On the one hand, you don’t want to turn your office holiday festivities into a self-promotion campaign. On the other hand, a company-wide gathering is a rare and valuable time to get in front of senior executives and interact with departments outside of your own. Here are five ways to focus your professional holiday merriment so you can maximize any opportunities while still keeping it light and fun:
Deepen existing connections
For people you work with regularly, focus on everything but work so your relationships become multidimensional and deeper. Pick a personal, but light question—their upcoming plans, what they do in their free time, if family is coming over or if they’re traveling—and then really listen for the response. You’ll probably learn something new about the people you think you already know.
Widen your network
Don’t just stick to the people you know (if you’re shy, this will be a big temptation at these events!). One of the biggest benefits of a company-wide event is meeting colleagues you don’t normally spend time with. Introduce yourself to senior executives—mention something you’re working on, rather than just your department. This is a chance to make contact but in the context of a festive, not promotional event. Seek out the colleagues that you frequently work with but only by phone or email. By putting a face to your virtual exchanges, you can make the relationship more personal. For colleagues, you may only pass briefly in the hallway but don’t work with directly, finally introduce yourself so that if you do work together later, you’re more comfortable, and you even may find a new friend.
Plug someone else
If mentioning a project you’re working on or even approaching a senior executive still seems too self-promotional, campaign for someone else. Pick a colleague who has been helpful to you to plug when you introduce yourself to that person’s ultimate manager. “Hi CFO, I’m Caroline in HR. I work regularly with Jane in financial planning, and she’s always so responsive.” You can plug your boss or your whole team as you share what you’re working on. “Hi CEO, I’m Caroline in HR. I work on John’s team, and he has us working on an interesting performance evaluation initiative.” When you talk about other people, you can stay matter-of-fact and not appear salesy.
Show a different side
As you get to know other people, let them get to know you. Resist the temptation to bring the conversation back to work. Be prepared to share your upcoming holiday plans or what you do in your free time. Keep it positive (no griping about having to visit the in-laws even if you think that’s something everyone has in common).
Continue what you start
The day after the event, continue your newfound relationships. Don’t show up to the office drink in hand! But don’t revert back to a business-as-usual demeanor with the colleagues you were able to connect with personally. Resolve to continue the deeper connections you made. If you are normally seen as reserved but people got to see a friendlier you, use this opportunity to break out of your shell more often. If you made a new connection with a colleague you don’t normally work with, ask them to lunch or visit them on a break to continue the relationship.