Education

Use this year's Holiday party to your advantage


Many people dislike office Holiday parties.  They find them difficult, often a source of anxiety.  But if you're serious about your career progress, they can be one of the best opportunities of the year.

However right or wrong, fair or unfair, just or unjust, strategic networking at holiday office parties can be a career boon.  Indeed, getting in the good graces of those with the power to fast-track your career can be a fortuitous turning point that accelerates your climb up the corporate ladder.

If you don't like the idea of using a 'social affair' for anything other than spending time with some colleagues over a dinner and drink - read no further.  I understand your position and am not trying to change your mind with my thoughts.  But if you are into using any and all opportunities to get that next promotion or raise - this blog's for you.

A Holiday party provides a genuine opportunity to present yourself in a way that is very different than your everyday appearance and style.  And if you are in an office, or cube all day, it presents an opportunity to finally get seen by decision makers. 

The art of the schmooze can pay strong dividends, and you don't need to come off as brown-noser.  Here are a couple of suggestions to make the most out of the next corporate party:

Decide this: "I am going to the party anyway, so why not make the most out of it?"  Give yourself an objective and set about attaining it.  Think through what would be the absolute best outcome relative to your career growth.  How should you go about presenting yourself both physically and personality-wise?  How should you introduce yourself and what kind of talk should you engage in to show you in a different light?

Go to the party fairly early so the boss (es) and HR types see you and your date arrive before the masses.  When you walk in make a point of going over to the host/boss and giving a message of Season's Greetings.  Introduce your date to them (another tip: brief him or her beforehand about who are the big shots and important types; let her or him know what your objective is) and thank them for having the party.  They have spent money or gone to some trouble for this event to occur and it's nice when someone recognizes their efforts.

Try to look comfortable.  In 8 cases out of 10, even the boss will be a bit uncomfortable.  (S)he will notice if someone else seems to be able to 'fit in' and make others feel more at ease.  This is true even if the boss and his/her date have done this many times before this year.  So if you look relaxed and confident, the bosses and HR types will be impressed with your 'presence'.  And they will remember your apparent comfort and ease in a situation where others weren't.  All the better for discussions about promotions and how you may be a good candidate.

Finally, before you go to the company party, read up on current events so you can open up conversations in the event that one of  those “we all hate these but don’t know what to do” periods of no one talking and everyone looking at the floor occurs.  If you can break the ice and keep others feeling a bit less uncomfortable; it will also help to showcase that you’ve got some of the ‘right stuff’ that can help the company succeed in other areas.

-          john

-          Career Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

16 comments
bmccombs
bmccombs

Which holiday? Our 4th of July barbecues are pretty nice and since we can be outside they seem to be less formal.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Being a person who knows my limits when it comes to alcohol, one Irish Coffee per event, It is pretty easy to get along with everyone. I stay on top of current events, so discussions seldom lapse into "work" issues. We have a very close knit group of field engineers and support staff so conflicts are few and far between. However, the corporate staff finds themselves in situations where they are the ones who seem to be left out of the action. The stuffed shirts can't quite figure out what's happening and will attempt to insert themselves into places where they don't fit. The worker bees delight in the corporate discomfort and will go to great lengths to enhance this. Parlor tricks and boy - girl interaction really makes them feel uneasy but provide a multitude of retellings throughout the year. Planning of some stunts progress during the year ahead of scheduled events. This leads to flawless performances on the day of the event and leave executives standing alone with gapping mouths and flabergasted looks of astonishment. It just doesn't get any better.

