It's the holiday season, and with that means jingle-themed music on the radio, travel plans to see family, and the oft-dreaded year-end company party. Whether you work for a large employer or a smaller firm, you'll no doubt feel obliged to attend that holiday soiree. And while some of your colleagues might actually be looking forward to that gathering, if you're the introverted type, the idea of going is probably enough to induce a moderate amount of anxiety. If socializing with coworkers galore and enduring hours of small talk with company higher-ups sounds like the last way you'd ever want to spend an evening, here are a few tips for surviving the big event.
1. Stay close to one or two people you're comfortable with
Your company holiday party is an opportunity to mix and mingle -- but that doesn't mean you have to jump on it. If hobnobbing with folks you barely know just isn't your thing, stick to the people you've already established relationships with. Of course, you'll still need to make a point of seeking out your boss and saying hello. But this way, you'll get credit for putting in the face time without having to suffer through potentially painful conversations.
2. Come up with talking points in advance
Though being an introvert by no means implies that you're incapable of carrying on a conversation, some people in your situation might have a hard time coming up with things to say on the spot. If you're worried about falling short on the conversational front, jot down some topics in advance, and consult your cheat sheet right before the party. This might come in handy especially with company bigwigs -- folks you no doubt want to impress.
Along these lines, don't avoid the company executives you've been too shy or hesitant to approach thus far. It's a lot easier to get in front of a VP at a social gathering than in the midst of a busy workday, and if you manage to squeeze in a quick conversation, that brief introduction could help your career when you least expect it.
3. Watch your alcohol consumption
It's natural to get a little nervous when you're surrounded by people -- many of whom you may not know -- and stuck in a room for several hours' time. But don't make the mistake of relying on alcohol as a means of calming your nerves. When cocktails are free-flowing, as tends to be the case at holiday parties, it's easy enough to go from slightly tipsy to embarrassingly sloppy in a short period of time. Cross that line in front of the wrong people, and you could end up with the sort of reputation you really don't want at the office.
4. Prepare your exit strategy
Just as there tends to be pressure to attend company holiday parties in the first place, so too does there tend to be pressure to stay and hang till all hours. If that's not your jam, come in equipped with an exit strategy ahead of time so you don't get flustered when you're put on the spot. You can offer up just about any reasonable excuse you desire, whether it's a previous engagement or the need to pick up a child from an after-school activity. Just have some story at the ready so that if you reach the point where you've had enough, you can put an end to your misery right then and there.
Though attending a company holiday party may not be your cup of tea, remember: It's just one night, and you will get through it. Everybody does.