The beginning of December rings in the holiday party season, which can be stressful for many. Invitations to office parties or holiday mixers may cause you to shudder with anxiety or dread. You may have the impulse to skip them or to only make a brief appearance. However, if you are seeking to advance your career or to find a new job, you should take them as an opportunity to stretch your comfort zone and to participate fully. While the momentum of a job search can slow down during the holiday season, due to a dearth of posted opportunities, networking can continue to be used as an effective tool in your career advancement at this time. The following are strategies to utilize to win the holiday season and to take your career to the next level:

1)   Set clear goals

Many people tend to socialize rather than network during the holidays. That is, they spend a good deal of time talking to people, but never take the opportunity to discuss their career situation or plans. Therefore, be clear about your intentions when attending holiday parties. Do you want to engage with a senior leader in your company? Are you seeking to make connections in another department? Or are you hoping to find connections in a new field of interest? Think about your goals and plan accordingly, as you embark on your holiday season journey.

2)   Engage thoughtfully

While it is important to be focused on your goals, it should not be at the expense of appearing distant or disinterested in your colleagues’ lives and updates. You should work to engage with colleagues and listen intently to their conversations, while finding appropriate opportunities to achieve your networking goals.

3)   Make different contacts

You might tend to seek out the same people, when you attend an office party or a holiday social, but this year might be the one where you stretch yourself and engage with colleagues who may be unfamiliar to you. It will help you to grow your network, and possibly find out about other areas of the company, or other fields of interest, which may be a better fit for you. If you are an entrepreneur, it may be helpful to attend business-related holiday events (Chamber of Commerce, startup groups, Meet-Ups, etc.) to expand your reach and to increase your visibility.

4)   Send holiday wishes generously

When I was in elementary school, I used to spend time during the holidays writing Christmas cards to all my classmates, teachers, and relatives, by hand! It felt very personal and was greatly appreciated. Now, however, through the wonder of technology, you can send holiday wishes far and wide, all through a few keystrokes. Consider people, with whom you have been out of touch, and reach out to send holiday wishes. It will enable you to naturally reconnect, and can lead to some good networking meetings.

5)   Expand your holiday events list

If you are seeking to advance your career, it might be worth your time and effort to attend holiday events outside of your conventional circle (e.g. office party, family gatherings). Seek out professional associations, benefits for causes you support, or interest-related (e.g. wellness, running, etc.) groups which may offer holiday events. You can greatly expand and diversify your network connections by attending such different events.

While the holiday season can naturally be stressful, it may be even more so when you are seeking a new job, or wanting to advance your career. By following these strategies, you can win the season, reduce your stress, and set yourself up to achieve your career dreams in 2018.