentially telling everyone what you hope to accomplish) the opportunity for identifying those contacts who can help is drastically reduced. It's really simple - be realistic about what you expect from your network and maintain an appropriate level of networking activity and ultimately you'll remain more motivated to network.

  8. To be good at anything, you have to practice. That's especially true when it comes to networking. When was the last time you went to the shopping mall and went up to someone you don't know and started a conversation? If you're typically the type of person who would avoid doing something like that, you might consider doing it the next time you're out. Why? It provides you with the opportunity to practice your conversation starting technique. The act of connecting has to be a conscious activity. If you continue to practice by introducing yourself to people you don't know, you may find someone that can help you or better yet you might be able to help them. Remember, top performing athletes don't become winners unless they continue to practice.

  9. The key to strategic networking is not to get in and out but to develop long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Most of the time we make connections with one person that leads to a referral to another contact. This means that we spend time exploring with one person and find out that they can't help us directly but know someone who may be able to help. This starts the process all over again and does take time. Too often we fail to follow-up with the referral and potentially lose out on a great opportunity to accomplish our goal. In addition to losing out on the opportunity, we take the chance of impacting our relationship with the referrer. This is something that we need to consider when we do ask for help. If the contact can't help us directly are we willing to follow-up with their referral to someone who can? We need to think about our networking activities from the long-term perspective and if we do we're more likely to gain the benefits the network has to offer.

  10. In these tough economic times it is important to understand that posted job opportunities will be less available then in past years. This is not to say that jobs won't be available, it simply means that they will be harder to find. More than ever, accessing the hidden job market will become the key to finding employment. This means that accessing these jobs will involve understanding and working within the networking process. Those that are not networking will obviously have a more difficult time accessing these jobs. One way to combat your reluctance to network is to be clear on what you want to accomplish and then share that with as many people as possible. Don't just tell people you're looking for a job, tell them what type of job, where you would like to work, what level of pay you're looking for and when you're willing to start. The more specific you are the more likely someone is going to help.

  11. Know your networking comfort level. When it comes to networking, we all have our comfort level. If we're not comfortable connecting with people who are referred to us, we need to step back and think about developing a connection strategy prior to approaching the individual. Creating a connection strategy will help determine what you are going to say to them when you meet. By planning your approach, the chances of getting the individual to help you or to refer you to someone else will dramatically increase. The key is to be able to convert your connections into something that will move you closer to accomplishing your objective!

  12. Have a plan when you connect with a contact. The key to making a successful connection with someone is to increase the likelihood that they will want to help you. To do this, follow these six simple steps: (1) Determine the degree of separation (a personal contact, the first degree, requires a much less formal approach than one that is second degree and onward, which need a more formal approach since you are not already on a personal basis); (2) Determine your connection method (e-mail, phone, in-person); (3) Determine if a referral source can be utilized; (4) Determine content (what to write in an email, what to say by phone, what to say and how to dress in person, etc.); (5) Determine timing; and (6) Connect. Follow these steps and you may increase the chances of the individual making a connection with you.

  13. Consciously think about networking. When we completely think something through, we generally have a better perspective on what we're actually trying to do. This holds true for networking as well. If we bring networking to a conscious level, we can start to consider the potential resources that exist within them. More specifically, we can start to attach the people we know to the goals we are trying to accomplish. The next time you require assistance to build a fence, start your car or shovel the snow, take a look at your mental networking Rolodex and see if you know anyone who can help you. If you don't know anyone, move on to the next level: think about an individual who might know someone that can help you. Bringing this simple process to the conscious level may help you accomplish your goals more effectively and efficiently.

  14. Practice makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice is the key to tapping into the social resources that exist within your network. If you're learning to play a musical instrument and you don't practice regularly, you'll never be able to grasp the masterpieces of the greatest composers. When practicing to become a better networker, you need to focus on making connections regardless of their importance. In fact, the less important the connection the better for you, since you won't feel as stressed when approaching the individual. Practicing can be as simple as going to your local grocery store and asking an employee for assistance in locating ingredients for a recipe. The key is to get out there and start connecting with people so that you can start to feel more comfortable doing it. Give it a try and see how amazing you feel after you've done it a few times.

  15. Dig deeper with contacts. The likeliness of approaching someone for information and actually getting what you seek is probably a 50/50 proposition. It's more likely that the contact knows someone that can help (versus them being able to help on their own). This is a very important point to remember. The fact that someone can't help you doesn't necessarily mean you should walk away. If you find that they cannot help, ask them if they know anyone that might. If they say yes, ask for a referral or introduction. On the surface it may appear that you only know a few individuals, when in fact you may be connected to hundreds of helpful resources. It's not just who you know, but also who your contacts know that is important.

