Brand You: staying professional in party season

December 16th 2016 / Alice Olins

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This is the time of year when your choice of Secret Santa, your social media presence and your dance floor moves might not quite chime with your work persona. The Step Up Club's Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins have a ten point plan for partying like a true professional

It is only a week until Christmas, which means we have officially entered festive limbo at work. The daily grind keeps grinding, but most of us have last minute present buying and mulled wine on the mind. Christmas is a jolly time to be at work, and as two women who nod enthusiastically in the direction of every festive invite we’re all for enjoying the warm fuzzies currently flying around. But as we said at the start, work does tick on in the background, so here’s our 10 Point Step Up guide to getting through pre-Christmas week with a bang, some balance and the right Secret Santa gift.

1. DON’T BE A NO-SHOW

OK, you’re tired. The nights have closed in and you still have presents to buy for your mother-in-law, the nursery teacher, your pet dog and the postman. You also have to bake a cake for the school Christmas party and your fingernails haven’t seen a slick of nail varnish since August. There is much to be done in the run-up to the Big Day, but don’t let all of these excuses stop you from attending your work Christmas party or the team lunch, drink with an old colleague, or any other festivity that could involve mince pies. When you get yourself at the table, even just figuratively, it sends a strong, "I love my job, I’m committed to the firm" message. This is a good thing. Even if you don’t like your job, and are poised to speak to headhunters come January. Parties are also a great backdrop for team bonding, and as if that wasn’t enough, out of office events, mean you can hob nob in all the right directions and extend that precious network.

2. LESS IS MORE

Drink: it’s a joy to most of (wo)mankind that December is a free-for-all on the champagne front. But (BIG BUT) if you know you get floozy after one, keep a check on your alcohol intake. It sounds obvious, but the combination of free drinks, holiday cheer, peer pressure and a deep-rooted obligation to network (you’ve clearly read our book!) can cause even the best-laid plans to falter. Have a hard limit - ours is a pre-dinner cocktail and a glass with the meal. Everyone knows that too many drinks mean your inhibitions lower and your capacity to say the wrong thing (or gossip about the office hottie) go through the roof. Have fun, but don’t be the one who gets put in a taxi for their own safety before everyone else has had their main course.

3. LOOK THE PART

As with everything that goes with work Christmas parties, be spirited but act with caution. If, on the morning of your bash, you find yourself pulling out your skimpiest, sparkliest mini micro number, remember, New Year’s Eve is just a few weeks away. Definitely amp things up if you feel that way inclined – a slick of our favourite, Smashbox Fireball matt lipstick is the ultimate party date whatever the occasion or go big on earrings and some party shoes. Best to pass on anything too revealing though, if you err on the side of caution, not cleavage everything will be fine.

4. SECRET SANTA: GO AS LUX AS YOUR BUDGET ALLOWS

Yup, we both pulled our respective, non-Step Up seniors this year. No joke. Alice has just £5 to impress her Red editor, while things are a bit more generous at Phanella’s career coaching business – she’s got £20 to get the job done. Whatever your budget, and whoever you are buying for, we say steer clear of smutty humour and go as luxurious as your budget allows. We’ve plumped for wild flower seeds and a SpaceNK gift box respectively.

5. AVOID DANCE FLOOR DRAMA

If your work party involved a dance floor, be cautious. As one of us knows all too well, dirty dancing with the big boss is NOT a good idea. Learn from us: it isn’t fun being the butt of everyone’s joke in the cold light of morning. Ditto smooching with a colleague, no matter how attractive they might be.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY

A photograph of yourself sprawled out on the nightclub toilet floor, is not an attractive image. Even less on the next morning when you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. All we’re saying is be careful when you’ve had a drink, are feeling festive and have your Smartphone in your hand. And don’t even go near the video setting.

7. NETWORK WISELY

The festive season might be the only time you get direct access to the head honchos – so use your opportunities wisely. We say, have a loose plan of who you are going to talk to before you even arrive. Psych yourself up a bit on the way there and then make a beeline when the time is right. Make your own hit list and stick to it, you’ll thank yourself come January.

8. BE YOU

In our book, we often talk about self-promotion in terms of building Brand You. You are your own brand, so market yourself well at your Christmas do. Be authentic, engaging and make your conversations memorable for all the right reasons. Christmas parties are a good time to blend a bit of your personal story into the brand, so share parts of you – that gap year in India – that your colleagues may not already know. What we’re saying is give your brand some colour and a non-work spin.

9. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP

If you meet someone new and interesting at a Christmas party this season, remember to send her or him a thoughtful message early in the New Year. This can be as little as a quick LinkedIn one-liner or an Instagram DM – just make sure you cement that new connection. When you are strategic and diligent about following up your Christmas party chats, you’re likely to open the door to a whole new set of opportunities come 2017.

10. DON'T DO DUVET DAYS

Don’t be the person who calls in sick the day after the big Christmas party. It’s the oldest trick in the book and no one will respect you, especially when they’ve hauled themselves in even on just a few precious hours’ sleep. Work is work at the end of the day, so do things right. Your Christmas break awaits; so slog out those last few days and come back refreshed and ready for action again in January. Happy Christmas everyone!

Step Up – Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day (£12.99) by Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins

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