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How to Survive your Office Party.

Office holiday party season is right around the corner. If you act appropriately, your office holiday party can be a great career-enhancing opportunity for you. Act inappropriately and it can throw up roadblocks to future career success. Here are 10 tips to help you navigate the holiday work party circuit with grace and confidence.

  • RSVP AND ATTEND THE EVENT. Yes, if it is your office party, you must attend. Let them know you will be attending. Be on time. Stay at least an hour.

  • APPEARANCES COUNT. Dress for the occasion – and remember it is a work party. So dress professionally – clean, crisp and polished but a bit festive. If you are coming straight from work, ladies can use accessories to introduce some additional cheer and sparkle– switch out your day purse for a small clutch, change your heels, and add a piece or two of jewelry (don’t go overboard). Gentlemen have it easier but can add a pocket square, a more colorful tie or festive socks if they want to punch up their appearance. Try to be a little bit special – and remember nothing too short, too revealing or too tight. And don’t forget the best accessory – a smile.

  • TREAT YOUR GUEST WELL. If you are allowed to bring a guest to the office party, and you do, don’t abandon them. Not only is that not particularly nice but people will notice and it will reflect poorly on you. So introduce your guest, include them in conversations, and if you do need to go off on your own to schmooze for a bit, circle-back often.

  • TALK TO THE VIPs. Whether the party is your company party or a larger industry event, take the opportunity to talk to the VIPs in the room – the folks you would not typically talk with at other times. Just remember to have something interesting to say (see below) and don’t monopolize their time.

  • GET OUT AND MINGLE. Don’t spend the entire time mingling with only the people you know well. This is a great opportunity to meet new people in your organization, network and increase your professional circle for the coming year.

  • DON’T TALK TOO MUCH SHOP. Do you ever notice how in DC it seems that all people can talk about is work – where they work and what they do? Stand out from the crowd by conversing about something more fun and interesting than work – a book (unless it is a trashy romance novel or a self-help book), a play you just saw, a trip you just took. But don’t forget to ask questions of others – don’t be a conversation hog.

  • PREPARE TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT BEFORE THE PARTY. Scan the headlines and papers for some interesting topics to discuss should there be a lull in the conversation. While most etiquette books recommend steering clear of sensitive topics like politics and religion, how can one not talk about politics in D.C.? Just remember to be civilized and gracious in your discussions and don’t approach every conversation like a debate you must win. No one will enjoy talking to you.

  • DON’T OVERINDULGE. While you certainly need to look like you are enjoying yourself, do not be the one everyone later talks about. Know your alcohol limits. Do not make a beeline to the buffet when you arrive. Don’t pile your plate high with shrimp cocktail. Don’t stalk the servers passing food in the room. And don’t double-dip. Eat a little something before the party so you aren’t famished.

  • BE FESTIVE BUT NOT TOO PERSONAL OR JOLLY. It is best to avoid Mistletoe balls. Don’t kiss or hug or be too demonstrative with colleagues. Don’t ask personal questions that may make others uncomfortable.

  • BE GRATEFUL. Verbally thank the host of the event. It is the proper thing to do. These continue to be difficult economic times for most companies and a company holiday party is not a “given.” A follow-up handwritten thank you note will set you apart from your colleagues. And if the party is not your cup of tea, don’t use any form of social media to complain or comment about it – or anyone who was at the party. It shows bad judgment because nothing is private these days. And you will look like The Grinch!

Follow these tips and you can ring in the New Year with career confidence – and your job intact.

Have a marvelous week - Catherine

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