Life Skills: Need To Know Titbits That Could Save Your Career – Home and Away Frequently we are confronted with everyday situations where we feel unprepared. How much do you tip a taxi cab driver? How should you pose to look best in a photograph? How do you pack a suitcase? Over the next months, I am going to present some how-to advice to help you develop these important life skills. In this first instalment, I would like to share some insights on how to conduct yourself to your best advantage in the round of End-of-Year parties that are about to begin. All sorts of dramas are played out in the ladies room and as the End-of-Year season approaches; I remember one. It was way past midnight, in the fancy restroom of a fancy New York hotel. Inside I came upon a young woman, alone and crying. Hours earlier, I'm sure she was impeccable, but now she slumped, dejected, dishevelled, despondent-- and sober (or at least sobering). Who can ignore the tears of another woman, even a stranger, in the ladies room? I gently asked her what was wrong. She blurted, "I dirty danced with a partner." That didn't seem too bad, but as she continued her story; I realised that she meant Partner with a capital P. Turns out she was a young associate at a law firm, and in a moment at the end-of-party she attended earlier in the evening, she grabbed a Partner and took him for a dirty-dance spin. Now she was worried about what people thought of her. All that studying, those LSAT scores, the interviewing, and the hard work... all those weekends of overtime... all put in jeopardy for one dance. Every year at end-of-year parties, some woman somewhere is doing her career harm. Sure, men make fools of themselves, too, but women need to exercise even more caution when out celebrating the season. No, it's not fair, but it's reality. People do and say all sorts of inappropriate things at company parties-like the woman who brought a date to her manager's End-of-Year party at his home. The guy proceeded to do his business in the bosses bedroom. Or, the woman who got drunk and had to be helped home by co-workers; or the woman who wore a very low-cut blouse and very short skirt to her office party... the list goes on and on. So how can you be sure you're not the person who gets talked about after the next office party? I would say that the "The first thing you need to do, is to remember that your behaviour always matters. Just because you are out of the office doesn't means that your behaviour doesn't count." Please view the End-of-Year party as you would any other company event, like a business meeting. It is not the time to let it all hang out (be it on your chest or between your legs!) SOME GUIDELINES FOR THE END-OF-YEAR ‘Dos’ Make sure you attend. Attendance at the company party isn't optional. If you are in Ghana it is a Sine Qua Non. You simply cannot say No. Your absence will be noticed, and most likely, noted by your boss and other higher ups. Make a point to be there on time. "While working in Ghana, A young woman asked me if she should go to the CEO's party. She didn't think she could fit in and did not want to give up a Saturday night out with her friends. I had a simple answer: Go!" Prepare conversation ahead of time. Don't just talk business. Be up-to-date on current events and happenings in your company. Sieve the gossip, especially the Big man’s latest achievements. Read the newspaper, news magazines, company newsletters, and industry magazines. Don't drink too much. Of all places, the party scene seems to be the easiest for people to lose control. We have all heard horror stories about employees who danced wildly or made inappropriate remarks. Usually, there's a lot of liquor involved. Stay sober! Set a limit for yourself before you go to the party. It is much easier to limit your intake that way. Watch your body language. Even if the party is dull, it's bad manners to let others see how bored you are. Pay attention to your body language. Don't frown, slouch, cross your arms or yawn. You also need to stay for an appropriate amount of time. Mingle. Talk to people you know and to people you don't know. This is an opportunity to meet new people. Don't just stay with your group. Go up to people, say hello, introduce yourself, and shake hands. Dress appropriately. It may be a party, but it is still business. I would say, "Nothing too short, too low, or too anything." Years later, you don't want people still talking about the revealing dress you wore to a party. Prepare your spouse. If you're attending a party with your spouse or significant other, prepare that person in advance on appropriate dress and topics of conversation. Remember your partner's behaviour will reflect on you. If you do not have a significant other, check with organisers if it is appropriate for you to bring a friend. And if your spouse is supposed to attend, make sure he or she does. Don't forget that your behaviour always matters. Have a good time but don't make major personal revelations or gossip. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because this is a party, you can address the Company President by his or her first name. Say thank-you. Be sure to send a thank-you note to the party's organiser. So few people will do this that your good manners will make you a star. In the next instalment, I will give some pointers on how to dress comfortably and appropriately in what's now called "business casual." Send your suggestions for future topics to [email protected] and don't be afraid to let me know of your experiences, good or bad. Remember, what you share could save someone else's career-and learning from each other is a big part of what this is all about.