During the course of your career, you will have the opportunity to attend many work-related social events. These may include after-hours work parties, happy hours and dinner parties. Outside of your job, you may join any number of professional associations that hold social-style networking events. Your conduct at work and other professional events can have a profound effect on your career. Although some work-related events are more successful that others, your conduct can enhance your reputation among your co-workers and peers.
The first rule you must constantly remind yourself of is that socializing at these events is not the same as socializing with your friends and family. You probably feel comfortable doing and saying a number of things in your private life that aren’t appropriate at professional events. A work-related party is not a laid-back party. Act like you would on the job and be professional but friendly.
Another important rule to follow is to avoid controversial topics. You can do a lot of damage to your professional reputation by bring up or participating in conversations about:
- Office gossip
- Your personal life
You may think others hold the same opinions you do, but that may not be the case. A lot of people keep their views to themselves but may still have strong opinions. Many people have strong religious convictions but don’t bring it up at work. Others may be involved in political campaigns or issues but keep it to themselves. If you discuss office gossip, you can easily offend others. The things you say can spread fast and you may end up damaging office relationships. Never share confidential information. If you’re not sure if your knowledge about a situation is confidential, assume that it is. That will prevent you from unknowingly getting yourself into a difficult situation.
Your personal life should be just that: personal. You can discuss general details, like your children, hobbies, pets or what your spouse does for a living. Don’t go further than these sorts of general details. If you start sharing information about personal problems, be it relationships, relatives or personal conflicts, you could easily become a person others want to avoid.
If there are so many issues to avoid, what can you talk about? One of the most important strategies you can use is asking people questions. Everyone appreciates a good listener. Be sure to stick to non-offensive topics. Ask questions about people’s hobbies, families, work projects or other general topics. This not only helps you manage conversations but it also helps other people feel more comfortable. Shy people often appreciate it when someone else encourages them to talk.
Manage your consumption of alcohol very carefully. Many people elect not to drink at work events at all. Others stick to one glass of wine, beer or a single cocktail. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, the effects of alcohol will be greatly increased. Some medications increase the effects of alcohol. Why is it so important to manage your alcohol consumption? Because, as you drink, you’ll become more relaxed and your judgment will deteriorate. That means you’re likely to bring up or discuss inappropriate topics, like politics, religion and other controversial topics.
The people around you will notice if you’re overindulging in alcohol. If your speech is slurry or your balance is unsteady, you’ll make a bad impression. The people around you will question your judgment and common sense. This can lead to problems at work and in your professional network. It’s easier to avoid alcohol altogether than risk embarrassing yourself. If people try to push alcohol on you, you can always say it doesn’t agree with you or that you’ll have some later. Some people avoid these awkward interchanges by having a nonalcoholic drink in hand, like seltzer water with a lime. It appears to be an alcoholic drink, but isn’t.
When you attend any work or professional event, you should be on your best behavior at all times. Dress appropriately and treat everyone politely. Talk with as many people as you can. Make an effort to talk to introverted people so they don’t feel left out. Above all, remember that you are attending a professional event and you should behave the same way you do at work. Don’t act like you would around friends in a laid-back setting.