5 Tips for Using the Office Holiday Party to Advance Your Career

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When the thought of the office holiday party comes up, it is generally met with one of the following reactions: one, of dread that you even have to attend and two, with glee that you get to socialize, eat well and drink til your heart’s content. Either thought is fine if you are satisfied with where you are in your career and aren’t looking to make any moves. However, if you are looking to advance your career, here are five tips for using the office holiday party to go to the next level.

Remember the Goal is NOT to Have Fun

The purpose of the office holiday party is not the same as a party with your family and friends. Your goal at the office holiday party is not to let loose and hang out with the same people you already chat with at work, chow down on the smorgasbord of food, or go overboard at the open bar. The goal is to connect with key individuals who you don’t normally get a chance to connect with, whether it’s because they work in a different department, location or you just rarely cross paths. Eat before you come if necessary, but make sure when you walk through the doors of the party, your commitment is to walk away with key connections, not having fun.

Broaden Your Circle

If networking is not your thing, it can be tempting to want to make yourself comfortable with the people that you already know, but that doesn’t lead to meaningful connections that can take your career to the next level. Sure, it’s fine to say hello to the co-workers you know well, but the vast majority of your time should be spent broadening your circle and getting to meet new people or getting facetime with the partners that give you work. If you want to meet new people but don’t know who the “key” people are, pay attention to which people are the center of attention in the different groups or who are making lots of introductions. You want to be connected to the people who seem to know everybody and who everyone is vying for a chance to say hello to. These are the people that could serve as an excellent resource for you as you advance in your career.

Look to Build Personal Connections

Since you’re at a work function, it can be tempting to want to only talk about work and serious matters, but given the setting, it’s appropriate to try to get to know people on a personal level. Find out about their plans for the holidays, ask about their hobbies, and be willing to share things about yourself as well. People remember people that they like and have a good rapport with, so work on building personal connections.

Use Your Time Wisely

You want to make as many meaningful connections as possible while you are there. If you find that your conversation with someone is going on for a while, it’s perfectly fine to gracefully exit by saying, “It’s been great to meet you, but I don’t want to take up all of your time so you can mingle with the other people here.” Or if you would like to keep in touch, say, “Would it be OK if I contacted you to set up a quick phone call to talk about XYZ?” At the same time, you don’t want to simply bounce around from person to person like there’s a prize at the end for getting the most business cards. Remember, the goal is to make meaningful personal connections. If it doesn’t happen organically, you don't have to force it and can simply move on to the next group or person. However, a general guideline is to spend approx. 10 mins to make a genuine connection.

Your Future is in the Follow-Up

Don’t let all of your hard networking go to waste by dropping the ball on following up. After you’ve made your connections, be sure to make note of who you want to follow-up with and actually do so, whether it’s a phone call or email. Mention in your correspondence that it was a pleasure meeting/speaking with them at the holiday party and the reason for the follow-up. If you don’t hear back in a timely fashion, make a note to follow-up again after the new year.