Here come the parties. Whether you are searching for a job, working in a job you like but planning on a promotion, or working in a job you hate but are glad to have, you can’t escape the treacherous terrain of The Season.
There are rules. Some are written; some are not. Either way, if you want to be at the top of your game, make your own and stick to them. Here are my suggestions:
1. Set goals for the season. What do you want to be for this holiday? Memorable in a good way? Memorable in a bad way? Decide and proceed; knowing in advance what you hope to accomplish makes it easier to decide what to wear to the party, what to gift, and what to say when asked something highly inappropriate by a valued customer.
2. If you are working, even as a volunteer or part time, make a budget for holiday gifts, contributions, and celebrations (including party wear) and make it manageable and even-handed. Stay in the same price range across the board; no splurges on the boss or the office bff. It’s not necessary and it sends the wrong message. If you have no money (and after all, who does?) bake something, or spend some time researching a really creative and inexpensive approach (childrens toys, sale table books, mix cd’s, a playlist) that is specially tailored to the recipients. If your budget is $0, you ought nonetheless to acknowledge those around you with a note or a nice photo, or a card.
3. No complaining about the holidays, your family, your time management problems, your relatives, your undone chores, the weather, the schedule, blah blah blah. No one wants to hear it and it doesn’t matter. You won’t feel better for having articulated your personal woe, and neither will anyone else.
4. Make a special party plan. Assume any work related or professional organization party is an informal interview for whatever your next career step might be, so, talk to everyone, introduce yourself and your spouse or guest around to the others, and make sure he or she is having a good time. Attend work related parties unaccompanied if it’s easier on everyone. Budget your own use of alcohol and don’t spend your whole budget in one place or on one night: career killing words and deeds are just waiting for the next drink. If you find yourself where others are doing and saying things that they will wish you hadn’t seen or heard: Leave. There. Immediately. Nothing to be gained by being able to say the truth or being the One Who Remembers it All.
5. Don’t wear party clothes to work.
6. Don’t assume that everyone celebrates your holiday, or any holiday. Although it’s the subject of lots of holiday jokes, political incorrectness is a risk you don’t have to take. Instead of saying Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, just say “Cheers.”
7. If you are working, resist the urge to leave early more than once or twice, no matter how much clout your position or tenure has earned you. Volunteer once or twice to cover someone else’s needs.
8. Resist the urge to be critical of those who use the holidays as an excuse to be a pain in the ass. Just let it go and don’t talk about them.
9. No, this is not a very good time to be job hunting or networking. The rule is that if you connect with a prospective employer, network contact, or potential career helper or mentor, ask the question, “Can I call you after the first of the year, or would you advise that I do so sooner?” Do not call the next day unless you are specifically instructed to do so.
10. Most important, spend as much time as you can with your friends and family. Be the calm and stable one, the reliable source of cheer and joy. Be the one who makes it nicer for everyone else.