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Career Coach: Party Time

In this month's column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson offers some advice on conducting yourself professionally at the upcoming holiday parties.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Holiday parties give you an opportunity to shmooze with your colleagues and supervisors and sometimes their significant others too in an atmosphere that is more relaxed than usual. Maintain your professionalism and remember when you are at a holiday office party you are still on the job.

These guidelines will help you maneuver holiday parties 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.

  • Be sure that your actions at a party don't jeopardize your reputation or your position. This informal festive occasion is not the place to go wild -- being at an office party is not like being off-duty. Whatever happens at the holiday party is going to be talked about far into the next year.

  • Bring only yourself or a helpful elf: Your significant other should help you present a positive professional image. If she or he can't maintain the same decorum as you, leave him or her at home. Both of you must understand that this is a business event. Don't bring a date if you are not absolutely sure about his/her behavior. You don't want someone making a pig of himself at the buffet table or groping the supervisor's husband or having a heated argument about politics or religion.

  • Dress for success: Remember you are on the job. Don't reveal too much more skin than you would at work. You can wear something a bit brighter or more casual, but don't dress like you are looking for an entirely different kind of job -- you may need one.

  • Exit strategy: Get to the party early, mix and mingle, thank the hosts and don't feel compelled to party till dawn.

  • Eat, drink and be merry: Don't overindulge at the buffet or the bar. Focus on protein appetizers, which will help keep you sober by slowing down alcohol absorption. Drinking prevents straight thinking. Cut yourself off after one drink and switch to water or soft drinks. You want to be taken seriously at work, so don't let over imbibing impair your judgment or reputation.

  • Be cheerful and jolly and mingle: You'll want to say hello to the people you know and work with every day, but don't miss this chance to introduce yourself to people you don't know -- like supervisors and colleagues from other divisions. Keep your introduction short and make sure to mention your contributions. It's just as important for the boss to mix with staff as it is with vendors, VIP clients and colleagues.

  • Small talk: Keep the conversation professional and positive. The holiday party is not the place to discuss problems, projects and politics. Don't bring up controversies from the work place. Don't use the party for office politics.

  • Making the smart moves: The holiday party is a good time for advancing your career, not dancing or romancing with your peer.

  • Don't drive drunk: If you or a colleague has too much to drink, don't drive. Call a cab. In many states the Auto Club has a program called "Tipsy Tow" where anyone can get a free tow back to their residence up to seven miles away. Call (800) 400 4222.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist, career coach and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. She is currently recruiting for a production accountant for an animation studio. If you are interested in her professional services as a career coach, speaker, or recruiter, contact her at