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Be the star of your office holiday party

An etiquette expert explains why the holiday party is the biggest networking opportunity of the year.

Your holiday party doesn't have to be as awkward as the one in this classic episodNBC

It seems like everyone has a horror story about their workplace’s annual Christmas party - you don’t have to look far to find tales of drunken bosses, inappropriate jokes or regrettable flirtations. But one expert notes that it’s also important not to let those stories distract from the fact that the annual winter gathering is also the perfect time to put your best foot forward in terms of your career.

“It’s really one of the most important business days of your year,” says Patricia Rossi, an etiquette coach and the author of “Everyday Etiquette: How to Navigate 101 Common and Uncommon Social Situations.” “It’s the one time of the year you can get to someone higher up in the company that you can’t get to normally.”

Rossi shares these tips on how junior employees can work the room and shine during a holiday party.

Put on a smile and attend. “The first thing is that you have to do is go,” says Rossi. “The company has invested in it in terms of both time and money in organizing it.” And this isn’t the occasion to be fashionably late or to just stop by for a few minutes either. “Arrive on time but don’t be the last to leave,” Rossi advises.

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Don’t just talk to your office buddies. “You want to move about the cabin - don’t latch onto one person and talk to them all night,” says Rossi. For the introverts out there, Rossi says it’s also important to remember that almost everyone feels awkward when it comes to holiday parties. “I was reading something that said something like 90 percent of people don’t know what to say at parties, so you know what? They probably are waiting for someone to talk to them.”

Have some conversation topics in your pocket. Because it can be intimidating to saddle up to your company CEO or other high-ranking execs, most employees shy away from doing so. Rossi says this is a mistake and that with some prep, you’ll be able to chat with anyone. “Have two or three interesting things to talk about,” she advises. “If your company VP is a big donor to the Met, that means you know they like art.”

Always talk to the spouses: “Your manager is probably going to be bringing a spouse,” notes Rossi. “And the spouse is always nervous about attending these things. But if you talk to them and are engaging, on the ride home she or he will say, ‘Oh, I met your employee and they were so lovely, so nice.’”

Say thank you afterwards: Just like any other social event that takes lots of time and planning, it’s a good idea to express gratitude after attending. “Always send a thank you note to the organizer of the party,” says Rossi. “They put it together so that people could have fun and relax.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
 
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