How to Rock the Holiday Office Party

first-5-icon-07It’s that time of year again. End of the year work is piling up and you have at least 5 ugly sweater events to attend in the coming weeks. Additionally, your workplace is getting ready to host those fun holiday parties. But are they networking events or the chill with your coworker kinda gigs? The general consensus is they’re a bit of both. The holiday office party can be especially tricky for millennials to navigate because even though it may seem like a relaxed gathering, it is still a strictly professional event.

Believe it or not, it can make or break your reputation, especially as a young professional. According to Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi, many young professionals and interns let their new hire jitters cause them to commit awful party fouls and misdemeanors. This includes over-indulging in alcohol, clinging to their bosses, and dressing like they’re going to a house party.

“When millennials are just starting out in their careers, making one of these mistakes may seem like a fatal career error,” she said in a recent Forbes interview. “However, it doesn’t have to be.”

So it’s especially important that, as millennials, we give extra consideration and time to how we approach these particular work parties. But don’t worry; here are some tips to be the life of the party while still being a professional superstar:

  • Network like there’s no tomorrow. Even the casual holiday parties are an opportunity to make professional connections. Treat this as any other professional networking event and make it a point to talk with professionals you admire. Don’t cling to your fellow interns and coworkers, but make it a point to meet with people you don’t often get a chance to interact with.
  • Dress to impress. No, not like you’re stepping into the club. You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, but this is still an opportunity to present yourself in a polished and professional manner. Feel free to dress for the occasion with a fun holiday sweater, but keep the revealing clothes, tennies, and ripped jeans at home.
  • Socialize, but don’t over-share. Shara advises, “As you celebrate and socialize with your peers, remember they’re still your co-workers and don’t over-share your personal drama or issues.” In other words, the TMI must be kept to a strict minimum. You don’t want to risk creating an awkward moment or coming off as being dramatic or immature.
  • Don’t overindulge. This one should be obvious. Limit yourself to one or two drinks and go easy on the food too. I’ve definitely seen the way older coworkers look at interns who just come to pile up on the goodies – it’s not a good look. So remember, moderation on everything is key.
  • Avoid obsessive phone checking. Even if you’re standing alone, checking your phone every two minutes still makes you look socially inept. I know it’s terrifying to stand alone in a room when you can’t find someone to talk to, but putting the phone away is a better method to motivate yourself to talk to someone – even if it’s just anyone. Constantly being on the phone, even in today’s age, is still a party faux pas.
  • Keep your beverage in your left hand. Ever had that awkward moment where you’re about to shake someone’s hand but you’re balancing a beer and a plate full of cookies? Worry no more! People generally shake with their right hand; so keep food and beverages in the left hand so that your right hand is available to help you mingle.
  • Always thank the host. Whether it’s your boss, the CEO, or HR, always remember to thank whoever put the event together and who is paying for it. There’s nothing worse than a silent exit. Even if you’re in a hurry, politely excuse yourself from a conversation letting the person know you have to leave, and make it a point to at least say goodbye and thank you to the host.

Now get out there and rock that holiday work party! Who knows? It could be the key to landing your next big gig in your career!

Have some fun awkward work party stories and tips to avoid the mishaps? Feel free to share in the comments below!


For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial

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Carol Davison

First impressions are lasting and IMPORTANT! I’ve interviewed at least hundreds. The few I remember are the one who came dressed in a track suit, and the guy I spent 3 minutes with at a job fair that convinced me he was crazy. When my boss asked me about him I said that, and we didn’t interview let alone hire him.


If the holiday party is at someone’s home, I think you should bring a hostess gift.
Before bringing a bottle of alcohol, check to make sure the hosts actually drink. Some do not.
Try not to bring something that distracts the host’s attention like flowers with no vase or a food item that needs preparation or makes the host look for a bowl pr platter or serving utensil. I like to bring a pair of red, ivory, or green tapered candles with a bow to use for a future holiday dinner table, or something else they just just put away . A side dish that’s ready to be served can also be nice. Other non-food items like a holiday dish towel, hand soap, won’t go to waste