Ready or not, the holidays are here. With the end of 2017 just around the corner, I find myself thinking of all the people I am thankful to have in my life. As you reflect on those that have supported you this year – through good and bad – be sure to remember not only family and friends, but also your professional relationships. It’s common to focus strictly on clients/customers and your immediate coworkers. While they are certainly important, I recommend that you broaden your thought process.

Ask yourself this key question: Who are the people who made a true difference in my career this year? Spend a bit of time to go back through the year in your head (try using your calendar to spark your memory) and identify the especially important moments. Who was there helping you through them? Who made those moments happen in the first place? Who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure you succeeded?

Perhaps loyal employees worked two weekends in a row to help you get a project completed on time. Or a vendor was able to shave his prices down to make sure you stayed in budget. Maybe a former coworker referred a big piece of business to you. Or an industry colleague recommended you for a board seat. Aren’t these the people that deserve season’s greeting with a personal touch, rather than the standard (and often generic) holiday card with the company name stamped inside?

Here are a few types of influencers I suggest you consider, in addition to clients/customers, employees and your boss.

  • Colleagues from different departments/offices
  • Mentors
  • Referral sources
  • Vendors
  • Fellow board members
  • Company/organization leadership

For many a handwritten card will be perfectly fine. But it can be a bit difficult to figure out what to get the special “stars” in your professional life. Start by thinking about what they personally like… are they foodies? Do they play golf? Are they big country music fans? Maybe they are obsessed with their dogs? Get them a gift card to a store that relates to their interests.

How many people you have on your list, and how much you spend is a strictly personal decision. The important thing is that you make an effort to get personal with those that made the effort to help you in the last year. I think you’ll be amazed at how touched and appreciated they will feel!

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