With the holiday season hurtling full-throated through December to a New Year's finale, an employee is likely to receive an invitation to attend one or several work-related events.
Savvy employees should try to make the most of these networking opportunities, which can help them maintain current relationships and also foster new ones, says Barbara Pachter, an author, trainer and business-etiquette guru.
Her first tip is the simplest: Show up.
“Attendance at the company holiday party isn’t optional,” she says. “Your absence will be noticed, and most likely noted, by your boss and other higher-ups. Business social events are opportunities to get to know people outside of the office environment.”
One of the worst things an employee can do is look out of place at a business social event. Pachter says keeping one's body language “relaxed and open,” whether that means smiling or wearing a pleasant facial expression, makes one look approachable – a key to maximizing any networking opportunity.
The third tip holds true for any event – dress appropriately.
“If you are unsure of what to wear, ask the host or event planner. And remember, it is still a business event,” Pachter stresses. “Nothing too low, too tight or too anything!”
Pachter also urges employees to use discretion when drinking alcohol at business social events. Staying sober is the only way to avoid losing control, and being the topic of discussion around the water cooler the following day.
Moving out of one's safety zone is another way an employee can get the most out of networking opportunities.
“Talk to people you don’t know, as well as to those you know. Go up to people, say hello, introduce yourself and shake hands,” the corporate trainer says. “The person you meet at a holiday event may turn out to be the person who interviews you for a future promotion.”
The last two tips are linked specifically to party etiquette rules. Pachter says one shouldn't sit with a group of people without first introducing one's self. When possible, say hello to everyone at the table. At a minimum, shake hands and say hello to the person sitting on either side.
And finally, never show up at an event, especially at someone’s home, empty-handed.
“A box of chocolates, a set of coasters, or a gift set of assorted coffees would be appropriate,” she says. “And if giving flowers, be sure to send them ahead of time so the hostess doesn’t have to deal with them when you arrive.”
For more information on training, coaching or resource materials, visit www.pachter.com.