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Attending Work Events

By Arielle Sachar

As young professionals, we tend to work all day and party all night. But what happens when these two worlds collide? Socializing at work events can be tricky, especially if you are blessed with the alcohol tolerance of a toddler and a Blair Waldorf-like penchant for gossip

. Remember, work events aren’t parties, no matter what the invite says. Think of them more as work that you don’t get paid for…wait that sucks. OK, then how about thinking of them as great venues to network, impress the powers that be, and put your careers into the next gear? That and there’s free booze (not that we’ll be drinking much of it though—see page 2).

How Long to Stay

No one wants to be the last or first person to a party, except maybe the office lush, so try to arrive close to the party start time and stay for at least a couple of hours. These events are great ways to network, so you should maximize your face time with co-workers and bosses. Also, remember that office parties aren’t like your third cousin’s bar mitzvah—you need a really good excuse not to go.

What to Talk About

The goal of work events is to forge connections, get to know your co-workers, and impress your bosses. Socializing and appearing fun and likeable will help you move ahead in your careers. So don’t go getting into a heated argument over the state of the Iraq war or prayer in elementary schools or any other topic that is controversial, offensive, or bound to cause conflict. You should also never discuss something you know nothing about. There’s nothing worse then mistaking the ruler of Uganda for a fancy condiment. And remember, Saturday night’s office slut can easily turn into next week’s sexual harassment suit, so let’s keep that libido very much in check.

In general the list of things to avoid talking about is pretty obvious. Stay away from sex, politics, and religion. According to Barbara Pachter, author of New Rules @ Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques To Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, the unholy trinity is the quickest way to breed unnecessary controversy. Also best to avoid bad-mouthing or gossip. Both Pachter and Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work, agree that it’s always better to go the high road and not join in the sewing circle dress-downs. A little business is fine, but don’t let it dominate the discussion in mixed company.

Perhaps the most difficult line to tow is in talking about yourself. Obviously when talking with superiors and other influentials, you want to use an office event as a way to stand out from the rest. However, sounding off on winning a second grade spelling bee isn’t the best way to do it. Find other inroads to get the boss's ear, like hobbies, entertainment, sports, current events, or mutual acquaintances, and then perhaps inject a bit of business talk into the mix. Overall, being friendly, controlled, and socially mature will get you a lot further than bragging or trying too hard to stand out.

Work It To Your Advantage

With the abundance of alcohol, cheer, and that not-at-work euphoria that sets in after leaving your desk, you should remember that it’s just as easy to advance your career as it is to cripple them. To edge toward the former, always try to introduce yourself to people in the office that you haven’t yet met. These parties are a great way to get on the radar of people in different department whom you might not have a chance to interact with in the office.

Alcohol: The Great Instigator

Parties in college were a license to get belligerent and do things we would regret the next day. Obviously, work parties are different. While it may say “party” on the office memo, you should never treat it as such. Remember, parties are fun. Work is not really. Work parties are fun but not really. It’s almost always safe to drink, though if you are with an alcoholic boss or client, you may want to lay off while talking with them. In terms of what to drink, wine, beer, vodka soda, and G&Ts are all safe bets, as long as the bartender isn’t pouring brim jobs (wine up to the edge) or stiffies (self-explanatory). If so, don’t be afraid to ask him to lighten it up a bit.

How Much to Drink

Moderation is key. Knowing your own metabolism helps to decide whether one or two drinks is appropriate. You should never get drunk. There are a few tried and true methods for staying sober, and you should likely try them all. First, make sure to eat something before the party. Even one glass of wine on an empty stomach can slur your speech or dull your senses. If you do start feeling tipsy, head for the water or grab a soda on the next visit to the bar (if you're being peer pressured for not drinking, you may want to think twice about your employer). If you are pretty good at holding your booze, it's still not advisable to be the one "setting the pace." Take cues from how much others are drinking before ordering that fourth Long Island Iced Tea.

Keep A Record

Last but not least, always remember to come armed with a camera. Pictures equal some friendly blackmailing. I’m kidding….no, actually, I am not.

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