Sure, parties are for fun, but they can also be great for your career.

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It’s too true. While parties are events where people are meant to have fun, they are also primo networking territory. In fact, the winter holiday season, with its open houses, cookie exchanges, ugly sweater contests and company parties, is perhaps the most wonderful networking time of the year.

This does not mean you need to coldly calculate the potential business advantage of every social event. You should partake of and enjoy any and all festivities that come your way this month. ’Tis the season.

At the same time, remember that wherever you are in life — just starting out, mid-career, thinking of scaling down — you will always need “connections.” And there are few better times to strengthen and grow your connections than right now.

So why not get a little extra oomph out of your holidays this year? Treat each event as an opportunity to meet at least one new person. If you can, research the guest list first and set a specific target. Maybe the new people you meet will turn into job leads or clients. Maybe you’ll just have made some new friends. It’s all about attitude.

If you are naturally shy, consider bringing a wingman (or woman). Choose a gregarious type who knows how to start and maintain a lively conversation. You can even make an arrangement to talk each other up in front of the people you want to impress — it’s a win-win.

Do remember that you’re at a party. No “hard sells,” please. If a business topic comes up, touch on it lightly and then suggest talking later on the phone or over coffee. If you are collecting business cards, find a moment to jot down some identifying info on the back. It’s too easy to forget who is who when you are meeting a lot of new folks. Oh, and do follow up promptly. You’ll also want to connect with them on the social media platform of their choice.

Finally, as at any social event, listen more than you talk. Ask questions and act interested in the answers. Dress festively but elegantly (unless it’s an ugly sweater party). Steer clear of touchy subjects. Eat and drink lightly. Thank the host. Above all, seek to establish a friendly, convivial vibe.

And, of course, have fun.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at