While the office Christmas party is the time of the year when companies keep their promise of making work fun, the mix of Baby Boomers, Gen X and Y can create a formula for disaster for young up-and-comers, says a leading authority on Gen Y.
For the young and ambitious, the office Christmas party provides the perfect opportunity to network with those who can give you a leg up on the corporate ladder. But whether you’re there to work the room, or just want to have fun, never forget you’re still at work and as such, all the usual rules still apply.
Dominic Thurbon, leading authority on Gen Y from the Centre for Skills Development and a Gen Y himself, has 10 tips for his peers on how to make a Christmas party work for them.
Dominic Thurbon’s Ten Tips for Gen Y to work the Christmas party to get ahead are:
1. Have a plan and make it work
There are two main objectives. One is to have a good time and celebrate – let’s not forget it is a party! The
second is to meet people and network in a relaxed environment.
2. Work the room
Do it like you’re not working it at all. In organisations where senior management is dominated by Xers and
Boomers, there can sometimes be unfair perceptions about younger people at work. You do yourself no favours if you’re fake. Stick to genuine conversation and show interest in other people.
3. Warm into networking
Start with friends, then move to people in the extended network. During that ‘enough drinks to be loosened
up but still coherent’ phase, that’s when you should look to talk with key people. View the party as introductory time, not as ‘I’m getting my pay rise in the next twenty minutes’ time.
4. Small talk leaves a lasting impression
Making small talk is the key to good networking. The most important advice is to listen. Resist the ‘pressure of speech’ – the tendency to speak rapidly and frenziedly. When in doubt, ask a question rather than launching into a story. Listen closely and ask intelligent questions. It is always better to be interested than act interested. The
people we rate as ‘most interesting’ or ‘nicest’ are those who usually listen the most.
Make the introduction, be charming enough to be remembered, find a common point of interest and move
on when appropriate. Then look for later opportunities to reconnect. Whether it is your field of expertise or
just a hobby, go with what you know and be passionate about it. Topics to be avoided are politics, religion
and office gossip.
5. The rules still rule
Just because it is after hours or offsite, the regular rules still apply. You’re still an employee and you still
have a boss. Trust that has taken years to build can be lost in seconds because of a single incident.
6. Tone it down
Gen Ys often think they have to be the life of the party, but they don’t. At a client party you obviously have to
be on your best behaviour and to turn it down a notch further. And while it might seem a good idea to take advantage of the mistletoe and smooch your offie crush, think again as you might never live it down!
7. To drink or not to drink?
It should probably go without saying that you should avoid getting drunk. The tough reality for the office party is that there is so much pressure to drink that people wind up doing things they otherwise wouldn’t. While saying no altogether might prove to be hard, it is a party after all, a good rule of thumb is not to say yes too often!
8. Getting yourself out of trouble
If you do find yourself drunkenly fusing Flashdance with MC Hammer, or stumbling into an uncomfortable insult, there are three simple steps for trying to recover; acknowledge, apologise and move on. By this I mean, acknowledge your blunder, then apologise and move on by changing the subject or beating a hasty retreat.
If all else fails, go directly to step three! Best thing about the Christmas party is some people will forget over the two week holiday.
9. Don’t overdress to impress
The first consideration in what to wear is personal comfort. The second is the advertised dress code. If it says casual, go casual. If it says black tie, suck it up and sweat with the rest of the penguins. However, every ensemble should have a personal touch – a dash of je ne se qua; something to mark you out, however as a general rule novelty reindeer horns are a bad idea because they are, to be honest, stupid!
10. Stay motivated at work through the Christmas party season
For some – particularly in industries that get quiet around Christmas – this can be a real problem. The best way is to acknowledge motivation is low and find ways of integrating fun activities into your workflow. Do something a little wacky each day but limit it to about ten minutes. That way you get it out of your system and can still get down to work.