The Christmas Office Party has bad rap for embarrassing drunken declarations and demands for everything ranging from love to money.
But the once-a-year event doesn’t have to be a blight on your career. The old saying that “It’s not what you know but who you know” most definitely still applies today and networking can help you to develop relationships with colleagues that could positively affect your future career prospects.
In fact, with good networking you could even secure yourself that promotion you so deserve in the coming year.
There are a few major things to consider first though…
- It’s not all about you
Successful networking means understanding that the party isn’t about you, it’s about what you can do for others. If you bear this in mind when talking to people, you will be noticed as an interesting and engaging person who doesn’t just continuously talk about themselves.
Don’t forget this is supposed to be a party and it’s not the time for you to pitch your latest idea to your boss. It is however, the perfect time to get to know your boss on a personal level.
Listen to other people, ask questions and try to offer compliments or constructive feedback. The idea is to make sure people remember you when you’re not in the room. Use the party to get to know your colleagues better and get on the social radar.
- Plan of Attack
Before going to the office Christmas party make a plan of what you want to achieve. Set yourself three goals or targets that will remind you of why you’re at the party, such as ‘get to know the boss’ or ‘make three new contacts.’
Heading to the party with a clear plan will give those who are a little shy some structure to the night and a sense of accomplishment at the end.
- Be proactive
Don’t just settle for the office Christmas Party, push the boat out, be a little cheeky and ask friends and contacts to take you along to other parties with them.
Don’t stand at the edge of the room feeling awkward, make your way to people standing alone or in groups of two and introduce yourself. There will be plenty of other people in the same position and who will be glad to have somebody go out of their way to speak to them.
If you find yourself alone, go to the toilet and start a conversation in the queue. Friendships and contacts are formed everywhere!
- Dress and Dine appropriately
Class, culture and elegance are what you want to give off at these parties, so choose canapés you can eat delicately and whilst it’s a bad idea not to eat, don’t go stuffing your face because you’ll miss out on conversations with important people.
The kind of clothing that’s appropriate for an office do is not the same kind of clothing you’d wear to your friend’s birthday party. If you’re having trouble with party clothing choices, check out our personal guide to demystifying dress codes.
- Sobriety is a virtue
If you’re drinking alcohol, alternate with a soft drink. The worst thing you could do at the office party is get too drunk and say or do something that will haunt you for the rest of your career.
- Tipsy Talk
It’s not always going to be possible to remain in total control, especially at a party with an open bar or with a drinks package as well as welcome drinks. So as well as self-control, you’ll have to be prepared to exercise restraint with your conversations.
Avoid talk of anything controversial, including politics, sex, race and religion. Pick four or five safe topics to talk about and keep them in your head, so even after a few glasses of prosecco, you won’t feel like filling the silence with stories about your divorce.
Making yourself vulnerable is very difficult for the British who like to maintain the illusion of control, composure and poise…that is until the alcohol consumed from nerves shatters this impression.
So isn’t it better to put yourself out there first? If getting snubbed is the worst thing that can happen then you’re doing great because you’re not flashing your underwear or throwing up outside. Put yourself out there and encourage the bonds of intimacy to grow between you and your colleagues and bosses by asking for advice or the opinion of a new acquaintance. Sharing a personal story can show sufficient vulnerability and help create intimacy, just make sure it’s not too personal.
- Leave on Time
It doesn’t look good to be the last one standing, especially if you’re trying to impress. You want to appear in control, happy and busy, so leave the party before the very end.
When you start to think ‘a few more glasses won’t hurt…’ that’s when you should leave. A couple more glasses will inevitably hurt and it’s far better to leave with everyone having seen the best of you, than remembering you for something far worse.
- Follow Up Fast
Whilst the party is still fresh in everybody’s mind, make the most of the new connections you made. Send out a follow up email or a LinkedIn request within the first 24 hours, before people forget who you are.
Invite them to a meeting over lunch or coffee and make sure the message is personalised. Nothing warrants the ‘delete’ button more than a generic mass email that suggests you’re just after making as many contacts as possible rather than nurturing a professional relationship.
- Keep a Book
After a successful evening of networking, keep a contacts book and update it regularly with professional and personal information to help you maintain an excellent working relationship with important new contacts.
Make yourself known and focus on networking outside of work, drop a colleague an email when they start a new job or go for a hospital appointment.
Start your networking preparations at some of these fantastic parties.