Happy Hour is a fun time to blow off steam and put the work week behind you. However, why not accomplish two goals at once. Make your blowing-off-steam-time a chance to recharge your career by getting busy with an effective networking hour. To effectively balance your fun and your schmoozing, you need to follow certain rules of interaction while enjoying your after-hours escape time. The main point to remember is to have fun while focusing on your mission of creating positive and productive interactions to boost your career.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Sounds like a no-brainer, but you need to watch your alcohol consumption. Now, if you only want to have a good time, drink all you want and don’t care about the consequences. However, if you want to make some good professional connections, it’s vital that you pay attention to how many alcoholic drinks you have. You’re not out on the town at a frat party. Remember why you’re there. Networking is your ultimate goal. Know how much alcohol you can handle. If you’re a lightweight, don’t think you should test out how many drinks you can have before getting drunk while hanging out with colleagues. Be smart with your choices. Consider drinking wine or beer rather than imbibing too many cocktails which have higher alcohol content.
Alcohol is a diuretic and causes you to excrete more urine and become dehydrated. So, be sure to focus on sipping your drink and don’t act like you are having a beer guzzling contest with your buddies. Stop the increasingly numbing effects of the alcohol by drinking water throughout the night. Never start gulping down drinks right away on an empty stomach. You don’t want to get drunk right away and mess up your chances of making a good impression on colleagues and new professional contacts. Think of snacks and appetizers as your friends during the evening. You need to operate in this type of social environment on a full stomach; especially if you plan on consuming alcohol. If you are a lightweight, you can still act like you’re drinking socially by ordering virgin cocktails. After all, it is Happy Hour, and you don’t want to look like you’re not having fun.
Behave in a Professional Manner
No matter what happens that night, you need to behave in a professional manner. Nothing would be worse for you than to end up going wild and dancing on the bar. Sure, you’d probably amuse most of the crowd, but you’d also end up having an embarrassing story following you around the office for a long time. Not to mention, your unprofessional behavior will leave a lasting negative impression on anyone you are trying to impress. Mixing business with pleasure during such a professional mingling event is the best way to make your night a success.
You need to show that you are having a good time and want to be socially engaging. However, you must control your baser side and make certain that you don’t behave in a way that you’ll regret in the morning. Taking a selfie or two is fine. Just watch how you are portrayed in the photos. You don’t want to have risqué photos of yourself popping up all over social media. Keep your tone of voice and mannerisms professional. It’s important to be positive. However, being overly aggressive in your social interactions is not going to help you make effective connections with people.
Control the Conversation
Making your night a success involves controlling the conversation. You need to be in control of every interaction you have. That means that you have to manage the words you say and why you’re saying them. There has to be a method to your madness, a reason you are speaking to some people and not spending as much time with others. It’s vital that your discussion focuses on the positive, and you don’t walk around like you’ve had the worst day of your life. Maybe everything that could go wrong did go wrong that day. However, portraying a negative attitude will turn off all the right people who can help advance your career and enhance your professional connection hour.
Before you get to the after office festivities, make sure you know what you’re going to talk about. Of course, you don’t want to sound too scripted because that will only make people think you’re disingenuous. Brainstorm topics that are safe meaning, ones that make you look good and you can discuss easily. You don’t want to start discussing a topic that you are not well versed in because that will show your ignorance. Sure, you won’t ever know everything. So, talk about a project at work that was successful. On the flip side, you don’t want your interactions to be a brag fest. Remember, you’re trying to cultivate symbiotic relationships while interacting with your colleagues. Ask questions about the person you’re talking to. Find out what they do. Just don’t take someone hostage or you’ll make their blacklist for sure. Treat your conversations like you would a regular professional business connection event. Remember to have fun in the process. You’re at a Happy hour after all.
Act With a Purpose in Mind
Every action that you make during your next Happy Hour should be taken with a purpose in mind. What you wear is an important factor. You don’t want to strut into the restaurant or bar where everyone’s meeting, wearing a skimpy outfit like you’d wear on a night out with friends. At least not, if your true purpose is to make the night a networking hour. Act with purpose with regard to who you talk to.
Be friendly with everyone, but know who you really need to talk to. If you’re trying to get a promotion at work, consider cozying up to your manager—in a professional manner, of course. Make a decision to use a colleague as a networking buddy for your mingling purposes. However, it’s important you both have non-competing goals. You don’t want to get into a contest with your work buddy while trying to impress your manager. It’s important for your partnership to be edifying and building each other up in front of others.
Take your Happy Hour to the next level. Implement these four steps to make your time into a productive Networking Hour. Watch your alcohol consumption so that you can mix and mingle with a sound mind and don’t let your efforts get you into trouble because you are inebriated. It’s fine to drink, just be responsible if you want to network. Make sure that you behave in a professional manner. The last thing you want to do is get intoxicated and kicked out of the bar by the bouncer.
Be prepared to control the conversation and how you speak to those you mingle with. Words are valuable and can help you to make productive connections while you network. Acting with purpose is the final way to turn your post-work merriment into a professional stepping stone. Every action you take will have a reaction. Make sure you act purposefully and make each step count.
Have you ever tried to network with colleagues during Happy Hour? Did you have any success implementing the four steps discussed in this article?