  16. Think strategically about networking. It's important to think about our network in terms of how we can help our contacts and how our contacts can help us. For this to occur, we obviously have to be clear on what type of help we are seeking and what we bring to the table in support. Now, more than ever before, remember that it is ok to ask for help! Whether it's planting a garden or finding a job, determine what needs to be implemented in order to make your dream a reality. This almost always requires the help of others. So the next time you want to do something, ask yourself: can I do it alone or do I require help? If I need help, who in my network is most likely to lend a hand? Then develop a connection strategy. Thinking strategically about what you want to accomplish and networking could mean the difference between the success of accomplishing your objective and failure.

  17. Share your goals with your network. When's the last time you set a goal, wrote it down and shared it with everyone you knew? Most likely, if you're like the majority, you didn't share it with too many people. It's typical for individuals to fail to share their goals with others, and it happens for a number of reasons. Perhaps you don't want to bother people with your interests, or maybe you simply never considered sharing your goals in the first place. But it's important to remember a very important fact: it tends to be a lot easier to accomplish our goals if we get the help of others! More importantly, it is likely much more efficient to leverage the social resources that exist within our networks than trying to accomplish something on our own. The next time you wish to achieve a goal, tell as many people as you can what you're doing. You'll see how much easier it will be!

  18. Take the stress out of networking. Social networking can be an extremely stressful experience, mainly because approaching people for help presents a challenging task for most people. Always at stake, though, are the many opportunities we might have to tap into our social resources and efficiently accomplish our goals. A number of factors affect our ability and confidence to connect with others, and it’s important that we learn to manage these. You must first be realistic about your networking expectations. The likelihood of connecting with someone who can actually provide the information you require is very low. It’s much more common to find the assistance from someone your contact knows ­­— which, we must acknowledge right from the start, takes time. Nine times out of ten, the reward to networking is quite delayed. When we are aware of this, though, we can manage our expectations much more realistically and increase our chaces of being successful. Networking will undoubtedly be stressful at the beginning. However, as you practice and continue to keep it at the forefront of your activities, it will become an easier — and ultimately less stressful — experience for you.

  19. Gaining focus is key to networking. If you want to be successful at networking, gaining focus is one of the most important things that you can do. Realize first and foremost that the benefits derived from tapping into social resources are long-term and that there is often a delayed reward to networking. With this understanding, you are then able to focus on building mutually beneficial relationships. The long-term commitment for taking an opportunity that’s linked to a goal to a solution is more likely. You may feel discouraged to connect with someone you assume will not have an immediate value to you. But instead of focusing on what you can get from the contact right away, focus instead on who that individual is connected to and how you may help them in the future. This slight change will help you to keep your eye on potential opportunities that otherwise maybe missed.

  20. Plan to network. Although networking is happening all around us and we're probably doing it and without realizing, it is important to develop a networking strategy. The key is to develop a plan that suits our own individual style. Some of us are quite comfortable connecting, while others may find it challenging. Whether it's identifying individuals who are well-connected or forging new relationships, a plan is an absolute must. The more we start to think about the opportunities in our network the better we will be in a position to achieve our goals. That, of course, is assuming that we set goals. A networking plan includes the creation and development of clear goals. Without them, it becomes near to impossible to identify opportunities from the network. Plan to network and you will notice quickly how much more successful you can be. Start with a goal and let the networking magic take its course!

  21. Don't give up. There is a time in everyone's life when they feel like giving up at something they're trying to accomplish. Most likely they have set a goal that is too big, too far off or simply unrealistic. The most likely reason for giving up is that it's too far off and the motivation to continue has been lost. Often you have to think that quitting is not an option, however, it's important to be realistic at the same time. Don't look back and think of all the times that you quit because that may hurt too much. Instead, look back and examine what objectives you set and how likely it was that you would be successful. You don't want to give up but instead focus on reconfiguring your goal in order to make it more realistic. Whether it's a new job or learning how to cook, there is always an opportunity for success. It just may require that you take another route.

