You are on the home stretch. You’re closing out your work year. The financials are being rolled up; the headcount counted; the reviews completed; the initiatives are coming to an end. The successes as well as the misses are being realized. It is the end of your work year. At this juncture, you just want to go home.
But you can’t.
What else could there be? Haven’t you talked enough? Worked enough hours? What else does the organization want from you? Well, it’s called attending that year-end event. It usually takes the form of that dreaded office party, holiday luncheon, year-end group or team event. Whatever your organization calls it. Every company has them. And if the truth be told by the participants that attend, such events are usually the last thing they want to be invited to or be “required” to attend.
I would often think to myself:
“I’ve got deadlines right now that I’ll be lucky to meet.”
“And you want me to take a break out of the day for an extended luncheon or show up at some place after work to celebrate?”
“I really have no time for this.”
However if you are like me you went anyway, often having no choice. If you didn’t go, you were either very ill (like in the hospital) or there was some compelling reason (which I never could create) not to show up. Having to meet a deadline was never a good enough excuse.
Then one year, I decided that if I had to go then I needed to make the most out of it. I decided to think of this not just as an end of year celebration with individuals that I had seen enough of (and they had seen enough of me), but an event that I could work to my advantage. I decided to make the most out of it by doing something simple – having a plan which included what to do or think about before I arrived; what to do while I was there interacting with others and; what I needed to do afterwards.
I believe that if you think about this and follow through with your actions, you usually don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time whether it is the year-end office gathering or any event at work throughout the year. You’ll never get away from being tired, but if you are like me, it helps you feel better if you know how to manage your way through it. More importantly, it helped me avoid engaging in frivolous conversation, eating food that was unhealthy for me and surviving a rash of questions that I really didn’t want to answer.
So, think about these navigation tips not only for the holiday season, but anytime that such an occasion is called for at work that you are invited to or must “attend”:
Decide before you get there how long you really intend to stay. This is the first thing that I think about at any event that I attend. It keeps me focused. Determine if hanging around until the luncheon is over or being the last person at the party really serves a purpose for you. Unless you are having such a terrific time that you can’t break away or are speaking with someone that is absolutely engaging, manage your time effectively and wisely.
Select one consistent thing that you want to share. I am a firm believer that no matter what work related event you attend, you want to have at least one thing that you are prepared to discuss or want others to know. Everyone will then have one unfailing story about you. Do you want to share something that relates to you in preparation for something else, like a new project coming your way? Is there something that you want to remind others of? Maybe you have a success story to share or a partnership that was a success. Create and share your consistent message.
1.Talk to those that you don’t normally see or interact with. I call this crossing “Org Chart Boundaries”. Don’t sit next to or hang out with those that you already know or work closely with. Use the event an opportunity for you to talk to someone that you normally don’t connect with or would need a formal or scheduled meeting to talk to. Many events that I’ve attended just didn’t have the team that I worked with but other individuals and groups in attendance also. In some of those other groups, I would sometimes know of a certain person or their work, but that was usually all that I knew. So I would take it as a chance to introduce myself to that person. What a great opportunity to request for permission to get on that individual’s calendar to continue the conversation. Such dialog creates no commitment from either person, but serves as a foundation for a follow-up at a later time. Don’t forget that often many things that happen related to work don’t happen in formal settings, so maximize the opportunity. Position yourself.
2.Listen intently and intentionally to what others are talking about. Often times, just joining a conversation and listening can be helpful. I’ve learned the best information sometimes by just listening and asking questions related to the topic being discussed. Don’t just talk about yourself, engage others and learn about them. Listening to others is not only respectful but can often provide you with insight about their thoughts or the things they are working on. This may help you later on especially if you determine that you would like them to be a part of your network at work or want to work on that project they mentioned.
1.Keep it simple. The simplest action that you can do is say thanks to the host and/or meeting arranger. Then tell those around you good-bye with well wishes. The only one requirement is that if you commit to follow-up with someone, mark your calendar before you forget. Make sure you follow up at least before you see them again at the next year-end or general office event. Now it is time to just go home.
Flickr Photo: rlchung
I am Francine Parham. I focus on professional and leadership development. I help individuals develop the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful and achieve their professional goals. I have an expertise in professional networks and networking. I am the creator of a program named Maximizing Your Network™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. My online instructor led series of “Maximizing Your Network”™ is being launched February 5, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com