While it’s supposed to be a time to hang loose and let your hair down, in reality, it’s the opposite. It’s an opportunity for you to show that you can be reserved and professional when you don’t have to be. It’s an opportunity to show upper management that you can take care of yourself and not embarrass the company if left to your own devices.
Holiday parties won’t make your career. But they can definitely derail it if you’re not careful and if you’re not on your best behavior.
Here’s how not to screw up.
Do NOT skip the party … or be really late
While there is never an obligation to attend a holiday party, don’t be that prick who’s too cool to attend. No matter how lame you think it is, you must go. The people who organize these i.e. most likely your boss(es) will notice. Even if they don’t, don’t miss the opportunity to show off your polished social skills and mingle with upper management.
Showing up extra fashionably late? You’re just being extra dumb. Senior management probably won’t stay too long. For them, this is not a time to hang loose. They’re still working. So, most of them will stick around for the obligatory hour or two and then make an exit. You do not want to miss out.
Married? Don’t take your spouse if they’re not invited. However, definitely do bring them if they are invited. Don’t have a baby sitter? Find one. They’re working? Tell them to call in sick. This is important to you. They need to show up and represent the hell out of you i.e. make you look good.
Which leads me to the one exception. If your spouse or significant other is incapable of making you look good in front of others, then save yourself and leave them at home.
This is a no brainer. You’re going to a business social function to see and to be seen. So wear something nice. More importantly, dress with class.
Men | Wear a suit if you can. Even if others don’t. BUT…and it’s a big “but”. Make sure to wear a suit that looks good on you. Don’t pull out that 5 year old suit that’s too big or too tight. If you don’t look good in it, throw it back in the closet and go buy another.
Women | Dress to impress. Look hot without looking slutty. Tight fitting dresses are risky so instead, go with form fitting. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, it shows in your confidence. Just please refrain from showing off too much skin. Avoid making this about your body regardless of how sexy it is. Don’t allow yourself to get boxed as the “chick from legal with the hot legs.” It’s about you as the whole package.
Married? Make your significant other also follow the rules above. They represent you and your brand at this shin-dig. Don’t let them pull you down.
Don’t show up hungry
Yes, there will be food. Tons of free food. But do you really want to waste your time in the food line? Precious time that can be spent mingling. So, grab a drink, walk around and look for the key people you need to get in front of.
When you do eat, keep the items on your plate to things that can be eaten in small bites. Avoid looking gluttonous. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a conversation with a big ass chunk of food in your mouth. Stay away from anything that is too liquid (gravy, sauces, etc) or anything that can stain your clothes if it falls.
Make sure you’ve got nothing in your teeth.
Control alcohol intake
This is NOT the place to get drunk. So go with a plan to stay attentive and focused. Know how many drinks it takes to get you from a good confidence boosting buzz to tipsy. You want to stay in that “confidence boosting buzz.” So as soon as you reach it, stop drinking. Get a glass of water or coke or something. Wait 15-20 mins before the next drink.
Notice that the senior leaders are either drinking water or other non-alcohol beverages or they will nurse their one drink forever. That means, their judgments are not clouded. Neither should yours.
Leverage your spouse…big time
Your spouse or significant other knows you better than anyone else in that room. They can help you raise your profile, both in the room and at the office.
First, your significant other is your arm candy. If they look good, you look good.
Second, your significant other can be a great cheerleader and marketer of your brand. Have them with you when you approach the big boss and her husband. While you’re buttering up the boss, your partner should work on their significant other. While you make a good impression on the lady who has an influence over your career, your spouse can make a good impression on the one person who has influence over the boss lady.
Avoid talking shop
While it’s inevitable that conversations about work will come up, play it smart and keep it light and high level.
- Don’t bitch about work | by doing so, you’re being a downer.
- Don’t talk badly about people | anything you say can and will get back to them or worse, HR.
- Don’t pitch big ideas to the CEO | use the time to connect with her on a personal level and then subtly request if you can put some time on her calendar to discuss some thoughts (ideas) you’ve had. Most likely she will say yes. Leave it at that. Follow through the next day.
- Don’t linger with one person too long | unless the person is your BFF at the office, don’t hog up all their time.
- Have a list of people you want to get in front of. Make sure that you do.
Do. Not. Twerk.
If there is dancing, keep it classy.
This ain’t an audition for “Bring it On”. Keep the booty shaking, the soulja boy, the gangnum style, the harlem shake, the anaconda and whatever else you’ve got, to yourself. You may be the best twerker on your block. Your colleagues don’t need to know.
If you’re with a significant other, dance only (or mostly) with them. If you’re by yourself, dance with a group of people you are friends with. No grinding.
Again … keep drinking to a minimum.
No flirting … no hookups
This isn’t prom. OK? The goal of the night shouldn’t be to hook up with someone. Even if the opportunity presents itself like your favorite dessert on a diamond encrusted plate … just walk away. You are being watched and you are being judged. It’s not worth losing your job over or being the known as the creep that took advantage of poor drunk intern.
- If sitting at a table, don’t leave without asking if anyone else needs something – we know you can’t carry it all.
- Make an effort to walk around and say hello to as many people as possible. Don’t sit at one table for the entire evening.
- Avoid cell phone use. Post to Facebook later.
- If you do take a call, it better be from the baby sitter or the hospital.
The Korporate Klimber looks at the holiday party as an opportunity to leverage a career boost. I’m not saying that the holiday party is where you pitch your next big idea. Definitely don’t do that. But it is a great opportunity to set the stage for next year.
Just don’t screw it up and become memorable for something stupid.