JamesRL
JamesRL

As a manager, I do enjoy the opportunity to see my coworkers in a different atmosphere, and that is an important part of social networking. But I might suggest some do's and don'ts. Do go. Some employees couldn't be bothered. Management pretty much sees it as manadatory for themselves. If you aspire to management, you should too. Do thank the organizers. Quite often this is the social committee, not management. But do understand that word gets around, and it never hurts to say thanks. Don't suck up. Seriously, the managers who like to be flattered, are not the ones you want to work with. Most of us look forward to the event as a leveller, a chance to relax and forget the office hierarchy. Many managers will feel uncomfortable being approached in this manner. Many of us would rather talk about anything other than work at the Christmas party. Do make the rounds. Don't hide away with your peers. Mingle. Talk to people you don't get a chance to talk with on a day to day basis. The value of building a good network is that if you do need to chat some day with that accounting person, its easier if you have some basis for understanding. Don't be someone you aren't, do be your best self. You have to be comfortable in your own skin. But people do notice how you behave in social settings. Show your best side, your most gracious, comfortable, confident self. Don't overindulge. If you want to sink your career, drink and drive. You don't want to be known as the party's out of control charecter. Eat and drink to moderation. If you choose to drink alot, get a taxi or share a ride. Thats my list.... James

GSG
GSG

I work in an area where we don't need to go and schmooze, and I am an extreme introvert, so I usually don't go. I still get asked to functions, and will go occasionally, but never to the Christmas or New Year parties. No, I'm not a party pooper. I just dislike crowds intensely and choose not to inflict myself on others. I also don't drink, and refuse to use the fake drink to "fit in". I don't need to act like I'm drinking to make others think I'm having a good time. If someone asks, I just tell them that I don't drink, and if they push, then I tell them why, which is that I dislike the taste of most drinks and that I have an hour drive home, and have to be somewhere early, etc... This approach has never hurt me, and by leaving very early, I also don't end up being the "drunken partier taxi service". Having a drunk co-worker throw up in my car one time, was one time too many.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I'm also fairly introverted in crowds, so I tend to just take up space and watch the people at these kind of things. My major complaint with most company Christmas parties I've been to over the years is the choice of beverages. I do drink, but I'd rather have one or two good beers (Sam Adams, Bass, even Guinness) than six or seven Bud or Miller lites.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

Carl Jung described an introvert as being someone who is replenished by being alone. Extroverts were, in his opinion, those who need to be around others for the same reason. You sound pretty clear about what is right and what works for you, so I'd suggest you stick with it. My advice was intended for those who are 'careerists" - they are looking to optimize the available opportunities to get the next move up the ladder or other forms of recognition. Clearly that isn't what drives you to go out in the world each day because you note that your style hasn't hurt you or your situation. Fortunately for the world, and the longevity of all the 'systems' we must depend on, there are many folks similar to you who don't have such needs.

Shellbot
Shellbot

as an observer that is!! 3 years ago, our office went to another town for our party. the company paid for it all, even hotel rooms. the norm here is hotels put on these party nights where several hundred people will attend form different companies. Well, champagne reception at 7..a group of the girls showed up in what i call wh0re clothes (flesh everywhere) half drunk and laughing wildly. seems they had started drinking in the room while getting ready for the party. We all had our champagne, and then they all started lashing into the beer. (about 30 of us). The Director of the company was pretty much being ignored so i went over and chatted to him for a bit. Both of us sipped on a glass of wine till dinner. At 8 into the room for dinner. Again, everyone ran to sit as far away from him as they could. Not many liked him, i didn't really either, but hey, its christmas right. So i ended up sitting next to him. He had preordered wine for the tables, but he got me and him a really expensive bottle to share. Again, sipped at very very casually, with twice as much water being drank. So about 9.30 and they were serving coffee and desserts and loking around, most of our staff were out of it..a couple started throwing mince pies around..i was mortified. The hotel staff had to actually ask them to stop. 10 pm, music starts..they all get up to dance, i go to the ladies room. in there are 4 of my collegues barfing. pleasant. 10:30, my supervisor actually passed out on the dance floor and myself and the boss had to carry her up to room. By 11 4 more have had to be taken and put to bed. Around the same time, 3 of the girls go and change into thier pj's. then come back down and proceed to stand up on the table and do a strip tease. one actually threw her bra onto the boss's head. then they went to the dance floor and did the same. Now I was completely sober and by this time i was so disgusted i just had to go, i went to the boss to say goodnight, thank him for the lovely time..at the same time the hotel management went over to him to ask him to control his staff or everyone could get out. How humiliating for the both of us... Its amazing how stupid people are.. In ireland people go insane at xmas parties..drink drink and more drink..its pretty nasty and i always get teased for not "joining in" I've better things to do than make an @ss of myself :) any better stories out there??? edited to correct spelling of wh0re

jdclyde
jdclyde

because once you get a few in you, you might just tell that SOB from whatever department just what you think of them, or you may make that pass at the Presidents daughter/wife. Have one or two, but "nurse them". People see you drinking with them, but don't see you getting drunk. This is a good thing. If you NEED the drinks, do it afterwards. On the other hand, if your looking to quit, drink it up and have a blast!

