Here’s something to add to your seemingly unending list of holiday to-do’s: networking emails.
You might be tempted to bury your head in the myriad work deadlines and family errands that already haunt your dreams these days. But, really, you should face up to reality: The holidays are one of the best networking opportunities you’ll get all year, according to career gurus.
No, we’re not talking about the company Christmas party. We’re talking about touching base with current and former professional contacts: Bosses and colleagues present and past, former clients and classmates, mentors – anyone you can think of, really. You should send them a quick note to wish them happy holidays.
When it comes to networking, holiday emails are “a low-hanging fruit,” said Jodi Glickman, CEO of Great on the Job, a communications company.
During the rest of the year, “finding the hook is the most challenging part” of writing of writing to someone you haven’t seen or heard of in months, said Glickman. You’ll probably spend far more time looking for a reason than writing the message itself.
The beauty of holiday emails is that they come with a built-in hook: You’re writing to send your best wishes.
“It’s expected, appropriate, appreciated,” said Glickman.
Why you should send off holiday networking emails every year
There are two main reasons why taking the time to pen holiday emails is worth it.
The first is that “you need to nurture and maintain your network before you need it,” said Glickman.
“It’s an investment,” she added, “you’re building up some goodwill.”
If you’ve been sending someone holiday emails every year, it’s much easier, one day, to ask them out for coffee to answer your questions about a new job that has just opened up at their company. Or inquire about whether might be able to introduce you to a potential client. Or see if they might be a reference for a position you’re applying for.
The second thing holiday emails do is put you on people’s minds.
If someone has recently heard from you around Christmas time, they might be more likely to think of you when an opportunity opens up at their company for which you’d be a good fit. Or to mention your name to someone they know who’s looking to hire. You get the idea.
What to write
The key to writing good holiday emails is to keep them short. One or two lines is all people expect, said Glickman.
In those two lines, the focus should be your recipients, not you. Congratulate them on a new job or promotion or share something you’ve read recently that they might find interesting and helpful, Glickman suggested.
If you do mention something about your contacts’ recent career developments, though, you might want to explain where you found that information, said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, founding partner and career coach at SixFigureStart.
Saying something like, “Congrats on the new job, by the way!,” may catch the people a little off-guard. They may be wondering how you heard the news.
Writing, “I saw on LinkedIn that you got a new job – congratulations!,” on the other hand, guarantees you won’t sound like a stalker, said Ceniza-Levine.
That kind of audience is invested in your success and eager to hear what you’ve been up to, said Glickman.
It might be very tempting to write about yourself if you’re unemployed or trying to switch careers and are hoping to get some help, said Ceniza-Levine. But you should resist the urge, she added.
“You don’t want to give off an air of desperation,” she said – even if you are desperate.
A more subtle way to signal your situation is to update your LinkedIn profile and include a link to it in your email signature. Recipients who take the time to click on it will learn what they need to know, said Ceniza-Levine.
And, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to write something like “I’m working on finding new opportunities” – a.k.a “I’m unemployed” – or, “I’m learning as much as I can about this new field” – a.k.a “I’m trying to switch careers,” – if your contacts reply to your holiday wishes.
Whatever euphemism you choose, make sure to sound like you’re helping yourself rather than expecting others to come to your rescue, said Ceniza-Levine.
“People like to be helpful, they don’t like to be put on the spot.”
The thing about holiday emails is that they require a delicate mental balance. On the one hand, it’s worth it because it might pay off big time. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell how, when and through whom it may pay off.
Like all other forms of networking, it will work best if you “give before you get,” she added.