  22. Embrace the “No!” No, no, no, no and no! The likelihood of hearing “no” versus “yes” is 99% more likely when it comes to the job search. There are simply more employers out there unwilling to hire you then those who are. Why is “no” more prevalent than “yes?” Especially in today’s economic climate, competition is fierce. When there is an abundance of workers and less demand, the less likely employers will say “yes” to you. So what do you do? Embrace the “NO!” Acknowledge that most employers won’t hire you and you’re more likely to be ahead of the next job seeker. This is not to suggest you take a defeatist attitude, but is intended to be more of a cautionary approach. The reason is motivation. As soon as your motivation dips, the likelihood of you continuing to conduct a strategic job search dramatically diminishes. Psychologically, it’s imperative that you continue to do the right things that increase your chances of finding the right job. If you get hung up on the “no,” you won’t be motivated to continue to do the things that will allow you passage to that “yes!”

  23. Focus on what you "DO!” When it comes to a job search, we all know what we need…a job! However, when working with someone, it’s important that they understand what you’re doing in the job search in order to truly help you. In other words, they need to see what you’re doing so that they can suggest ways for you to do it better. Keeping track of your activity in a detailed way is crucial if you want to get the help you really need. For example, it’s not good enough to just keep a list of the organizations with whom you’ve applied. It is more beneficial to monitor what stages of the hiring process you have reached with each. If it is determined that you are applying for jobs but you are not getting calls for interviews, this will help focus your attention on specific aspects of your search. If the opportunities you are identifying are not appropriate, your generic resume will not be effective, for example. What you “do” during the job search is the best indicator for your success. The better you can focus on what you are doing, the more likely you will be able to alter your approach that leads to employment.

  24. Not all social capital is good social capital. In the wake of the online social networking explosion, researchers are now turning their attention toward the negative side of social capital. If you were to peruse the links resulting from a quick online search of “social capital studies,” you would undoubtedly come across a great deal more about how social capital helps us in our lives than you would find how it hurts us. However, it’s important to be aware of how some relationships can psychologically stop us from moving forward; it’s important to remember that not all “social capital” is good. Poor attitudes in friends and unsupportive individuals may impact us negatively. Social capital development is extremely important — that’s well understood. We must also keep in mind that all relationships don’t necessarily provide positive energy. The more aware you are of this, the more likely you are to identify and avoid those individuals who bring you down.

  25. Connect with the employer first. How do you get your resume to the front of the pile? It’s easy: connect with the employer first. Prior to sending out your resume for a job, try and connect with the employer to gather some information about the hiring manager, the job and the organization. Remember, even thought the hiring manager works for the organization, it doesn’t mean that you should focus solely on the company. After all, an individual does the hiring, not the organization. If possible, developing rapport with the individuals involved in the recruiting process may give you a leg up on the competition. Also, you want to find out more about the job and what they’re looking for. Do they require someone with specific experiences or background? How does your past experience benefit the position you’re trying to get? If there is any information that you can collect to include in your resume, it should happen before you submit the resume. It won’t be possible to talk to all hiring managers, of course, but you should at least attempt contact prior to submitting your resume.

  26. Keep it real. When you’re networking it’s all about keeping it real. Be true to yourself and go into the process of connecting with others, focusing not only getting something for yourself but on the willingness to give back as well. The reality is that we typically have to give to receive something in return. It is just as important to know what you want as what you are willing and able to give. Who are your contacts? What do you know? Which experiences would be valuable to others? Answer all of these questions before you begin networking because their answers will help you focus on what you can bring to the network instead of what you’re just looking to take. While this may seem like a small issue, it represents the difference between getting help and receiving none whatsoever. If you’re not prepared to keep it real and give back, long-term networking success is not likely to occur.

  27. Take the Flowork 50 Contact Challenge! Over the next 30 days, try to connect with 50 people and share one of your goals with them. Keep a record of each individual's response to your request (for example, "helped me" or "referred me to someone else"). Share the same goal with all of the individuals to get an idea of how many people it will take to actually get help. Most likely, you won't even reach 50 people. Remember to keep your request low-risk so you can reasonably expect some help. For example, looking for a contact name at an organization is low-risk while asking for a job is a high-risk request. The level of risk is based on two factors: first, the complexity of the request, and second, the strength of the relationship. The stronger the relationship, the riskier the request can be. The weaker the relationship, the lower the risk request should be.

  28. Become proactive. When looking for work or learning a new hobby, it’s critical that you become proactive in your connecting and learning — at the end of the day no one is going to help you but you! It is essential to have a plan that you can easily communicate and that people can respond to. Don’t make it a high-risk request like asking for a job. Target a lower risk request by asking for some information or a website. This will give you the opportunity to try and build a relationship. When your relationship is stronger, you’ll be able to ask for more. Setting goals is the most important proactive step you can take — without them we are lost! Write down your goals and share them with as many people as possible. You’ll be surprised by the help you will find.

