How To Increase Your Network During Winter Break

I'm so excited that exams will soon be complete and we will all make the trip home to settle in for what might be your first…or maybe your last winter break.  As a mother and an entrepreneur focused on our bright college students, I like to take every opportunity to remind all my teenagers, that in addition to relaxing, school breaks are the best time to shower yourself with what I love to call “career pampering."  Sounds wonderfully indulgent yet responsible doesn’t it?  Well it is! 

Career pampering is the blend of school break relaxation, gift giving and making sure you are maximizing what might truly be the best opportunity to further your career – nurturing and expanding your personal networks.  Your career goals never go away… so winter break is no time to take your eye off the ball!  Ask your friends (your parents, yourself, your bae, all of the above) to join you as you pack your break full of joy, fun and growth - an amazing combination for career success actually!  Yes, pack it full of career pampering.  They will love that you are goal focused… and you will love how it makes you feel!

Need some ideas?

In choosing some last minute dates to your social calendar that focus on pampering your soul, in addition to your career networking, I recommend starting easy…

How To Increase Your Network During Winter Break | Five Actionable Things You Can Do Over Winter Break To Increase Your Career Network

1. Reconnect with a professional you admire

How about a hot cup of tea, chocolate or coffee at your newest “uptown” café?  Break out of the ho-hum of your old haunts and become an adventurer in your own town.  Check out a list of the “10 best places” and check off a coffee spot you have never frequented. 

Of course, you can’t go alone!  Take a moment to send a quick invitation off to someone that made an impact on your current success.  Did a teacher/employer/professional help you become who you are today?  Well, it is time to reconnect.  Did a family friend or neighbor offer to open doors for you in the future, you just needed to ask?  Well, even if you don’t know or have interest in their field of choice, send an invitation to coffee. 

Winter break is a good time to practice networking – reaching out to others to request a visit, determining a mutually agreeable time, getting a table, trying some new cup o’ something… and coming prepared with some exploratory questions that focus on:

  • Who they know
  • What opportunities they may know *AND*
  • Their willingness to connect you to others that might be of career interest

I know often the people you might think to ask for coffee knew you as the younger version of yourself… which might make it seem a bit awkward to focus the conversation on getting them to talk “career”.  No worries!  You will be surprised at how many new things you learn about people you thought you knew.  And anyway, people love to talk about themselves, they love to talk to you, and they love to talk about their careers – you just didn’t know it at the time you were young!

Become A LinkedIn Rockstar!

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2. Read A Book...But Don’t Keep the Knowledge to Yourself!

Indulge yourself in reading something of real interest, and then find a way to discuss it with like-minded professionals.  Who has time to read anything just for themselves, when you’re overloaded with books, lectures and papers?  Winter break is the best time to take a quiet moment for yourself and dig deep into an area of interest that you have always found fascinating but never blocked the time off to really come to understand.  After doing so, take a moment to determine a short list of people whom also might be passionate about the same topic.  This list can be filled with people you know, but as is often the case, you might need to make some new friends to really reap full value from the exercise. 

So, how do I find like-minded people in a new field?  The first step I always take is to open my LinkedIn profile. (Don’t have a LinkedIn account?  Then, add that to your winter break to do list!)  It’s really easy…in the search bar of LinkedIn, put the topic of interest and see what people come up in your 1st and 2nd degree contacts.  Write a brief, personal message through LinkedIn, or better yet, Google the newly found person to find their bio and email.  Ask them if they might have 20 minutes sometime in the near future to discuss this mutual interest.  You never know if this might lead you down a fascinating new career path!

3. Go See an Educational or Motivational Speaker

Get dressed up with your best snappy professional ensemble and get out into your community!  Check out what is being hosted by your local women’s organizations.  Often times you will find a great TEDx talk or an alumnae gathering with an accomplished speaker or networking event open to all for the holidays.  Don’t forget to check out event apps like www.eventbrite.com that might list opportunities you were unaware are going on.  Then grab a friend and go!  But just remember, as the speaking/event is coming to a close, don’t feel the need to rush out too soon.  Often the speaker is a capable and accomplished professional woman who is sharing her expertise (very cool!) and who will likely make herself available to chat for a short while after her session (even better!!). 

Introduce yourself afterward with the intent to establish a connection with which you can follow up upon at a later time.  There are lots of professional women who share their awesome skills by leading our educational sessions.  Choose a session that aligns with your professional intentions.  Introduce yourself to the speaker at session's end.  Then follow up on LinkedIn to thank and reconnect.  If you don't have a LinkedIn account – again, it's a professional essential.  Check out this link for tips: LinkedIn Profile Checklist.

Become A LinkedIn Rockstar!

