"Coach John, my company is having a Holiday party again this year. Will it hurt my career if I don't go? These aren't really parties and they sure aren't fun. But I worry that if I don't show up, it will get noted and I may end up with a black mark on my record. I'd prefer to avoid it entirely, but assuming I should go - do you have any advice about how to make the best of it?"
- Unwilling Ken, Des Moines, IA.
Ken, I hear similar comments each year about these company affairs, so I understand your feelings about attending. However, this is one event that you really should attend. As a former company leader myself, I've seen the party from both sides and I know that if your leaders decided to go to the effort of creating a holiday party; then someone thought it really was important.
So, my advice is: go. And don't go grudgingly - use it to your benefit.Smart job pros know that schmoozing at a company event can be a real opportunity to advance their career. Here are my "Top 10 do's and dont's for climbing the ladder over cocktails." 1. Determine an objective. In advance of the event, expert "schmoozers" noodle about a potential best-possible outcome, relative to career growth. Think through a few realistic scenarios of how you might work toward achieving your objective. 2. Debrief your guest. As important as it is for you to know who the "important people" are at an event, the same holds true for your guest. The person you've chosen to accompany you to a business function, and how they behave, reflects directly on you – either positively or negatively.
3. Make sure you're seen. Arrive at the event early. Make a point of speaking to and thanking your boss and/or the host of the party. Introduce your guest, and generally spread good tidings. Show your humanity and connect on a different level before things really heat up.
<!—[endif]—>4. The gift of gab. Generally speaking, people migrate to those who make them feel most comfortable. Appearing at ease during a time when others are feeling anxious or uncomfortable will make you look more like a "natural leader". Read the local news before going so you've got some common conversation topic (aside from work!) with others.
Finally, Unwilling Ken -Even if you only make a fast appearance, it's the smart career move. And, besides, most of the folks in Des Moines are really great people.
Here's to your career!
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 dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.