The holiday season is upon us, and this brings the inevitable end-of-year office party.
No matter whether you love or loathe festive work gatherings, bear in mind the office party is essentially a business event that can provide valuable networking opportunities to advance your career.
Take a look at our five tips to successfully connect with colleagues at this year’s office function.
1. Dress appropriately
The last thing you need is for your party outfit to be the topic of water cooler conversation for months to come. Skip anything too revealing, outlandish or just plain ridiculous that could taint your professional image. If you joined the firm during the year, check the dress code with colleagues. If in doubt take a conservative line in terms of style and colour.
2. Go easy on the good cheer
The beer and wine may be free but the office party is no time for a free-for-all. Sure, enjoy a drink with colleagues but limit yourself to one or two glasses. Having one drink too many at the office function can see your career shot down in flames especially if it sees you dancing on tables, passing out in the dip, or grabbing the karaoke microphone and serenading the CEO with a slurred rendition of your favourite festive song. Reserve letting your hair down (and picking up the karaoke mike) for celebrations with family and friends.
3. Step outside your department
You may feel more comfortable cosying up with your immediate circle of co-workers but that means bypassing the opportunity to connect with people outside your team. Important career relationships can be forged around the buffet table and it’s worth making the effort to network. Keep the conversation light, avoid office gossip and venting about the boss, and maintain a friendly yet professional manner. Remember, you are aiming to build rapport not schmooze, so skip the shop talk and stick to neutral topics like colleagues’ plans for the upcoming holidays.
4. Don't monopolise one person
Be prepared to mingle rather than monopolising one particular colleague. If the conversation has lasted a while, excuse yourself gracefully (“I’m just going to refresh my drink” is a handy line) and keep moving throughout the gathering. It’s not all about catching up with senior management either. Identify those who could support your career over the coming year – maybe someone from a different department who handles one aspect of your accounts, and strike up a conversation. The key is to actively widen your circle.
5. Nurture those new connections
If you want to stay in touch with colleagues you meet at the office party, ask if it’s okay to call or email in the following week or New Year, and make a diary note to do so to avoid coming across as unreliable. Carrying a few business cards can be helpful to jog the memories of those who may be heading off on annual leave.
Once the party is over, maintain the networking momentum. Stay connected with your new contacts via LinkedIn or other social media, and consider inviting your colleague to share coffee or lunch…or maybe even a night of karaoke.