Why you shouldn't skip the office holiday party

Office holiday party season is upon us.By now, we should all know that excessive drinking, flirting and karaoke...

Posted: Dec 4, 2018 1:24 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2018 1:28 PM

Office holiday party season is upon us.

By now, we should all know that excessive drinking, flirting and karaoke are office party no-nos. But there are things you should be doing that might actually advance your career.

Holiday gatherings are the ideal opportunity to get some face time with your bosses.

"These parties are permission to network and talk to people you don't know," said Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, co-author of "Work the Pond! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life."

Don't skip it

Life gets busy this time of the year. And some people don't want to socialize with coworkers outside of working hours. But the office party should make it on the calendar.

"A lot of corporate and promotional decisions, like when layoffs are happening, is as much about cultural fit as it is skills," said Matt Youngquist, founder of career coaching firm Career Horizons.

Going to corporate social events demonstrates you are a team player and also helps build relationships and name recognition that can play a role in career decisions down the line.

"You build trust with these people, they can give you access to information you couldn't get any other way, people who could become your champion," said Hallgren-Rezac.

Help plan it

If your company relies on volunteers to plan the office party, raise your hand.

Putting on your party planner hat not only shows your company spirit, it will also expose you to other people from different departments and give you an advantage during the party.

"Especially for introverts, it gives you something to do," said Youngquist, who refers to himself as a hyper introvert. "You can greet people when they come in. You will get far more mileage networking if you are involved in the planning."

Create a meet list

Determine who you want to have some face time with before the party starts to keep you from getting distracted in a crowded room.

Doing a little research about the people can also help with the conversation.

"Identify a few people and make sure you connect with them," said Judy Robinett, author of "How to Be a Power Connector."

Keep the banter light

While networking and meeting new people will help your career, the office party isn't the place to lobby for a promotion or complain about problems or other employees.

If you are talking with someone more senior, Hallgren-Rezac recommended establishing who you are, what you do, recent projects or accomplishments and what you are looking forward to in the new year.

"Tell them some good news," she said. "Make it short."

If you are talking to a colleague in a different department, ask about their role and any interesting initiatives they are working on, but also try to make the conversation more personal.

"Don't always talk shop," said Youngquist. "You don't want to come across as a ladder climber."

Stay away from being negative or sticking with your already established friends.

"Be positive, people are watching and you are leaving examples of who you are and what you are about. Promotions tend to go to people who are positive, optimistic and inspire others to work hard," said Robinett.

Put your phone away

It can be tempting to hide behind your phone, but that can leave a bad impression to your bosses that you aren't interested in being part of the team.

If meeting new people is intimidating for you, set a goal ahead of time of the number of people you want to meet, recommended Youngquist.

"I hate this kind of stuff," he said. "Set a goal ... otherwise I would talk myself out of going."

Have a follow-up plan

Your work doesn't end when you leave the party. Be sure to follow up with some of the people you met.

"Relationships aren't built on one interaction, set up a follow-up step," said Youngquist. It can be as simple as connecting on LinkedIn, setting up a coffee date in the new year, or if you really hit it off, a lunch date the next week.

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