  29. Do the opposite! Conducting a job search and networking are both challenging tasks, to say the least. Most likely you’ve received information from a number of different sources. Some of that information is obviously right on while other tidbits are way out there. If you’ve been networking or conducting a job search for a while now and find that you are experiencing limited results, try and do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. After all, what you’ve been doing is obviously not working, so what do you have to lose? Let’s suppose that you’ve been contacting people through email. Stop and start contacting them in person. Or let’s suppose that you’ve been looking online for job leads. Stop and start visiting employers in person. Take a week and make it your “opposite week.” Not only is it psychologically refreshing, you’ll be surprised what can happen when you tackle the same issue with a different approach!

  30. Connect with your third degree contacts! When thinking about our network, we typically focus on our first degree contacts…and sometimes venture out to our second degree. What’s amazing is that many social resources exist well beyond our first degree contacts, where most of us tend to stop! Think about the last time you got a friend of a friend of a friend to help you out. How we access these individuals can happen in a number of different ways, but the most important step is to ensure that we’re at least thinking about these potential resources outside our close ties. Once you start to think more consciously about the opportunities that exist within your network, ask first degree contacts who are not linked to one of your goals if they know anyone that could potentially help. Their second degree contacts — our third degree contacts — are considered weaker contacts, but it’s important to think about every opportunity. Accessing social resources shouldn’t stop at the front door, we need to go out and connect with as many people possible. Always remember, a distant referral is better than no referral at all.

  31. Make it a social capital holiday! December is the time of year when most people are willing to give! Perhaps it’s because of the feeling of brother- and sisterhood during the festive holiday, or it could be a memory of the gifts received in childhood and the desire to pay it forward as an adult. Whatever it is, it’s important to keep your networking caps on — don’t just think about taking but also finding ways for giving to your network as well! At this time of the year, people are going to be willing to help. Be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish and then communicate it to your network. If they cannot help you during the holiday, make sure to follow up with them afterwards — the key is in getting their commitment to help. Once you have that, it’s easy to go back to them in January and remind them what they were willing to do. Instead of sending out a holiday card, try offering some help to the contacts in your network — you may end up with the invaluable gift of help in return!

  32. Don't forget. The key to successful networking is making sure that you never forget to follow through! When you ask for help, keep your side of the bargain with the individual regardless of whether they can help right away or not. Often, when we make a request with a contact then don’t hear anything back, we give up — this is a huge mistake! We have to remember that everyone’s agenda is different. Individuals are all busy accomplishing their own objectives and goals. We have to make sure we’re patient and wait until the most appropriate time to request a person’s help. The key is in remembering that the help or information we seek does not usually come from a first-degree contact. It takes time — so don’t forget your referrals, follow-up and follow through. You’ll be surprised at what can happen.

  33. Manage your time. Most people are unaware that the job search is a date-driven process. The time it takes to find a job depends on a number of factors, most especially those affected by the organization’s hiring cycles. A hiring cycle is the timeline from when an employer initially posts a position through the time a new candidate begins to work. The hiring cycle determines the chance of landing the job, and if we’re not moving from step to step within the typical hiring cycle, the likelihood of getting the job dramatically decreases. If we become more aware of the cycles in our industry, we’re more likely to understand our chances of getting a job. Realistically speaking, these cycles occur constantly, which is why it is so important to identify them. Once we do, it’s easier then to manage the cycles we’re in and attempt to increase our chances of landing the job.

  34. Don't be lazy. If you’re conducting a job search, there’s no time to be lazy. The number one barrier to finding employment is inability to actually do something. The longer you remain idle, the less likely you are to find a job. Laziness leads to joblessness, plain and simple. So what do you do? Have a plan. Set targets and achieve them. Break down the overall objective of finding a job into smaller pieces so you start to experience success more frequently. The longer you go without the thrill of victory, the more lazy you will become. Finding a job is a long-term process — experiencing that feeling of success may be further down the road then we think. It’s important to do the little things so that when you add them all up they lead to a job. Create a resume, volunteer, reach out to contacts, research companies and do whatever it takes to remain active!