Inkling
Inkling

I work at a beer and wine wholesaler. We certainly aren't forced to drink, but in my opinion, the greatest perk of working here is being able to have the occasional cold beer while working. There is always "that guy" that drinks too much though and that is NOT a good idea. Management is VERY sensitive about drinking too much and driving though as most of the employees are required to have their liquor license and drinking + driving = bye, bye liquor license = bye, bye job. Being in IT, I absolutely LOVE office gatherings because I am often stuck behind my computer or the servers and don't get enough of a chance to socialize with my co-workers.

Tig2
Tig2

While you can be taken up for over serving, it is more likely to be your local law enforcement that does it. In many states, either the state police or local jurisdiction may do an undercover check to ensure that the establishment is not over serving. Three citations for it and the state can shut you down. In the US, if you cause an accident after being over served, the owner of the establishment and the server can be held liable- but ONLY by the injured party. Never by the person who was drinking and driving. If both parties were drinking, neither may sue.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I can't speak for the process in the US, but in Canada, any establishment that sells alocoholic beverages to the public has to have a liquor license, including bars, restaurants and banquet facilities. I am presuming from the poster that in their jurisdiction, the servers at that licensed facility must not have a drunk driving conviction. I don't think thats an issue here, but they do have to have training on the legalities of not "over" serving people who are clarly intoxicated. There was a case a few years back of a woman who went to a private employer's Christmas party and was over served, went to a bar after and consumed more. She subsequently for in an accident and sued her employer and the bar for over serving. She won, much to my disgust. No one put a gun to her head. James

Tig2
Tig2

To sell liquor in various forms. Required for resellers of any kind- your local bar to the distributor. Each state has regulations that blend to the Federal regulations as set by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). Edit- typo

jdclyde
jdclyde

we got ripped at lunch every day. Kick a$$ all morning long to get ahead of quota, come back from lunch and sober up for a few hours, then finish work. Ah, the union life..... The ones that didn't drink were too busy smoking the "hand rolled" smokes.... :0

Tig2
Tig2

IF I have ONE, I never let go of the glass. When conspicuously empty, I hunt down ice water and refill. It is not possible to tell the difference between a glass of ice water and a martini on the rocks. Depending on the situation, I just get a glass of ice water- this assumes a no host bar. I ask for a rocks glass. The bartender generally knows what I am up to. I have watched men get away with the odd "one too many", generally those who have a driver with them. I have NEVER seen a woman get away with it. I don't ever NEED a drink but after surviving some of the holiday parties I have attended over the years, by the time I get home, I certainly WANT one! An odd note to the ladies. When attending a function like this, let the 50's rules of dress be your guide. That sylish dress may be great for a night out with friends or your significant other but absolutely wrong for the office holiday party. I have a calf length basic black dress that manages to hit the note- not too low cut, not too short. I have seen women walk into these functions and heard the women around me shred them. Not good- especially if the woman doing the shredding is the VP.

jdclyde
jdclyde

isn't it great what men can get away with? In an serious tone, women really are at a big disadvantage at these parties. It is lucky for the women I work with that the "party" is just a gathering at work. We knock off two hours early and go into the training room. Everyone has brought a dish to pass and a $5 gift for the swap/steal deal. The big gift last year everyone was fighting over were lottery tickets. Oh yeah, another advantage for the women is they out number the guys 4:1. At 39, there are only two people younger than me working in the corporate office. No, not to pick up, but without the young hot things, it isn't as "catty" there, and most are married long enough to not care about who is around them anymore.

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