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networkIf you aren’t a natural connector, you’re probably dreading the coming deluge of holiday events and parties. Sure, you know you should take advantage of the opportunity to network at these gatherings (especially if they’re work-related), but small talk and introductions just aren’t your forte. You’re much more comfortable nursing a glass of punch in the corner and limiting your conversations to people you already know.

If this sounds familiar, Alaina G. Levine, author of Networking for Nerds,   http://www.alainalevine.com  challenges readers to make this the year you step out of your comfort zone by filling holiday events with more than just stale cookies and conversation.

‘Tis the season for giving. Don’t think of networking as schmoozing or something slightly sleazy (like selling a used car). Networking is about crafting win-win partnerships that bring value to both parties. Approach networking with the fundamental idea that you are seeking to find out what people need or what problems they have that you can help them with.

Tis the season to be joyful. Networking should be an enjoyable experience, not a treacherous chore that you’d rather delegate to a bunch of elves. Take pleasure in the gift of meeting new people and seeing what can come from the experience.

‘ Tis the season to be jolly. When you are networking and you meet someone for the first time, holiday_networkingdiscuss only positive topics and steer clear of potentially controversial topics like politics and religion.

’Tis the season to reach out. Send holiday cards to clients, colleagues, partners, and people you have networked with in the past year. The cards are a way to keep the connections going, share updates about your career, and most importantly, demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the recipients’ well-being. Don’t send religion-specific cards. Keep it simple with cards that say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘I hope you have a great holiday season’ and don’t reference any particular religion. For new clients or colleagues, include a business card.

’Tis the season to be sociable. Don’t hesitate to attend optional holiday parties in your area — you never know who you’ll meet. And remember to bring business cards with you to every affair.  In particular, be on the lookout for holiday get-togethers hosted by an alumni association or regional chapter, and the charities or other organizations for which you volunteer.

WEDNESDAY: Alaina Levine presents more tips on improving networking opportunities during the holiday season.