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Ask A Career Coach - How to Work the Company Holiday Party

Depositphotos_11125214_sThere are many ways to tell that America’s economy is once again rising. For example, unemployment rates are declining and the standard of living increasing. Another way to tell the economy is rising is the increase in company holiday parties. More companies have more reasons to celebrate and excess funds to spend on their employees. These parties help a company with employee retention as well as help employees with career planning and advancement within the organization.

With this increase in corporate holiday parties, it is important to have increased awareness of appropriate behaviors at such events. As expected, behavior as your company’s holiday party is not the same behavior you want to exhibit at a loved one’s party.

Not only are these parties important because they make you look good around the office, but they are excellent networking opportunities to possibly advance your career. Here are a few tips to remember when you are going to your next company holiday party:

1. Keep your attire conservative, yet festive.

For women, especially, it can be difficult to find a nice balance between looking conservative and fun versus frumpy or over-the-top. Since you are still around your everyday coworkers and employers, it is important to stay modest like in the office, but still have fun since it is a party. Try a fitted (not tight) knee-length dress with a higher neckline and show off your shoulders or try a new, trendy jumpsuit with a high open back. With anything that you wear, make sure that you are not showing cleavage or too much leg.

For men, keep things simple with some nice slacks, a button down shirt and some nice lace-up shoes. If the party calls for something more dressed-up, everyone likes a man in a well-fitted suit.

2. Treat the party as a networking event.

Although you may know most of the people at the party, there may also be higher level executives that would be a great opportunity for you to meet. Be sure to watch how much you are drinking and limit yourself. You do not want to embarrass yourself in front of coworkers and especially not higher level executives. Having a couple of drinks is fine; it puts you at ease and creates a more fun atmosphere for the party. Make sure you always have your drink in your left hand so that you don’t have to juggle a glass and give someone a cold, wet handshake. Go up and introduce yourself to people you do not know with a smile and firm handshake. Don’t talk too much business all night though - you don’t want to look like the company bore. Also, make sure to stay away from sensitive topics such as politics and religion.

3. Be careful of who you bring as a date.

First, make sure that you are even allowed to bring a date. Some offices prefer to have employees-only at the holiday party. If you are allowed, however, you want to bring a date that you can trust will behave and enable you to move and talk to other people without worrying about him or her. Your date will reflect you, so the rules for attire also apply to him/her. You don’t want a date who makes other people feel uncomfortable because of how much skin she’s showing off. Since holiday parties can also be networking events, you also want a date who can be sociable enough to keep up his or her own conversation while you do the same. Of course, you don’t want to leave them hanging, but it is important to use the event as an opportunity.

Lauren Malcolm is the Marketing Manager at The Frontier Group, one of the leading career coaching practices in Atlanta and Charlotte.