Use This Year’s Office Holiday Party to Get Ahead at Work

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‘Tis the season of fancy outfits, plus ones, Secret Santa exchanges, fixed menus, and full wine glasses.

There’s really no better time of year to bring office cheer than the annual holiday party. With all the anticipation leading up to that festive Friday night, it comes as no surprise that professionals still need extra reminding on how to appropriately behave at the holiday office party. That’s because, aside from the popped corks and water cooler chatter, the term “office” is still very much a part of the equation.

If you’re the team’s newbie or a novice in the office-slash-career environment, your first round at the office party may have you wide-eyed with excitement knowing you won’t have to pick up the tab at the end of the night. The key to a good time at your first office party is to find the perfect mix between professionalism and personality. And, if you’re able to pull off fun and professional, it could actually help you get ahead at your job. It may not lead to a promotion come Monday morning, but a positive first impression will put you on good terms with your coworkers right away.

And by rounds, we don’t mean shots.

If you’re new to a larger company, you likely haven’t met all of your colleagues or spoken to them on anything past a hi-and-bye level. An office get together—holidays or not—is the perfect opportunity to chat with those you don’t normally work with on a daily basis. Although it should be an agenda-free night, make it your goal to step away from the comforts of your immediate team and speak with a handful of new faces.

Take a team bonding experience like this as your chance to walk the room, introduce yourself to the office decision makers, share your excitement about your new role and, most important, learn more about them—then don’t forget their names when you’re back in the office.

While you still have to maintain some level of professionalism at the office party, you don’t have to just talk about work (and you shouldn’t). As the new face in the company, your coworkers should already have a decent understanding of your workplace capabilities, so an outing like this is your opportunity to allow them to get to know the person you are outside of work. Share your hobbies, talk about your background, show a photo of your plus one who couldn’t make it. Just avoid talking in detail about what’s happening in the office—or about the weather.

There’s something strange about having to remind professionals about this, but you want to come across as the life of the party, not the embarrassment. When the party atmosphere and non-work related chatter is mixed in with mixed drinks, staying in control can be difficult. The best way to save yourself from catching weird looks from coworkers back at the office is to go into the party knowing when to stop, even before you’ve had your first drink.

When you’ve reached your threshold and your coworkers include you in another round (because they will), kindly decline and b-line to the restroom or call it a night while you’ve still got the chance. You want to walk away from the party knowing you met new people and made a solid, outside-of-work impression.