  35. Manage job search realities. Conducting a job search is sometimes a long and lonely path. You spend a lot of time by yourself, hoping for the best but expecting the worst because you know that rejection lurks at every corner. The reality of finding a job is often a complex and difficult process — and accepting this reality is critical for both the job seeker as well as those practitioners helping them. Avoid the "fluff" and focus on the hard facts. To do this, you have to identify what you're actually doing in your job search. Make sure you're aware of the types of opportunities you are identifying as well as their sources. Locate job leads through a variety of places, not just the traditional ones like an online job site or newspaper. Remember that 80% of job openings are not going to be found if you're only relying on these sources. You have to focus on networking so that you can access the hidden job market while at the same time facing the fact that rejection is part of the game — there's simply no way of avoiding it!

  36. Minimize your digital distractions. A majority of job seeking takes place on the internet, which means it’s a lot simpler to find and apply for jobs — but with that simplicity comes countless distractions. One minute you could be browing a job board, then, before you know it, you find yourself on YouTube looking at the latest dancing baby video. You may not be able to get rid of all of these distracting sites, but there are ways you can train yourself to avoid them. It’s obviously best to simply stay off any services where your friends or family can contact you (Facebook, instant messaging, etc), but if total avoidance is not attainable, train yourself to stay focused on your task and use the distractions as a reward. For example, tell yourself that you will work through the job search for a full hour, then allow web browsing for a short time period (10-15 minutes) before continuing your search. Set an alarm clock so you know when the period has elapsed and it’s time to get back to work — and stick to it! This helps you maintain a positive mental balance because you set and achieve a mini-goal to work hard, then you reward yourself with enough time to scroll through your friends’ newest status updates!

  37. Google yourself. When you’re searching for a job, nothing beats a good first impression...and nothing ruins it more than a bad online presence. Don’t risk your chances by ignoring those scathing sentences on your ex-girlfriend’s blog or a photo depicting particularly scandalous activity. Google yourself by putting your name in quotation marks in the search bar. One of the first things that pops up should be your LinkedIn or Facebook profile. If you find something negative online, try your best to fix it — whether it be simply emailing a request for the removal of said material or obtaining outside assistance should the situation be a little more desperate. “There are tools out there on the Google dashboard and other areas where you can mitigate if you’ve got things out there that aren’t current or potentially damaging,” said Kim Martin Bannerman, Director of Business Development for the recruiting company eHire.com during a recent interview with Atlanta’s local NBC television news affiliate. Put your best online foot forward so your best in-person impression is what sticks!

  38. Don't burn your bridges. We say it time and time again: networking is the best strategy any job seeker can use to get hired. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially if you’re not an overly outgoing person in the first place, but there are four sure-fire things you can avoid to prevent your networking from backfiring on you. First, do not ignore your contacts. Commend them when they post about successes and thank them for any responses they give you. Second, be courteous. Refrain from racist, sexist, or just plain offensive behavior on your favorite social networking sites. Third, don’t make it all about you. When you’re exceedingly self-promotional and hog the limelight, no one will want to talk, network, or recommend you. Last, be helpful. Don’t continuously take and give nothing back ­— and when you do ask for help, make sure you return the favor. Break the cycle of bad networking! (Tips compiled from “Anti-Networking: How to Burn Your Bridges in 4 Easy Steps!” on BusinessInsider.com)

  39. Don’t wait until the last minute. Before you get your last paycheck (or unemployment check), sit down and decide which amenities you can live without for now. For example, don’t wait until your cable bill is overdue from last month and this month’s bill has just arrived in your mailbox. Pare down the extra channels, ask the company if they have any promotional pricing available, and if necessary cut it off completely. Pick up a secondhand mower on Craigslist instead of paying weekly for a lawn service. Sign up for a smaller bucket of minutes and keep yourself on a “text budget” so you can get your cell phone bill down to its minimum. Turn the heater down or the air conditioner up a degree or two to save on your monthly electricity bill. Get rid of everything you can manage to live without. If you take care of down-sizing now, that takes some stress off you — one of the best things you can do for yourself during what is already a highly stressful time.

  40. Party up your holiday network. Holidays provide excellent opportunities to nurture business relationships. While holidaying, people can reach out and interact with different individuals or clients. Many organizations arrange holiday parties, which are different from typical business meetings. In such parties, businesspersons get a chance to know each other in a relaxed environment. Hence, this is an effective way to strengthen business networking. One useful way to make the most of this time of year is, quite simply, to attend parties! Many organizations throw holiday parties to break from the traditional business parties — attend when you are able, as it is a great way to reconnect with people and stay visible. Be willing to talk about yourself and go prepared with a list of questions to get others involved in a worthwhile conversation. Use the conversation to segue into a future meeting, but keep it natural. You don’t want to sound like a salesman at a laid back social event. And remember not to have too many drinks — impressions count. Don’t make the wrong one.