How Holiday Parties Can Help (and Hurt) Your Job Search


10 Ways Holiday Parties Can Help Your Job Search—Or Hurt It

Love ’em or hate ’em, holiday parties are here and in full swing.

And while it might be tempting to sit them out, or go only for the food and festivities (reason enough!), there are a few compelling reasons why going to holiday parties can help your job search—or hurt it if you’re not careful.

5 Ways Holiday Parties Can Help Your Job Search

1. Conversational Skills Practice

Even if you don’t go into every conversation with an agenda to advance your job search prospects, every single person you speak with is a chance to practice and improve upon your conversation skills. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions, use active listening techniques, and remember people’s names.

2. Opportunity to Ask Questions and Learn Something New

Even if you’re at a party where no one works in an industry or job you’d actually want, you can ask general questions that will help your job search. Spark some ideas for your own job search by asking things like:

  • How did you find your last job?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Have you ever hired someone? Do you have any tips for interviewing?

3. Potential to Meet New People and Network

If you’re in the middle of a job search, you’ve probably heard a million times that networking is the cornerstone of success. And luckily for you, holiday parties provide a unique time to network without all the schmoozy, awkward conversations. Everyone is in a festive mood, so turn your networking into a bit of fun by striking up conversations with people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Don’t think of it as networking, so much as spreading holiday cheer and having a conversation.

After each party, within a day or two at the most, connect with the people you met on LinkedIn. As the holidays fly by, it won’t be easy to remember all the new people you’ve met, but LinkedIn is a great way to keep track of them. Be sure to personalize the generic message requesting them to connect with you. Include where you met them and your interest in whatever you chatted about.

4. Setting Up Meetings or Informational Interviews

The holidays are a great excuse to reconnect with former colleagues and mentors, or to connect with new people. When you run into old contacts at holiday parties, or make new ones, be sure to invite them to coffee the following week.

Or, if you meet people whose jobs or companies are of particular interest to you, ask them if they’d be game to do an informational interview with you. If you run into any past colleagues with whom you worked well, ask if they’ll be a professional reference for you. The holidays bring out people’s generosity, which is great for your job search.

5. Making a Great First Impression

Make sure you bring your best self to these holiday parties, because you never know who you’ll meet, and how they might play a part in your career in the future! Act and dress professionally, and limit your alcohol consumption. And make a (positive) lasting impression on everyone you meet!

5 Ways Holiday Parties Can Hurt Your Job Search

While the above can all be very beneficial to your search, there are also a number of ways a holiday party could actually hurt your job search, so be sure to steer clear of these “oops” moments.

1. Talking About Yourself Too Much

It happens a lot—you’re nervous, you’re not sure what to say, and you end up talking about yourself rather than asking people about themselves. Practice asking questions before you go to any holiday parties so you’ll have a mental list to pull from when you’re particularly nervous. Or engage in group conversations where you’re less likely to feel pressured, and you can listen to other people’s questions and answers.

2. Running into Past Coworkers/Managers You Don’t Like

Like an old boyfriend, we all have a former employer that gets our blood boiling. But a holiday party is not the time to take your former employer or manager to task or to vent.

Don’t use this time cop an attitude or glare at them from across the room. Your negative attitude is sure to be noticed by others, which won’t gain you any favors. Give a simple “hello” if it feels right and leave it at that.

3. Complaining Too Much

When a job search runs through the holiday season, you can feel doubly stressed. Holiday parties, however, are not the place bring up your financial troubles or your flailing search for a new job. Keep your conversations light and positive, no matter how difficult that seems.

4. Asking for a Job

Even if this were an actual networking event, it’s never appropriate to explicitly ask someone for a job. Doing so can make you come off as an entitled, unprofessional, or worse, desperate person. It’s fine to strike up conversations with people who might be able to help you out in the future (of course, that’s once you’ve established a mutually beneficial relationship), but this isn’t the time to put anyone in an uncomfortable spot by asking for a job or help getting one.

5. Drinking Too Much

No article about networking at holiday parties would be complete without this note: don’t get drunk! The thing is, we don’t actually think that most people who become inebriated at a holiday party actually plan to be that person.

The nerves, the awkward conversations, the festivities, the lights—it’s a perfect situation to drink more than you realize. If you’re going to drink, alternate your glass of wine with a glass of water, or challenge yourself to see how long you can nurse one cup.

Using the Holidays to Improve Your Job Search

Actively networking and searching for jobs will help you keep up your job search momentum during the holidays. And, FlexJobs continues to post flexible jobs throughout the holiday season to help you find your next job. All of the positions on our site are fully vetted and verified as legitimate, across 50 career categories.


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A version of this article was originally published on December 7, 2017.