Holiday Party Do's and Don'ts

‘Tis the season of the holiday office party—and while we’ve all heard the stories of career suicide committed during these festive soirêes, the truth is that with a few Do's and Don’ts, you can rock your career to the next level—and have some fun!

Do: Put Yourself Out There

This is the office party that all the bigwigs attend. It’s casual, festive, relaxed and the perfect opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the CEO and make an impact on your difficult to pin-down boss. You see your colleagues each and every day—expand your reach at the holiday office party and get out of the corner, away from the bar and mingle like a banshee.

Don't: Talk Shop

While, yes, this is the office party, it’s not time to talk about business. Don’t even think about asking about that promotion, bringing up a contentious issue or mentioning that stressful meeting from last week. Instead, leverage the fact that your boss or client has had a drink and is in a relaxed state and ask where she went to school. Does she play tennis or golf? Where does she find all those great suits she sports at the office? Find things in common and take the relationships to the next level. The more you listen and make meaningful connection, the more allied she’s going to be to your success. However, remember the line—"I’m from the Midwest" is good, "My beau just cheated on me"—not so much.

Do: Grip a Drink

While you’d think it goes without saying, based upon the horror stories about holiday office parties we’ve all heard or been a part of, it’s worth repeating: This is not the party to get bombed. While the easy solution would seem to be to keep your hands off the punch, it’s not. Your coworkers will be indulging in a glass or two, and you want to ensure you don’t make them uncomfortable or feel guilty. As one coworker of mine told me, her glass-less night turned speculation toward a drinking problem. Have a glass of wine, but not five. And the truth is, no one needs to know what you’re drinking.

Don't: Go Nuts

While, without question, this is a party and you should feel free to take off your suit jacket—make sure your Santa bra isn’t the only thing you’re wearing underneath. If you’re using this soiree as a career-making event, remember the emphasis is on office, not party. Steer clear of the karaoke, remember the buffet is not all you can eat and sitting on your co-workers knee is a no, no.

Do: Follow-Up

You’ve made a great impact at the holiday office party, and while the hope is that your boss wasn’t too drunk, tired or overwhelmed with new introductions to remember your stellar performance, don’t take it for granted. Follow up with a "great to get to know you" e-mail. If you found a common connection—a love of gardening, travel or Thai food—search the Web and find a great article, restaurant recommendation or discount travel site and send it along.

Adapted from the article published for WORKS by Nicole Williams