How to Network at Holiday Parties

Make the most of your office festivities

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It’s that time of the year again: The annual holiday office party. Instead of dreading spending more time with your boss and co-workers, use the opportunity to have some fun and advance your career. Office parties can be prime networking opportunities and a chance for you to stand out from the crowd with perfect party etiquette.

Passing up the invite could hurt your reputation, so if you decide to attend, there are a few basic rules to follow, says Ruben Britt, Jr., assistant director of  the Career and Academic Planning Center at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.

“Arrive on time. it’s easier to network in a smaller crowd,” he says. When you get there, scope the room and find key people in the company to chat with, he adds. “Before the party, research that person’s role within the organization. Let them know about your position and certain aspects about your job that you enjoy. Be prepared to answer questions.”

Nervous about approaching people you don’t know? “Align yourself with someone who knows that person or the movers and shakers, and have them introduce you to them,” says Britt.

If you meet guests from outside the company, always exchange business cards. Still, says Britt, you don’t only have to talk shop. Keep the conversations positive and upbeat. Avoid controversial subjects (such as office gossip, religion, politics, etc.) and off-color jokes, but show an interest in others and their opinions. “You want to enjoy yourself and the company of others,” he says.

During the evening, try to keep one hand free during the night so that you can offer handshakes to people as they come by. And it’s a good idea to keep your drink in your left hand; your hand won’t be cold and/or wet when you do shake hands.

Remember the party is still a business function, so dress and act accordingly. Nightclub attire is a no-no. “Perception is everything and you don’t want to wear anything that is too short, tight or revealing,” says Britt.

When it comes to food and drink, moderation is best.  Flirting with the fellow guests and inappropriate behavior could be a career ender.

But if you do embarrass yourself, all is not lost, says Britt. “Make it the first order of business to apologize to the appropriate person(s). Hopefully your co-workers will understand the situation and have a good laugh about it further down the road.”

At the end of the gathering, make sure to thank the host or person who organized the function. You can also send a thank-you note to top management for hosting the party.

After the party, follow up with anyone you networked with during the event. “Wait until after the New Year to write a note or email suggesting a meeting,” Britt advises. “Make sure that you remind the person how much you enjoyed their conversation at the office party and that you’d like to discuss a particular idea in greater detail. Use what you learned

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