Like an interview? You weren’t expecting to party like that, were you? Well, if you are attending an office party this holiday season, you should approach it with just that much care. Party animal and “rising young executive” are not usually synonymous. So how do we handle that office party? Approach it like an interview for your next promotion, because it just could be.
Research – Like the interview, do your research. Get a “feel” for who will be there. Research their favorite topics. Be ready to small talk a lot. Be up on current events and practice how to maneuver around touchy topics.
Dress the part – Again, like the interview, their first impression is with their eyes. Perhaps Aunt Sue’s holiday sweater should sit out this party. Just because it is after hours does not mean you dress like you are heading to a tailgate party. In the same vein, don’t over dress either.
Don’t go hungry – Have enough room to be social about eating, but remember you are not going to a hot dog eating contest. Don’t mention that you ate before you came. If you plan on consuming alcohol, some say items with high starch or protein will slow down its absorption. Along the same lines, you may want to stay away from the salty or greasy foods because they can make you more thirsty.
Signal calling – If a date is invited, get the signals down before you go. Signals like, “help, please rescue me” and “I think you may want to hear this.” Also, clue your date into the big players and the office gossip, as both can have effects on your career. It would be good to agree on a target time for departure and how to signal if the time has changed. Madeleine Begun Kane’s blog, Office Party Follies, tells you how you can create a written contract, so to speak, with your date. It is funny, but it gets important points across.
At the party
Timing – Show up! If the boss throws a party, it is not optional no matter what they say. Unlike the interview, arrive on time, perhaps a few minutes after, not early. Arrive at the beginning of the party when people are still fresh. Later in the party, they will have grown tired of small talking and saying the same things over and over. How long you stay after you have spoken to the key players is up to you. General rule – don’t be the first or last to leave, and the first and last person you speak with should be the host.
Imbibing – If alcohol is served, be wise. Many employers, out of respect for those who may have a problem or who do not wish to place their employees in an awkward position, are keeping to non-alcoholic choices. If alcohol is offered, keep it at a minimum…perhaps a rum and Coke the first round, and then just the Coke after that. You can also just nurse that same first drink all night. Remember, this is an office function. Oh, here’s a tip. Place the drink in your left hand so your right hand will not be wet or cold when you shake hands.
Nibbling – Choose finger foods that can be handled easily. Think and plan ahead, like what about that pit in the olive? Be sure to sample the host’s famous whatever and have appropriate words to compliment. This can say volumes about your customer service skills, and your boss just may be paying attention.
Mingle, mingle, mingle – Just like the interview–it is the art of saying enough without saying too much, or putting your stocking in your mouth.
So remember, successfully navigating an office party can be fun…well at least not painful, and both could lead to your next career move.
Cheryl Sandifer is a Regional Facilitator with Workforce Solutions. In that role she has been able to apply her knowledge and experience as both an educator and social worker to conduct job search skills seminars throughout the Houston-Galveston area. She has had opportunity to work with those ranging from entry-level to C-level to help them find a job, keep a job, or get a better job.