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As the year winds down, you may be thinking of things other than selling. Holiday parties come to mind. Some of you might be dreading them, while some of you are anticipating the fun of enjoying free food and liquor. Whether you are excited or not, you had better pay attention to what happens at a holiday party, especially if you value your career in sales.

What were you thinking?

Company holiday parties can result in the unexpected. A business consultant shared with me that one of her corporate clients told her on average that he fires three people after each holiday party. Why? They drink too much, act inappropriately, or say something stupid. In today’s work environment you don’t get a warning when you do things like that—you get fired. Do you still think the company holiday party isn’t work related?

Parties are serious business; you’ve got to behave yourself. If you think you can’t hold your liquor, be sure to have a drink in your hand that’s non-alcoholic. Actually, I think it’s a much better plan to not drink any alcohol at the party, even if you can hold your liquor. Why? You may run into some important people at the party. Do you think you would create a better impression mildly buzzed or completely sober? If you think the former, I suggest that you drink bottled water with a wedge of lime.

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What am I supposed to do?

Then there’s the question about what you’re supposed to do at the party. You’re not supposed to be a potted plant stuck in one place. Your job is to mingle; spend a little time with different people. Why not use the party to go out of your way to meet people in other departments if your party has more than one department represented? Connecting names and faces is a nice way of making it easier to work with coworkers in the future.

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You might be wondering what you’re supposed to talk about with people you don’t know very well. Keep the conversation light and festive. With the recent election, the holiday party is not the time to talk about politics; it’s the wrong place to start a conversation with your particular point of view of the election and how you feel about it.

A holiday party also is not the time to be talking serious business. Unless a manager asks you a specific business-related question, your job is to have a few personal questions ready to ask. You could ask whether someone plans to stay in town for the holidays. You might ask if they’re done with shopping. Or ask if they purchased any unusual gifts this year. You can talk with anyone when you have generic questions ready to go.

You will be judged by the company you keep.

Your job is to be social, but there are people who you do want to avoid. Stay away from the office complainer and any other toxic people. I knew one guy who chose to complain to my boss’s wife at one holiday party. This was a fearless woman who didn’t mess around. She immediately put her hand up and said, “Stop. I’m not taking any complaints today.” I tried to avoid being with this toxic guy because I didn’t want to hear his complaints either. Stay away from people like that. Avoid the intoxicated people as well. You’ll be judged by the people you socialize with.



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