So it’s almost the holiday times once again, Uncle Joe and Aunt Marge will be in town yet again. You see the same people every year, but do you know what they do? Family (and friend) gatherings can be long and repetitive year to year, BUT use this time to your advantage. People love to talk about themselves and if you have no idea what you want to do, start by talking with people you’re comfortable with. Ask your aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents, and family friends what they do for a living. See if you can shadow them. On the other hand, if you know what you want to do already, you can still make good use of this time. Ask the people at your family gathering if they are in the industry your pursuing. Ask for contacts you can connect with; consider even asking if the company they work for is hiring or looking for interns. Remember to do everything genuinely and with respect, but don’t waste away the whole holiday season eating sweets…
Here a couple tips on how to start the conversation with friends and family around the table:
- Ask your parents to introduce you
Chances are that your parents, aunt and uncle, or trusted family friend will know most everyone at your holiday get together. If you express your interest to them about a career interest you have, they will probably know someone in the room who is in that field. Having a parent or friend that knows the person you want to get to know will make the conversation less awkward to begin with and will make it easier for you to know where to start networking at your family event.
- Grab a seat at the adult table
I don’t know if your family is like mine, but growing up we always had the kid table and the adult table. I don’t know if this was because they thought some of us kids were too messy or if they just wanted to have more grown-up conversations, but either way, I’m sure you have come a long way since 3rd grade. If you have the choice, grab a seat for yourself at the adult table. The easiest way to network with people is to be in close proximity to them and talking over food is way more casual and inviting.
- Sit by someone new
Sometimes seating arrangements are preplanned (if you have any say in this order, then try to get a seat next to someone you’d like to talk to), but if it’s a free-for-all then definitely be strategic about where you sit. Ask your parents or relative if they know someone at the party who works in the field you are considering. Try to sit near this person and use the meal time to pick their brain and learn about what they do for a living.
- Get the contact info
If you make a strong connection, or even if you miss the opportunity to talk with someone at your holiday event, double check with your parents, relatives, or family friends to make sure you get contact information for anyone you want to chat with moving forward.
- Ask about winter break shadow opportunities
Finally, this tip is a little gutsy if you just met the person, but don’t be afraid to ask someone at a holiday get together if they wouldn’t mind letting you shadow them. Be careful not to assume anything or put any pressure on the person, as the end of the year can be a busy time, but don’t be afraid to ask. Chances are they will say yes, or at least let you call them to ask more questions.
The holiday times are a great opportunity to make connections with people who are either family or family friends. These people are more than likely already invested in your life in one way or another and would be more than happy to help you or talk to you about what they do. Remember these are the types of people that will be most valuable to you as you seek to begin your career.