Career Advice, Watercooler

How To Get The Most Out Of Holiday Social Conversations: A Guide For Employees

It’s that busy time of the year when we meet friends, acquaintances or new faces at parties, gatherings and events and will be asked “what do you do?”

To help get you ready for this year’s round of holiday celebrations, here’s some advice to help those of you who are employed best answer this question before you find yourself looking like a deer in the headlights.  This question is not only an ice-breaker but also can lead to possible career opportunities either for yourself, someone you know or (and this is important) for the company you currently work for.

For those of you who are employed, this discussion can sometimes be the beginning of that serendipitous ‘right place, right time’ moment. To get started, don’t over think it – simply tell them what you do – for example, “I’m a software engineer at Google”. Then take that obvious next step – ask them what they do. This back and forth is typical and in a number of situations the conversation drops off here, especially if you are a guy. (Yep a sexist but true statement.) Before the conversation gets to sports, your date, wife, kids or please no politics, keep asking questions and learn all you can before ever discussing more about yourself, whether it’s details about your job or personal circumstance. Show honest interest in the person and ultimately they will ask more about what you do. (One tip before embarking on the social season, outline your job, your company and your goals so you are ready to give these tidbits one at a time as each situation allows.)

If you find yourself in a situation where they are not asking for more tidbits about what you do, ask them what they are currently working on, what’s next for them and what is the next big event for the company? If you see any alignment between the background you are learning about and your current employer it is important to say the following words, “I’m not sure my company is currently looking but know THEY ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN ESTABLISHING RELATIONSHIPS OF VALUE WITH QUALIFIED TALENT.”

These key words show the value your company places on attracting top talent and can also prompt the other person to share details about what their company may be looking for in terms of job candidates and/or insights about where the company may be looking to focus its efforts. This is also your chance to mention a person you know who could be an appropriate fit or it may be the right time to bring up yourself as an important relationship.

In either case, it is important use this networking opportunity to express for yourself or a friend,   “I am/my friend is not currently looking but ALWAYS INTERESTED IN ESTABLISHING RELATIONSHIPS OF VALUE WITH INTERESTING COMPANIES”. With this statement, the door has been opened, it swings both ways and value has been offered to all involved. Plus this statement avoids putting anyone on the spot with those dreaded words, “I know someone looking for a job” – which by the way is the fastest way in the world to shut down a holiday social conversation.

Next week we’ll deal with the social conversation for those facing unemployment – a sometimes scary prospect that can be turned into a golden career opportunity.