From accepting the office holiday party invitation to making the most of your connections, the holidays offers amazing opportunities for professional networking.

It's that time of year again. Holiday lights and advertisements are everywhere and, for some, it's a crazy time for customer service. For others, it can be a slow time of year as clients shift their focus.

Yet, for everyone, it's a great time to dedicate a little time and attention to your family and friends. If life has been entirely too crazy, it's a moment to step back and evaluate just how well you're balancing work and life.

That doesn't mean that you want to neglect your career. In fact, you can give your career a special gift by using the season's festivities to practice your networking skills.

Here are seven networking tips to help turn this year's holiday events into networking goldmines.

Accept the invitation

You've probably heard about the power of saying yes. In this situation, it rings true. When you get invited to a holiday gathering, whether it's a department happy hour, the company holiday party, or even dinner at your spouse's boss's place, just go for it.

Your brain might immediately think about all of the reasons why you don't want to do it, but stop and think about the good possibilities. The best way to find new connections and strengthen your current ones is to get out and spend time with them in an informal setting. Saying yes is just the first step.

Be prepared

There's more to getting ready for a holiday gathering than picking out the right outfit. Take the time to think about what your goals are when it comes to networking. Are you looking to make a lot of new connections? Are you hoping to find one connection in a particular field? Maybe you just want to get to know your co-workers better.

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can develop a plan. If you're looking to meet new people, ask to get introduced. If you are after that one unique connection, ask relevant questions during conversations. Having a simple game plan can help you get the most out of your evening.

Also, bring business cards (but don't hand them out unless asked!).

Related: A Guide for What to Wear to a Company Christmas Party

Embrace your inner extrovert

I'm sure many of you tensed up at the thought of this one. Like it or not, most networking involves engaging others and navigating the realm of small talk. If you're an introvert, and you were able to ace the interview and get hired, you can do this, too.

If you go in prepared, you'll be fine. Have a good holiday related joke handy, or watch Elf to get yourself in the spirit. Then, engage people in conversation and enjoy the moment. Putting yourself in situations that are a little uncomfortable can be a good growing experience.

Balance fun and shop talk

You know that guy that goes to every company event and never stops talking about the big project he's working on? Don't be him.

Remember, it's the holidays and people want to relax and enjoy themselves. Keep conversations light and fun.  If you make a great connection and want the opportunity to talk shop, ask them about what they are working on. By showing interest in their work, you'll open the door for casual shop talk that is not intrusive.

Use your connections to make new ones

Do you find yourself talking to the same small group at every event? Who do they talk to when you're not around? Don't be afraid to ask your connections to help you find the people that you want to have in your network. If you are looking to connect with someone who is in PR , there's a good chance that someone you talk to regularly knows just the right person.

Don't wait for a happenstance meeting; let your connections multiply your network for you.

Related: The Professional's Guide to Job Seeking During the Holidays

Help others make new connections

This one's easy. If you want your connections to help you meet others, it's only right that you should return the favor. Pay attention to what your acquaintances say and think of possible connections for them. Then, make the proper introductions. It won't take long for people to think of you as a person of influence simply because you're good at helping people connect.

Send season's greetings

Okay, fine. Office parties and happy hours are not for everyone. If you simply hate trying to mingle and network in person, take advantage of the holiday season by sending out holiday greetings.

Send them out to co-workers, to people you'd like to know better, to current clients, and to people you want to turn into clients. A simple holiday greeting gets your name in front of them one extra time in a positive way. If you can make them smile, just for a moment, that helps them remember you (and that's a good thing).

Don't wait for New Year's to make your networking resolutions. Some of your best opportunities are during the holiday season itself. Take a breath, say yes, get in the spirit, and give your career the gift it really wants this year!

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