The holidays are around the corner and the dread is starting to set in. And no, we're not talking about the awkward family gatherings with your fruitcake-wielding in-laws.

For many of us, the real terror surrounds holiday networking. So if you're currently stressing over whether you're going to look like an idiot wearing a costume to that industry Halloween party, you're not alone.

All these winter events you have to go to! Many of us would rather pretend to be sick and stay home drinking eggnog in a darkened room. But in actuality, this is perfect time to get ahead. All these holiday parties are the prime time to make fresh connections and start the New Year off on the right foot.

Ken Rutkowski, host and president of the Business Rockstars radio show, is a networking veteran who has earned himself the reputation of "the super-connector." Here are his top five tips to network yourself through the holidays.

1. Don't look at it as "networking" 

View events and business meetings as relationship building opportunities and don't ever ask for money.

2. Pick the right events and be realistic

If the event is only for C-suite executives and you're not on that level, then the event is probably not right for you.

3. Dress appropriately 

Really know the crowd you're going to be hanging out with. In general, don't wear a suit and tie if the event is more casual and vice versa. (This goes for Halloween costumes too!)

4. Bring a wingman 

Two heads are better than one when it comes to meeting people. You'll be able to cover more ground and have a fallback person to rendezvous with if you need a break.

5. Make it about others 

Ken became known as a "super-connector" because he was always introducing people to other people. People appreciate it when you do the networking for them. They come to know you as someone who is connected, and gets things done.

The holidays are an awkward time for almost everyone. Remember, we're in this together. Stick to these five rules and get ahead this season!

Published on: Oct 27, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.