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An Introvert's Guide to Work Parties - 3 Tried and Tested Techniques

Introverts almost universally dread work parties. They’re loud, there are bound to be lots of new people to meet, and you’re socially required to bring your chit-chat a-game. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you don’t like people, quite the contrary. It means that social situations drain your energy levels and you would prefer to recharge alone at home. After a long week at work, many introverts dread the idea of heading back into the office specifically for the purpose of socializing.

However, it’s a well know fact that attending social events for work can have a direct correlation with career opportunities (Here’s an article on Why You Should Attend Your Office Holiday Party). The key thing to remember is that work parties, even if they aren’t technically mandatory, are still business functions. If you treat them the same way you would treat a meeting, your outlook on them is likely to change.

Here are 3 tried and tested techniques for making work parties more bearable:

1 – Do your research
Before the day of the actual event, do a little research. Find out who is going to be there and what the evenings activities are likely to be. Is anyone going whom you are comfortable having a full conversation with? Are any of those people extroverts? If you are on good terms with an extrovert, (tactfully) attaching yourself to that person can help you navigate introductions and break the ice with unfamiliar co-workers. Never attach yourself to someone else who will be inclined to hide. Together, you are likely to miss out on the career benefits of the party and would have done just as well to have stayed home.

Making rounds of the event space is an easy way to avoid looking like a wall-flower. If you have a short-list of people to engage with, make a point of walking around to find them. Knowing the different activities taking place will also help you stay on your feet and moving around. Spend a little time at the food table, by the registration desk, listening to the music, or whatever other activity is provided.

2 – Find yourself a task
One of the best ways to make the most of a work party, and to avoid awkwardly standing alone to the side, is to volunteer for the event. This can be done ahead of time or day of. If you go to the event with a specific task, you will always know your place and have an instant conversation starter. Signing in attendees, making sure the appetizer station is always stocked, or greeting people at the front door are great ways to meet people in an easy way.

By volunteering for your office party, you are also likely to meet useful and interesting people. Typically, these people are from a variety of areas around the company and are the ones who organize… well, everything. Once you’ve become familiar with this standard group of people, all work parties are likely to be less overwhelming since you will already be well acquainted with a number of attendees.

3 – Give yourself permission to leave early
It might seem like staying for the entire work party is required. Unlike personal parties, like weddings or birthday celebrations, you aren’t “required” to stay the whole time. After an hour or two, you will have done the rounds, eaten some food, and generally made your presence known. At this point, it’s ok to let yourself go home to de-stress. Many work parties have devolved into drunken revelries by this point in the night and aren’t worth staying for anyway. In fact, it’s decidedly better to not be associated with any disreputable antics. If you’re going to drink at the event, limit yourself to one or two glasses total. Order a water with lemon after that, just for something to hold. This will help to ward off attempts to get you intoxicated.

The purpose of these events is to form relationships and comradery between different members of staff. (Here are some more tips for introverts in the office.) If you don’t show up, you could be leaving valuable opportunities to network on the table. The key isn’t to be the funniest, the most interesting, or the life of the party. What you need to do is show up with a plan, mingle, and when there’s nothing more to be gained from the evening, go home. This will help even the shyest introvert develop their reputation as a “team player” and show that they don’t dread the idea of spending time with their team. Work parties might be draining physically and emotionally, but if done right, can have enormous potential for your later career.