By Amber Alarid, [Joining Vision and Action]

The holiday season is upon us and whether it be in celebration of Hanukah, New Year’s or Festivus (thanks, Seinfeld), the holiday party invitations will be rolling in. While we all know that the company holiday party is not the place to let your hair completely down, there still seems to be a temptation for young professionals at mixers to let loose around “peers.” Though a mixer may seem less formal than your company party, don’t let the appeal of a party full of people your age get the best of you—remember the professional piece of the young professional mixer. This week, I’ll share tips on how to advance your career through networking while still enjoying the festive nature of the season.

Limit Alcohol

If you are of legal drinking age and alcohol is provided at the party, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of your favorite spirit. However, alcohol (if consumed at all) should be kept to a minimum. If you know you have a low tolerance and/or will be driving, limit yourself to one glass. If you choose to have more than one beverage, always alternate alcohol with a glass of water or ginger ale and sip all drinks slowly, spreading the alcohol out over the course of the night. A tip I have heard countless times is to avoid any drink served in a martini glasses at a mixer. If the function involves lots of standing and mingling, a martini glass can be dangerous because of its wide shape; it’s very sloppy to be sloshing your drink around as you try to carry food, shake hands and avoid bumping into people. Plus, martinis and other drinks served in a martini glass tend to be stronger than wine or beer. Stick to drinks that are easier to balance, less likely to spill and more likely to leave you prepared to focus on the task at hand: networking.

Dress for the Occasion

The appropriate outfit for a young professional mixer can be a tough call. You don’t want to come off stuffy or be uncomfortable, but casual attire can suggest that you just showed up for the free booze. Business casual is best for occasions like this. If you are heading to the party straight from work, you should be fine. If you are changing before the holiday party, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Could I wear this outfit to work?
  2. Will I be comfortable walking and standing for a long time in this outfit (think shoes and jackets)? and…
  3. Is it appropriate for the audience/theme? Yes, if there is a theme to the party it’s ok to dress for the theme, even if it means dressing down a bit (as long as dressing down doesn’t mean too much skin or holes in your clothes).

Go Prepared

Before you leave for the party, be sure to stock up on the essentials like business cards and gifts/donations, if suggested. Extra items that are nice to have handy include: an extra card holder or case to safely store the cards you receive, breath mints or gum, hand sanitizer and tissue (since it is cold season, after all, and you will be shaking hands), and a few dollars in cash for donations/tipping the bartender/cab fare/other unexpected expenses. Also, be prepared to “work.”. Holidays are meant to be fun and parties are a great excuse to eat fantastic food and reconnect with friends and acquaintances, but don’t forget to make new friends and business contacts while you’re at it. Holiday parties are a great way to network and build your relationships with influential people in your sector.

Do you have great networking opportunities or tips to share as we enter the holiday season? Please share your advice in the comments section below.

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