By Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor
Work-related holiday events — not everyone is a fan. In a 2010 survey, Monster.com asked people, “How do you feel about workplace holiday parties?” — and 43 percent of respondents said that, at best, they only tolerated them. (A full 11 percent responded with a resounding “Bah, humbug!”) And in a recent Monster.com poll, 17 percent of respondents said they’d done something “regrettable” at a workplace holiday party.
I think that a primary problem with workplace holiday parties is that they juxtapose two opposing mindsets: “work” and “party” — it’s very hard to do both at the same time. My advice? When balancing the two at an event that could affect your career, put “work” first. Doing so at your office holiday party (and other career related — or potentially career-related — events) can have real benefits. Also, it’ll help prevent the disappointment that comes from thinking an office party is somehow going to be an outrageous good time.
And if you’re looking for a job or actively looking to advance your career, the holiday season provides myriad opportunities for self-promotion and career networking — if you’re prepared and paying attention.
Do you have questions or comments about holiday networking, or other professional etiquette questions related to the holiday season? Join me for a live Twitter chat on December 15, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern / 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Pacific: the hashtag is #MWchat. You can also join the discussion on our Facebook page, or share your thoughts in the Comments section below. In the meantime, here are some basics:
For Your Office Holiday Party
1. When attending holiday events at your workplace, limit alcohol intake. You want to be able to make a good impression — save “letting loose” for when you’re with friends and family.
2. Pay attention to the time you arrive and when you leave. Even if you don’t really want to attend, avoid arriving 20 minutes before the end just to make an appearance. On the flip side, don’t party into the wee hours either. Coworkers and managers will notice both errors in judgment.
3. Your company party may be the only time you see high-level executives, or managers from other departments, in person. Take advantage of this. At the very least, don’t spend the entire evening with your regular office chums — get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people from other departments. Plan in advance to discuss issues related to your industry and your company, but be aware of others’ efforts to steer the conversation away from “shop talk.”
4. Dress professionally — don’t undo years of professional behavior with a silly or overtly sexy outfit.
(Get more tips in “Office Holiday Party Etiquette.”)
For Professional Networking Events
1. Set networking goals for events. Before you go, think about whom you want to meet and what you might be able to talk about.
2. Make sure you’ve planned and practiced your elevator speech, and prepare for conversations by making sure you’re up-to-date on news and events in your industry.
3. Conversations should be focused on the person you’re speaking with, not you and your job search — that can come later, after trust has been built. When you meet someone new, start by asking questions — and really listening to the answers.
4. Bring business cards, not resumes. The goal of networking events is to build rapport — it’s not the place to make a hard sell for a particular job. Share business cards, follow up with a friendly note after the holidays, and connect via professional networks such as Monster’s BeKnown.
(Get more advice in “Networking Tips for the Holidays.”)
For Social and Family Events
1. If you’re unemployed and looking for work, take some stress out of the question “How’s your job search going?” — by planning ahead to answer in a positive way. Talk about what you’ve been working on to advance your career or skills, and any good leads you have.
2. Keep an open mind and don’t be shy about discussing your career goals. A good professional network has lots of different types of people in it, so don’t assume that someone has nothing to offer you professionally.