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Career Coach: More Than Chips and Dip

With the holidays comes holiday parties. The Career Coach gives some quick tips on how to get more out of the festivities than just chips and dips.

This is the time of year for the office party a chance to socialize with your co-workers and higher ups. Here is a guide to help you maneuver the holiday period deftly, celebrate responsibly and have a good time. With these quick tips you may get more out of the festivities than just chips and dips.

Before the Party

Find out which top company executives will be there so you can prepare some clever conversation starters. If you haven't already done so, review their bios on your company's web site. The more you know about them, the more comfortable you'll be when you meet them. Perhaps you have an interest in common or have the same alma mater.

What to Wear

Upgrade your normal office look dress as you would for an important meeting.

Giving Gifts

Gift giving is a holiday ritual. If you don't have gifts for everyone, don't hand them out at the party. Give or send them privately.

When to Arrive

Don't be fashionably late. Arrive no more than 10 minutes after the start time. You can greet the host, get a snack and get situated. You can chat with new arrivals one by one. Arriving early gives you an advantage. It helps if you feel overwhelmed in large groups. It's easier to mingle and join in conversations when the crowd is smaller.

At the Party

Remember, the most important part of the office party is "office." Don't say or do anything that would be inappropriate during working hours.

When alone, stand near the food or the bar to meet people. If there's someone you want to talk to, follow him or her to the buffet or bar. A lot of people go up to the bar by themselves. It's a good time to catch them alone. When you're ready to mingle again, retreat politely by saying something like, "It was great to see you."

Introduce yourself to company bigwigs. If they seem busy, just add that you enjoy working there and move on.

Listen more than you speak. You can learn more about your company, find out if there are openings in other departments or make a new friend or commuting partner.

Don't gossip. You never know who might be listening.

Avoid conversations about politics or religion.

Avoid drinking alcohol. Nobody's the talk of the office for eating too many hors d'oeuvres, but anyone who over imbibes becomes an office legend. Hold your non-alcoholic drink in your left hand so your handshake isn't clammy.

Whether it's a large party or an intimate gathering, take this opportunity to network with people you don't ordinarily see. This is a good way to get a wider perspective. Speak to at least six new people. Find out something about them you didn't know before. Try to find out what their passion is. What do they do when they are not at work? What are their hobbies?

When to Leave

You don't have to wait for the boss to leave before you do. No one's watching the door. If you can find the host, thank him or her for the party.

After the party

Send a thank you note to the people who hosted and planned the party. It's a good way to stand out from the crowd.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter/hiring strategist and career coach. As a career coach, she helps clients identify their goals and devise strategies to attain them. As a recruiter, she helps her clients find top quality people. She is currently recruiting for Blue Sky Studios. She has recruited for visual effects companies such as Digital Domain and Framestore as well as animation companies such as Disney and Fox and software companies such as Macromedia. On Feb. 2, 2006, Pamela will be presenting a seminar on goal setting. For details see