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Party and get job connections!

Are you in the midst of a pile of holiday invitations and wondering -- since you are unemployed or at a job you’re hoping will disappear like fairy dust -- whether you should attend?

The answer is: Go for it!

Holidays parties, according to the experts, are a perfect time for networking and making connections to a new job. Whether it’s a family gathering or neighborhood open house, or a corporate shindig complete with sequined gowns and black ties, if approached correctly with a strategy and carefully laid out plans, you could end up with that dream job.

In her book, “‘...And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want," author Maribeth Kuzmeski offers some strategies for job-seekers making the holiday party circuit:

n Do your research. When you are invited to a business holiday event, find out who will be attending if you can, then go to social networking sites like LinkedIn to find out something about the business owner, chief operating officer, etc. Pick five people you definitely want to speak to, including at least “one top dog.”

n Come up with a 15-second “elevator speech” about your skills, career goals and what makes you unique. Be creative and think about ways to lure people in -- example, “Hi, I’m so and so, a marketing consultant who has worked with clients like Major League baseball players and a billionaire and won my biggest contract while driving a race car going 115 mph. (Of course, you can’t make this up because the questions will come next, so make sure you’re accurate.)

n At family functions -- bet you didn’t think these were networking opportunities -- remember you never know who you are speaking with and whether it might eventually lead to a job. That pesky cousin’s boss might be looking for his next hire or your mother-in-law’s neighbor might be a chief executive officer at a firm.

n Follow through. Once you’ve made the connections, be proactive. Create a database that allows you to keep track of all the connections you’ve made, along with reminders of things said. Use social media to keep in touch.

n If your social calendar is a little lacking, try volunteering. There’s lots of opportunities for that around the Christmas season. If you are a marketer, volunteer to help out a nonprofit with raising funds. You’ll gain respect and recognition and hopefully some job connections in the process.

Kuzmeski says if you keep one goal in mind, your networking will lead to success:

“The focus of networking should not be on gaining an immediate job offer. In fact, that tactic almost never works.

The goal should instead be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who may never even be able to give you a job but might know someone who can.”

So my advice: Go out and party!