Q. What’s appropriate behavior at work socials?

A. You want to have fun and meet new people at a work socials. But remember, it’s still work even though the atmosphere might be relaxed and informal. It can be an opportunity for improving your image and your career future, or it can be a disaster that sidelines your internship. Here are a few tips for capitalizing on a super opportunity:

  1. Dress appropriately. You might have some funky outfits that you wear when you socialize with your friends, but they may not be right for a work function. Be careful about plunging necklines or short skirts as well as tacky t-shirt slogans. If in doubt, dress conservatively.
  2. If you aren’t 21, don’t drink alcohol. If you are old enough to legally drink alcohol, limit your intake. Or, better yet, don’t drink any alcohol just to be sure that you don’t slip up and say what you really think about one of your co-workers or the food in the company cafeteria.
  3. Monitor your food intake. Don’t park yourself beside the buffet table and eat up all the best food. And don’t stuff any goodies in your pocket or purse to take home for a snack. No doggie bags, please.
  4. Be proactive. Introduce yourself to people and start conversations. You may want to talk about the event, summer vacations, the weather, or other topics rather than work. But don’t participate in any gossip. And do mingle with lots of different people rather than chat with only one person.
  5. Act friendly but not familiar. Keep a comfortable amount of personal space between you and the person with whom you’re talking. Touching is not appropriate, even if it’s a work social. And no flirting.
  6. Watch the clock. It’s fine to be one of the first people at the social event; it shows that you’re looking forward to engaging with employees. And don’t be the first one to leave because it looks like you’re not having a good time. But be sure not to be the last one to leave either because the people who are closing up are clock-watching.
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