How to network and still have time for eggnog
Holidays at work are a good time—but, especially as the new guy or girl, how can you balance having fun with staying professional?
Holiday work parties. They should come with a warning label that reads “handle with caution.”
For any entry-level employee, these events can either serve as a stepping stone to career advancement or they can send your career into a downward spiral if you don’t handle yourself in a professional manner. Remember, it’s a party...a work party.
So when you’re the new hire, what’s the most effective way to network during these festivities and still have fun? What questions should you ask? When is it appropriate to network, and when isn’t it?
We spoke with career experts for their top advice on how to best approach these work events.
Approach people and ask them about themselves
Don’t make conversations all about Y-O-U. Instead of coming off as wanting to use someone for personal benefit, engage employees in casual conversations about any number of things not related to work—their interests, current events and sports, or otherwise.
The key is finding genuine connections with attendees, says Candace Klein, chief strategy officer for Dealstruck, Inc., a financial services company based in Carlsbad, California. Then, “tailor your introduction to be interesting to them,” she advises.
What are they passionate about? This is a great way to engage another person, too. As Dana Case, director of operations for MyCorporation.com adds, “If the two of you are passionate about the same things, there's an instant connection and a higher likelihood of a business connection.”
An easy way to make connections is to find someone you already know and ask them to make an introduction with someone from another department. Sometimes all you need is that one new connection and the next thing you know, you’ve circled the entire room.
Understand what’s appropriate for the situation
There may be many great times to network, but employees should be wary of certain situations around the holidays, where it can be all too easy to overstep certain unspoken boundaries.
“You should always be on your A-game and ready to connect,” says Kyshira Moffett, a career consultant at KSM Career Consulting in Pittsburgh. “However, be aware of your environments. Casual environments such as office parties are not the place to ask for help on your projects or to get a recommendation for a promotion,” she says.
If you do find yourself in a conversation about work and you can tell the other person is interested in continuing it, ask them for a business card and express interest in following up for a cup of coffee at a later date. Then you can send them an email a few days later, expressing your thanks for a great conversation, and inquire about meeting again. But again, only ask for a business card if you’re having a great conversation and want to continue it, not just to get a new contact.
Enjoy the eggnog—but not too much
Holiday parties are a tricky environment to navigate, especially as a novice worker. The key is not trying too hard to network, and instead, concentrating on having great conversations with people. You’ll find that the networking part almost takes care of itself.
And let’s not forget: Take it easy on the free booze. “You don't want to be that person at the party who drinks a little too much,’ reminds Jacqueline Twillie, a millennial career adviser and author of Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals.
While liquid courage may be tempting (if you’re of age of course) you want to “demonstrate your knowledge by speaking with confidence,” says Twillie—and that comes with being coherent.
Another thing. Keep in mind that “this is not work, so don't try to impress people by going overboard and riddle each conversation with facts and figures,” she says. "Naturally, work will come up and when appropriate add to the conversation by speaking confidently about the subject matter.”
So relax, take a deep breath, and find some people to talk to. You got this.