Too many people look at the office Christmas party as a joyless experience. Hanging out with your boss, being forced to make tedious small talk with co-workers you barely know, trying to remember the name of a spouse you’ve been introduced to 15 times before — it can be excruciating if you go into it with the wrong mindset. But if you go to an office Christmas party with a clear agenda, it can actually be one of the most worthwhile things you do all year.
Here are five tips for networking at your office Christmas party. Follow these suggestions and you may even get something out of the shindig beyond a lame fruitcake door prize.
1. Aim High
Here’s a secret: your boss’s boss’s boss really does want to meet you. Too many younger employees avoid introducing themselves to people higher up on the totem pole because they’re worried about bothering these executives or, worse yet, making a fool out of themselves after one too many eggnogs. But the truth is, office parties are held for the sole reason that the president of the company wants to see how his or her workers are doing.
Approach the top people at the company and offer them a firm handshake. Now is not the time to complain about the lack of paper towels in the bathroom or the long hours you had to work on that last project. Keep it short, but emphasize how much you enjoy your job and appreciate the chance to work for this company. But be sure to do it early in the evening. Even the higher-ups can fall prey to the eggnog.
2. Put Your Goals Out There
When you’re in a go-go-go office environment, you don’t have much time to talk about your personal goals for the future. But a party is the perfect time to mention them to your boss. Don’t do it in a threatening manner (do not ever joke about gunning for his job). Instead, say how much you enjoy a certain aspect of your job because it’s preparing you for something you’d like to do in the future. Your boss will tuck that nugget of information away and call on you if an opportunity you’re seeking arises.
3. Bond Over Hobbies
Is your boss a runner? Did you just finish your first 10K? Talk to her about your shared hobby. You’d be amazed how much a little bonding can increase your standing with the boss.
4. Share With Others
A Christmas party is a great place to learn more about your co-workers. It may turn out that the cranky guy in real estate sales is cranky because he spends late nights taking care of his ill mother. Talking can help you understand your co-workers and perhaps help you exercise more patience with them in future group projects.
5. Stay Sober
Let’s face it, a lot of people make fools of themselves at office Christmas parties. The best thing you can do for your career is to have fun but not too much fun. You don’t want to be the guy sitting pantsless on the copying machine at 1 am. That guy’s not going to get a promotion.
Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX. She enjoys helping her clients boost conversions through business development. When not at work, you can find Alicia cooking up a storm in her apple-red kitchen or blogging about SEO strategies.