The approaching holiday season provides new professionals and law students with multiple opportunities to make new contacts and deepen relationships that already exist. To make the most of these events, use these strategies:
Attend every holiday Zoom party and reception to which you are invited. Holiday get-togethers are important opportunities for you to connect with colleagues, clients and even potential future employers. As soon as an electronic invitation arrives, R.S.V.P. indicating that you will attend. (Once you have conveyed your intent to attend, only an absolute emergency excuses your absence.) If several events have been scheduled on a single day, make a virtual appearance at as many as possible.
Keep communications festive. Holiday Zoom parties are intended to be happy, social gatherings. They are not the time to press for feedback, lodge a complaint or ask for a job. Be prepared to congratulate others on their 2020 accomplishments. If party chit-chat is not your forte, ask others about their holiday plans and demonstrate a genuine interest in what they say.
Use holiday Zoom events to build your network. Look for opportunities to meet people who you don’t know well. Before the event, prepare five questions that you can ask virtually anyone, for example: What’s been the most challenging thing about working/studying from home? What’s been the biggest upside to working from home? I’ve been trying to sneak in some extra exercise. What are you doing to keep moving, especially now that it’s cold?
Send holiday greetings to all of your contacts. This is a great way to place your name in front of others one more time before the year ends. To the extent that you take time to add a personal note—one or two sentences will suffice—you will become more memorable.
Use the winter break to reconnect with others with whom you have lost track as well as people you have always wanted to know but haven’t yet met. Many organizations experience their quietest time of year between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Key decision makers, especially those who have chosen not to take a vacation, may have more time than usual to connect with you. Take a risk this holiday season and reach out to at least one person who you have always wanted to meet but haven’t. A single meeting request may turn into a new opportunity.
Strategies for Anyone Who Will Holiday Solo
With medical experts recommending that we forego family holiday gatherings this year, a large number of your internal clients may spend their holidays alone. Isolation is always mentally and emotionally challenging. This year it is likely to be felt more intensely.
The New York Times recently ran an excellent article on this subject. During my own solo holidays, I’ve used several of the strategies that the article suggests, including these:
Have a plan – Avoid wallowing in bed, though sleeping in is perfectly okay. Create a plan that gets you up and moving outside. Bundle up if it’s cold. Take your mask. Wish everyone you meet a happy holiday. Know what you’re going to eat and when. If you want to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal, by all means do. If you want to limit your feast to those items that you really enjoy, no one will be around to criticize you for skipping Aunt LuLu’s broccoli casserole. Find something on Netflix or Hulu that you can watch on your own or with family and friends via Zoom.
Identify what’s most important to you and focus on that – Nothing makes me happier than baking the holiday treats my mother once prepared. I spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving turning out dozens of her cookie recipes. If you prefer to toss a football, find a healthy friend and some open space. If you’d rather share lots of quiet conversations with family and friends, set aside some time each day to connect via Zoom.
Give back – Doing something for another person encourages your body to release oxytocin, which will immediately help you feel reconnected with the world. While still social distancing, you can surprise an elderly neighbor with a holiday wreath, offer to help at a food bank or drop off some treats for first responders.
New Year’s Wellness Program
The American Psychological Association has identified three key strategies that can help all of us reduce our pandemic-related stress: participate in social networks, exercise, and get adequate sleep. I discuss these and other resiliency strategies in my Practicing Thru the Pandemic program, an interactive—thank you, Zoom chat function—program that several firms have used to satisfy their local substance abuse/mental health CLE requirements. Some firms have paired this program with one-on-one coaching services. Junior associates, many of whom are struggling with isolation, seem especially appreciative of this option.
To read more advice from Mary Crane, visit her website.