12/14/2012 08:00 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Holiday Job Search: How To Pitch At Parties...Without Being Pushy

You certainly don't want to be one of them!

No one likes the boorish party guest who goes on and on about his credentials and accomplishments while never once asking about yours. No easier to deal with is the pushy salesman who frenetically bounds about the room handing out business cards and trying to hawk his wares to as many potential takers as possible. And then there's the clearly rude person whose eyes are scanning the room (while speaking to you) to see if he might latch on to someone he deems more important. Clearly, most of us want nothing to do with any of these overbearing masters of self-promotion... especially at holiday parties.

Nevertheless, the holidays are the best time of year to look for work (see my previous post "4 Reasons to Make Merry and Land Your Next Job") and parties and gatherings make for the perfect venue to connect with as many people as possible. So how can you successfully "sell" yourself while remaining festive, cordial, and all the while radiating the holiday spirit? Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Make Sure You're Sending Messages Of Good Cheer And Good Taste. Greeting someone with a warm smile and a friendly face is a great way to make a first impression. In any social occasion -- especially when you're looking for work -- your initial impact sets the tone for further interactions, so you'll want make your initial impression a good one. In addition, be certain to watch for that all-important eye contact. Nothing is as off-putting as trying to make conversation with someone who appears disinterested, and a roving eye is a major signal that you (or they) would rather be talking to someone else.

Watch What You Wear. Don't forget that the clothing you select to wear to holiday gatherings is a nonverbal message that reflects both your attitude and your professionalism. You'll want to dress appropriately for the season but remember that you might well be connecting with someone who could open the door to your next job. A conservative choice is usually best -- so plan to leave your reindeer sweater for another occasion.

Create Your 10-Second Attention Grabber. When asked what you do, resist the temptation to deliver a rehearsed elevator speech unless you're attending a formal industry event where such introductions would be commonplace. Even then, be certain to judge the mood of the merrymakers before you come across as being too stiff or businesslike.

Usually in such circumstances a lighter touch is best. When asked about yourself, you might reply with an engaging one-liner that piques your listener's interest. For example one candidate I worked with was a buyer and stated: "I shop with other people's money." This type of reply will most likely grab your listener's attention and keep them asking for more. Then you can deliver a lengthier description of your skills and experience.

You Can And Should Politely Ask For What You Want. After you've initially engaged your listener and delivered a brief, but memorable elevator pitch (see "4 Surefire Steps to Power-Up Your Branding Statement"), you can end by letting them know what you want. Remember, again, to use a light touch. You are asking for information only. "Right now, I'm targeting jobs at small, emerging companies in industry X and am looking for any contacts or ideas that might help move my search forward." By posing your request as a non-threatening statement, you are likely to get names and specifics that might well open up new options -- and maybe even lead to your next job.

Don't Forget That Networking Is A Two-Way Street. Your goal in attending holiday gatherings is to make real connections that will lead to forging real relationships. This is also a great time to hone the art of give and take.

When you're in a job search, you're generally out and about and learning a lot about different companies in your area. You might well be able to provide your new acquaintance with information and resources that could prove valuable to them. So, whenever possible, offer to stay in touch and follow-up with any leads you might have. This is your opportunity to exchange business cards and create a meaningful connection that will be beneficial to both parties.

Despite the rapidly shifting workplace, there is one aspect of the job search that has remained the same over the years. In fact, this truism never changes: people get people jobs. So enjoy the season and use the holiday spirit to make new friends and acquaintances. December, more than any other time of year, is one to celebrate connections... and you never know where these connections may lead!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!