Most American workers get some time off during the holiday season. That, of course, isn't true if you work in retail or shipping, but most fields get at least a couple of days off for Thanksgiving and a few more for Christmas and New Year's.

That gives people time to recharge and an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. It's also a season of holiday parties, office gatherings, gift exchanges, and other festivities.

It's a season to enjoy, but also one where you should be proactive in taking care of your career. The holidays are not just a time to celebrate; they're also a time of opportunity.

People wearing Santa hats celebrate in an office.

The holiday season offers work opportunities along with chances to celebrate. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Warm up cold contacts

Everyone can let relationships grow cold and the holidays offer a time to warm them up. Examine your network and reach out to the people you have not spoken to in a while. It doesn't have to be anything overly formal -- just a quick note saying happy holidays with a small update on the relevant parts of your life.

Basically, you don't want to have to contact someone you once knew when you need them. It's much better to keep the relationship alive when you're not asking for anything.

2. Show appreciation and say thank you

Most offices have at least an informal holiday gathering, if not an actual party. Use whatever event your company throws as a chance to thank your bosses and coworkers. That could mean having a conversation one-on-one or it could be in taking a moment to publicly salute someone who has been important to your success in the past year.

3. Be a team player

If your company does not close between Christmas and New Year's, it's likely that a lot of people -- especially parents with young kids -- will want those days off. If you don't need to take that specific week off, it's a service to your boss and fellow employees to offer to cover for those who have to.

That does not mean you should not take time off. Vacations are important and Americans aren't great about taking days off . You should be open to being away earlier in December or working with your boss to roll days over for a January or February vacation.

Remember, it's still work

The holiday season provides some looser and lighter moments in many offices. It's important to remember that this is still your place of work and that how you act will carry over into the new year. You don't want to be the guy dressed as Baby New Year or the woman wearing a risque Mrs. Claus outfit. It's also important to limit your alcohol intake and keep your tongue in check. Laid-back does not mean "anything goes" and you want to enter the new year on the right foot, not in hot water.

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