You can view it as an awesome chance to party … a miserable chore to avoid … or a chance to make valuable connections you could never pull off in the workplace. The last option is the only right one – and you can pull it off if you avoid these eight behaviors.

Only hang out with people you know
“Sure, it feels good to settle in with your peeps, but that’s not going to help you make connections that can get you ahead in the coming year. After saying “hey” to your standard crew, strike out in search of people you don’t know that well.

Studiously avoid the bigwigs
You’ve never said a word to your top boss … or his/her boss. This is the perfect time to introduce yourself. Sub tip: If you’ve had a hard time getting on someone’s schedule, suggest ahead of time that you meet for a drink before the party, or just let them know you’ll look for them there. They’ll expect your approach — and you’ll make sure to find them.

Spend too much time with one person
When a conversation goes on too long, say warmly, “It’s been great to meet you! I’m going to refresh my drink.” If you’d like to keep in touch, say, “Could I contact you to set up a 15-minute call to talk about XYZ?” Don’t say this unless you actually plan to follow up. Enter a calendar reminder in your phone ASAP.

Think it’s all about having fun
Unless you want a starring role in Water Cooler Storytime on Monday, don’t relax and let loose, dance like a lunatic, sample every appetizer or see the event as one big singles bar. Focus on spending time with key people you can’t easily connect with at work because they’re in a different area or office.

Conduct business
Definitely not the place.

Eat too much
Sure, free food is a key office holiday party perk, but don’t be the memorable one who monopolizes the shrimp platter or builds a personal pyramid of profiteroles at the dessert table.

Drink too much
It’s worth avoiding at any party, but definitely one where your boss and colleagues are watching. At the least, you could be embarrassed. At the worst, you could be looking at injuries or charges of discrimination, harassment or other inappropriate/offensive conduct. Not career builders.

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