So you got an adult job that sounds legit enough to put on LinkedIn. Congrats! Unless your company cancelled their Christmas party because they were afraid of catching a sexual harassment lawsuit, you probably have a Christmas party coming up, and quite a few unanswered questions. What are you going to wear? Who are you going to bring? And let’s be real — how drunk are you going to get?
I’m new to my job too, but based on what I learned from my last job and the extensive research I’ve done since, I have some recommendations.
Your company Christmas party is an opportunity to have fun and socialize with your coworkers, but more importantly, it can be a make or break moment for your professional future. Your company Christmas party is a huge opportunity. You will likely be in closer proximity to people you aren’t usually around (cough — corporate — cough) and have a rare opportunity to make an impression beyond awkwardly smiling in passing. This means huge potential…as well as huge risk. You have the chance to rub shoulders with the big dogs, but you also have the chance to embarrass yourself in front of them too. Going into your Christmas party, there are several things that you need to consider.
First and foremost, consider your company culture. On the first day of work at my new job, my manager told me my skirt was too short. It wasn’t actually short, but it was probably too short for an office setting. It was a skirt I’d purchased from White House | Black Market when I was a sophomore in college, and my figure had filled out quite a bit since then, so my skirt was definitely more fitted and riding up more than was appropriate in an office setting. However, this is something that literally would have never been mentioned to me at my old job. Also, the vast majority of employees are married, and I also think most are religious. It’s not like I was planning on going in a bodycon dress and summoning Lucifer, but context like this is important when trying to get a handle of company culture and what will draw the right and wrong kinds of attention from coworkers and superiors.
A part of that is getting an ACCURATE idea of the dress code. No matter what the invitation says, you should ask around to get an idea of what is and isn’t appropriate. And despite the cliche quote about never being “overdressed or overeducated” — and even though you’re probably better off overdressing than underdressing, overdressing can be extremely awkward as well.
As an example, my high school was grades 7-12, and unlike most schools, we didn’t have a bunch of dances. We had the “sixie social” (seventh grade) junior prom, and prom. The sixie social was casual, but apparently one girl’s parents didn’t get the memo. She arrived in a beautiful, floor length gown with her hair done up like she was going to a red carpet event to a cafeteria full of 12 year olds in jeans and bedazzled t shirts. She was humiliated, and I’m pretty sure she called her mom and asked her to take her home.
And remember when Jim Halpert was wearing a tux on the first day Charles started working in The Office? Remember when Val accidentally wore a gown to the office Christmas party? There you go.
And now that we’re talking about the Office, let’s not forget the elephant in the room. As much as we all loved Meredith, the last thing you want to be is the drunken slob that flashes your boss at the Christmas party or lights her hair on fire.
Don’t be afraid to drink and have fun with your coworkers, but know your limit and avoid it like the plague. Make sure you’re drinking on a full stomach, pacing yourself and having water in between drinks. While you SHOULD have fun, it’s imperative that you keep your priorities straight. You NEED to make a positive impression on your superiors; everything else comes second.
And part of making a positive impression is who you bring. For better or worse, who you bring is a reflection of you. People don’t even want to judge you based on who you bring, but they will subconsciously whether most admit or not. Think about it. If someone you consider competent and attractive showed up to a cocktail attire event with a date in grease stained sweatpants and oily, disheveled hair, you’d question their judgment. If someone you don’t think terribly high of walked in with a knockout, you would start wondering what they brought to the table that you weren’t aware of.
I don’t care how much you like someone — if you care about your professional future, you’re going to bring someone that will at the bare minimum not make you look like a loser with terrible taste.
In conclusion, the company Christmas party has the potential to be a lot more than an occasion to hang out with your colleagues outside of work, for better or worse. Don’t get too drunk, bring someone that won’t embarrass you, and keep your game face on.
Stay festive my friends!