Small Talk as a Career Advancement Tool (Or, Don’t Skip Out on the Office Holiday Party)

Most scientific and technical types hate small talk, and with good reason.  But, as many a "member of the technical staff" has discovered, that attitude can cost you promotions and keep your career permanently on the "slow track."   For all those who are determined to avoid the company holiday party by all means, some advice on holiday schmoozing from John McKee that may actually pay off...(ignore the book title, "How Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot," because, if anything, many women are a bit more adept at all this than their male counterparts) Schmooze Your Way to Success at Holiday Office Parties Expert Tips for Boosting Your Career through Holiday Party Networking and Constructive Holiday Party Etiquette However right or wrong, fair or unfair, just or unjust, strategic networking at holiday office parties can be a career boon. Indeed, getting in the good graces of those with the power to fast-track your career can be a fortuitous turning point that accelerates your climb up the corporate ladder. But how does one appropriately schmooze without coming off as brown-nosing? And, how does someone aptly parlay friendly party chatter into an opportunity to showcase their talents? To answer these and other such burning questions in time for the festivities, John McKee, world class business success coach and author of "21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot," offers these tips on how to schmooze your way to career success: Determine the objective. In advance of an event, expert "schmoozers" think through what the best possible outcome would be relative to career growth. Think through a few realistic scenarios of how you might work toward achieving your objective. Debrief your guest. As important as it is for you to know who the "important people" are at an event, the same holds true for your guest. The person you have chosen to accompany you to a business function, and how they behave, reflects directly on you “ whether positively or negatively. Early bird special. Arrive at the event early. Make a point of speaking to and thanking your boss and the host of the party, introduce your guest, and generally spread good tidings.. Show your humanity and connect on a different level before things really heat up. Presence pays¦literally. Generally speaking, great schmoozers are interesting and entertaining to those around them, and exude self confidence. Its imperative to present a comfortable demeanor“ however "important" or intimidating the other person may be. Appearing at ease during a time when others are feeling anxious or uncomfortable will make you look more like a "natural leader," thus making yourself a stand out. Maintain your visibility. The location where you are situated should be highly visible. Stand in a place that is approachable - not behind chairs or the kitchen door where there is high traffic. Maximize first impressions. How you introduce yourself to people, especially superiors, is important. Develop more than one way of introduction, and keep in mind that the secret to a good first meeting is self-confidence, poise and emitting a generally affable air. Due diligence. Theres nothing more awkward than standing face to face with a power player amid uncomfortable silence. Schmooze pros always know the right thing to say. Review current news events before the office event so you may participate in “ or, even better, start “ mainstream conversations about the economy, foreign affairs, and relevant "happenings" around your city. This macro awareness can put you in a whole new light in the eyes of a superior. The great can articulate. Being able to effectively communicate, off the cuff, what you do for an organization, without gloating or over-inflating, is critically important. Long-winded answers with ebbs and flows can render the actual answer lost in translation. When and if appropriate, use the opportunity to self-promote and impart any new ideas you may have in a way that will not be construed as bragging or credit hogging way. Nix the narcissism. Rather than focusing on self-talk, make the other person your focal point. Feed their ego by asking him or her open-ended questions, and be sure to include everyone in the conversation “with both questions and eye contact. When its your turn to speak, dont monopolize the conversation, use jargon or terms that others may not understand “ they wont impress! Calling card critical. Keep business cards with you at all times, which are often forgotten by those attending informal company meetings or social events, and dole out liberally. You want to not only remain top of mind, but also completely accessible, post-event. Grievances need not apply. A social business event is not the time to clear the air about things, or people, that have been bothering you, nor is it a time to speak at anothers expense. Speaking negatively about others will be a greater loss for your image and career. Imbibe and socialize with caution. There is no quicker career killer than public displays of drunkenness at a business function. Dont embarrass yourself by dancing like a crazy person or like a predator at a club, get caught necking or act aggressive in any way. In the spirit of providing aspiring professionals with a tangible FREE resource that can pay dividends in their upward business mobility, through November McKee is offering FREE registration for his "7 Secrets of Leadership Success" - an online "mini course" packed with proven tips and strategies to speed up a career track - from his Web sites www.BusinessSuccessCoach.net and www.BusinessWomanWeb.com.