Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Hour Networking

As you enter the professional world, you may find yourself presented with business happy hour functions. Sure, happy hours are always fun, but drinking with colleagues is not the same as drinking with your friends. Always keep in mind that a business-related outing is an opportunity for networking. The impression you make at the bar can be lasting, and you want it to be a good one.

Tip #1 - Talk to People
You may have two or three co-workers you like to hang out with at happy hour, but don't isolate yourself with those closest to you. Instead, branch out and use happy hour as a time to meet new people. You never know what opportunities, beyond just friendship, can come from a conversation. Also, make sure you take an equal share in listening as well. No one likes it when they can't get a word in.

Tip #2 - Know Your Limit
There is a time and a place to get tipsy - a business happy hour is not one of them. Even if you don't need to drive home, drinking too much at these outings can impair your ability to socialize. The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself or insult a colleague (or worse your boss). Stay clear-headed enough to make intelligent conversation and don't be pressured by peers encouraging you to get wasted.

Tip #3 - Bring Cash
Keep in mind that not all places accept credit cards at the bar. Even if you know someone else is planning to get the tab, it is important to be prepared. It makes a very poor impression if you're short when it comes time to pay the check. Also, it can't hurt to buy a couple of rounds for the group.

Tip #4 - Watch the Time
If you need to be at work the next morning, be sure to leave the bar with enough time to refresh for the following day. You may feel lame leaving earlier than others, but you'll make a better impression the next day when you are energized and ready to work instead of nursing a hangover.

Tip #5 - Exchange Info
No, I don't mean dating info (you be wary of workplace romance sparked by happy hours...). Instead, I am referring to exchanging numbers, e-mails, and business cards with professional contacts. Keep a file of such information for future use, and don't be afraid to contact someone after a happy hour meeting.

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