Linkedin_freebie

Sign up with your email to get INSTANT access to my ebook all about becoming a LinkedIn Rockstar! I walk you through every step of creating a great LinkedIn presence from choosing the right photo to adding the right connections on LinkedIn. This is a great ebook to have whether you are just starting your LinkedIn account or you have had one for a while. You NEED to read this ebook!

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4. Volunteer your time

Offering your time for free is something worth its weight in gold to many nonprofit organizations. Volunteering will certainly remind you how blessed and well positioned you are to be able to make an impact on others. But time is worth a lot to you, too, as an uber involved college student/budding professional knows.  

Spend some time picking a good fit volunteer opportunity.  Think creatively as you approach your options - allowing yourself to reflect upon current career goals, professionals you really respect and what internship/job openings might be of interest.  Then hop on your search engine and put some of those keywords in quotes.  Allow yourself some time to search unfettered.  For example, say I have always wanted to be the Executive Director a Performing Arts Center.  I might search for:

  • “executive director”
  • "Indianapolis Repertory Theatre” (because you happen to live in Indiana -ha).  

What you hope to find are like minded professionals who either have volunteer opportunities needing filled (working directly with that professional), or offer their contact information. Do not be afraid to try to create for yourself an unadvertised volunteer opportunity that will allow you to be helpful but also meet leaders within your career niche.  One call to a professional’s voicemail that says something like:  

"Hi! My name is Kaki Garard.  I am a student at Indiana University studying nonprofit management and I wondered if you might have any need of someone to volunteer to complete a small project over winter break?  I have time and expertise in many areas, including marketing and social media, and I would love to hear from you regarding any opportunities." 

Thank them and leave your phone number.  Then if you haven’t heard back in a day, don’t take it personally!  It’s a real busy time of year for everyone. Try to call again (no need to leave a message) or even stop by.  Being assertive shows your passion and differentiates you from the pack.  They will remember you as someone capable and confident, even if you end up volunteering elsewhere.

5. Attend a Charity Fundraiser Gala

My personal favorite way to career pamper yourself during the holiday season:  the charity fundraiser!  Gala, balls, bashes...the fundraising season is in full bloom and it all goes to others in need.  It is something that most often does not sell out, so no need to plan too far ahead! You can still make an important donation to impact a meaningful cause by buying a ticket to attend the event.  To give much is to receive much, if you work the room

A gala event is always full of capable people that have made an impact with their time, talents and treasure.  Research ahead of time who else will be attending so you can look for people you want to meet. Bring your business cards and walk into the room with a smile.  Join conversations with the mindset of “how can I help this acquaintance”.  Oftentimes charities encourage networking because that is how future donors are cultivated.  So, dance, network, eat and be merry! (not necessarily in that order.

Next steps

  • Reconnect with a family friend, teacher or neighbor to seek professional their knowledge of professional opportunities in your area of interest.  Ask them “who they know”, “what they know about your field” and “if they know of any opportunities for the future”...
  • Take sometime to deep dive into an area of unexplored interest.  Find professionals to discuss.
  • Attend a speaker or lecture.  Stay after to introduce yourself.  Connect on LinkedIn after the event to keep in touch.
  • Offer to provide some targeted volunteer time.  Don’t limit yourself to what is advertised.  Have personal conversations with professionals in your field of interest.
  • Attend a gala with friends.  Know whom of professional interest will be in attendance.  Meet them and follow up.

Become A LinkedIn Rockstar!

Linkedin_freebie

Sign up with your email to get INSTANT access to my ebook all about becoming a LinkedIn Rockstar! I walk you through every step of creating a great LinkedIn presence from choosing the right photo to adding the right connections on LinkedIn. This is a great ebook to have whether you are just starting your LinkedIn account or you have had one for a while. You NEED to read this ebook!

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About Kaki Garard

Kaki and I at Tri Sigma's 2016 Convention.

Kaki and I at Tri Sigma's 2016 Convention.

Kaki Garard, is a Tech Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder of Upper Network, LLC.  Using 20 years of successful major gift fundraising practices, Upper Network helps people find and leverage the best opportunities for their career interests.  Connect on LinkedIn here:  Kaki Garard LinkedIn

Quick Note From Amanda: I am SO excited that you got to read this post from Kaki today. Kaki is an alumna of my sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma that I originally met online. She was one of the many Tri Sigma women I got to meet this summer when I flew to Chicago for Convention. She is SO knowledgeable about all things networking and I wanted to reach out to her and get her advice on networking. I hope you adored this post!

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Kaki Garard

Kaki Garard, is a Tech Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder of Upper Network, LLC.  Using 20 years of successful major gift fundraising practices, Upper Network helps people find and leverage the best opportunities for their career interests.

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