Holiday office parties stick in our minds under two categories: either a Deadly Dull Evening or Someone Really Embarrassed Himself. The hard part is navigating the middle ground between these two extremes. Here are some tips for enjoying yourself at your employer's holiday gathering without earning the rep “goofball. "
EAT FIRST. You should eat before you arrive. If the company serves a sit-down dinner, it's more likely than not a rubber-chicken sort of menu anyway, so eat something healthy to fill up a bit, and stave off intoxication, before you get there.
DRESS FOR AN OFFICE PARTY, NOT THE CLUB. Many people, and young people more than many, have trouble choosing the appropriate clothes for an office holiday party. If it's an evening affair, you want to look nice - but looking nice and looking like you're off to the club are not one and the same. You need to keep it in check at a holiday office party - that means not as much exposed flesh as you'd bare at a dance club, for instance. You want to look dressed-up (if it's a dressy party) but not ready to get down.
DON'T HANG WITH YOUR HOMIES. If you really want to have fun, stick with your buds from Accounting or the group you know best, and just talk and drink. That's fine. But if you want to take this opportunity to make a good impression on others, including higher-ups, then make a point of meeting some of them. Prepare a little speech: “Hi, I'm Jackson from Real Estate - we haven't met before. " Get to know some new people - this is your chance!
BE PREPARED FOR INTELLIGENT CONVERSATION. If you venture to chat with the CFO, be sure you know what's up (at a general level) with the company's finances and strategic initiatives, so you don't embarrass yourself. If, for instance, the CFO tosses out the name of your company's latest acquisition (which was widely reported in the media, you should know what's talking about.
LEAVE EARLY. Don't be the last person to leave the joint - take off a bit earlier, when you're still sober, your hair still looks tidy, and you're still speaking coherently. Have fun, but leave a good impression.
See? You'll be in bed by midnight. Or, if you're still feeling the urge to party, you can hightail it over to your favorite club and put those party clothes to good use.
Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 HR executive, a workplace expert and the CEO of WorldWIT, the world's largest online community for professional women. Liz writes and speaks about the new-millennium workplace. She lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.