3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Holiday Party

It’s officially holiday party season – woot woot! I know we’re knee-deep in reflection and being thankful, but party time is right around the corner.

Holiday parties used to be a big deal. And the bigger the company’s revenue, the bigger the event was. After the crash in 2008, many companies have scaled back their party budget and perks, but still have some sort of year-end celebration. While the ostentatious-ness of the occasion may have been subdued, there is still a right way to party.

I’m not going to point out all of the things you shouldn’t be doing while celebrating, you can read all about how to shake your tail feather and what gift to get your boss here. Instead, I’m going to share three ways to make the most of your holiday party, and how partying can propel your career to the next level.

3 Ways to Leverage Your Holiday Party

Many of us attend several holiday parties – this advice can be applied whether you are going to your office party or a friend’s party. Essentially, these parties are a great informal way to network and learn important things about your performance and career trajectory.

1. Meet People You Want to Know

It’s so easy to stick to the people we know when we arrive at a party – we want to drink, be merry, have fun! But by doing so, you are foregoing the easiest “networking event” out there.

At parties, people are more relaxed, their game faces aren’t as in tact (especially after a drink) – which means it’s prime time for you to easily step outside of your comfort zone and meet influencers that can help you.

Before you attend the party, think about who could influence your career: they can be leaders, higher ups, or connectors. All of the people at work who have a seat at the table when discussing your career – then add them to your list to meet.

When you are at the party, you have so many warm introductions available to you – unlike most networking events. You can ask someone you work with to introduce you; you can mosey on up to the person and make small chat about the company/party/achievements/speeches; you can complement them on a project they completed.

In other words, you have built in reasons to meet the people you want to know. Take advantage of it.

2. Investigate the Gossip

I’m not a huge fan of gossiping at work in general, but when you are at a party, it’s a great opportunity for you to hear about all of the goings on. You don’t have to participate in the gossip, but it is an excellent way for you to understand what people are saying – about you, your team, and so on.

Whether you overhear something or someone makes a seemingly innocuous comment, you can learn a lot by being a listener more than a talker. And since this is likely one of the last opportunities you will get to improve your performance and create a halo effect before year-end, it can be career-boosting information.

3. Getting Your Cheer Back

I remember walking in to a HUGE holiday party I attended several years back – lights, glamour, food galore, and fancy people everywhere. I was beyond done with my job at the time – and I wasn’t able to find one positive thing to help me get through another year in my role.

But a crazy thing happened at the company party – I was smiling, happy, and started to get my cheer back. I think part of it was the holiday rubbing off on me, but it was also reaffirming to see my buttoned up colleagues relaxed, dancing, enjoying their time outside of work (hello, they are apparently human too), that made me see things through a different lens.

You can’t bring your negativity and disappoint in all things company/career, to your holiday party. Make a conscious effort to actually enjoy your time and learn more about the people you work with every day. Drink the cool-aid a bit.

Instead of looking for the doom and gloom, let the holiday party remind you of the upside… even if it feels like you have to stretch a bit to see it (gone are the days of super fancy people everywhere). Celebrate the year you had – the ups and downs, and the things you delivered.

 This post first appeared on LifeAfterCollege.org.