It's that time of year. Time for glorious summer soirees. Is your boss or a VP hosting a party? If so, chances are you may be gathering around a pool or other outdoor space where casual is the vibe and having fun is the primary objective. As a young professional you likely know all about party etiquette. The RSVP, bringing a bottle of wine, or other host gift and the follow-up thank you. But beyond that, here are Your Office Mom’s suggestions to make sure you stand out at this little work shindig for all the right reasons.
1. Call it whatever, it’s still work
You’re invited. Maybe everyone is. It doesn’t matter. You want to make a good impression, and you want the boss’ significant other to like you. Really like you, because let’s face, they are significant. The first thing to remember, whether it’s what you wear, how much you drink or who your plus one is, it’s still work. Granted a pool party or a BBQ with friends is a hell of a lot more fun, this party is an entirely different dynamic. You may meet clients, business associates, your boss’ friends and who knows who the neighbors might be. It's possible you'll even make a few important career connections. You want to have the right mindset going in and bring your A game.
2. Prepare to socialize
How much do you know about the boss’ interests outside of work? If the answer is not much, take a little time to figure it out. Does he/she have a partner or children? What are his/her interests in terms of recreation, fun, and travel? Don’t be a stalker but check social media to find out. Granted, hosts are busy, so their time is in short supply. But, if given an opportunity to talk with your boss, the significant other or their friends you want to seize that opportunity. It's better than going in cold or just talking about what you do at work. Boring! You want to let your conversational skills sparkle and shine.
3. Pack the suit
Just because it’s a pool party doesn’t mean you should show up wearing a swimsuit and a sarong (think cringe worthy Hannah Horvath moments). Or, worse yet, daisy dukes with a tight tank and a pair of high heels that look like you should be standing next to a pole. And, ladies, no shaming going on here. You can wear whatever you want to a party, but this is a work party. Guys, don't show up in a wrinkled t-shirt and your suit wearing a pair of flip flops. You’ll feel completely out of place when everyone else is completely dressed. Chances are they will be. A lot of parties may be near water or on the water, but no one gets in the water. That’s not always the case, but just in case, pack the suit or integrate it into your fashionable outfit.
Ladies, a sundress with a pair of cute sandals (flat or otherwise) guarantees you are ready for anything. Pack your suit (not a teeny bikini) with a little handbag and a cover-up in a tote and voila you’re set. You'll likely stow the tote, grab the bag and never look back. Guys, the same logic applies. Being a tad overdressed is better than looking like you’re going to a frat party to play flip cup. A nice pair of shorts or casual pants and button down is perfect. Or, a swimsuit that can do double duty just in case.
Some party invitations explicitly state there will be a poolside volleyball game. I remember one such party on a hot summer afternoon. No one remembers the water volleyball game, but they sure remember who was wearing that bikini top, or I should say who wasn’t wearing it when it came loose. So, if you plan to play volleyball, wear a one piece, a halter top, or cover up with a tank. And, guys make sure you’re not commando when you aggressively go up for that spike. We don’t want to see your goods. Enough said.
4. No sheer, plunging anything
At a recent poolside summer soiree hosted by a VP, a young woman made quite the entrance in a white linen jumpsuit. What could be more appropriate than a white linen jumpsuit, right? How about some undergarments! Everyone’s reaction was OMG, she is naked! Why? The light bounced off the fabric in unexpected ways creating quite an uproar. The VP’s wife was none too pleased and the YP was beyond mortified. The wife knew about this attractive, rising young star in the office and rumor has it she was already suspicious hubs had an Ashley Madison account. So goal number one is to impress and be fondly remembered by everyone. You can bet the boss never mentioned ‘sheer jumpsuit’ at home again. And if the wife did, it was when he came home late one night, right before a door slammed. So check the sheer, cleavage factor and if you plan to get that new, conservative one piece white or pastel swimsuit wet in public, do a wet test on that too.
Guys, no tank tops. Hairy arm pits are disgusting (and we know you can do better). Wear a lightweight woven cotton shirt to stay cool and look amazing in the process. But, no tank tops. No ifs, ands or buts! Speaking of butts, no one wants to see your butt crack. Ever. If you're a gym rat, we get it. We don't need your extra tight shirt to define your muscle groups for us. Go up a size. And, please don't walk around shirtless all day. Maybe do a victory lap to grab a cold beer, but beyond that, you need to cover up too.
5. Your plus one
Make sure your plus one is up for it. Will he or she dress the part and behave appropriately? Is he or she the clingy, jealous type? Do they say stupid sh*t? If these questions make you pause, go solo or go with a co-worker or trusted friend. Think perception. You never want your behavior or that of your guest to create a spectacle or embarrass you or your boss. Bad behavior at a party is unlikely to get you fired, but it never scores you any points. You don't want anything to slow you down or to be the chatter in the office on Monday.
Bottom line: Remember it's a work party. There's sure to be good food and cocktails, and it's interesting to get a glimpse into how the boss lives. Besides, as a young professional you need to learn how to enjoy these soirees. There's plenty more in your promising career, and you may be hosting them before you know it.
Do you have suggestions for navigating these parties? Please share your comments! And, check out 8 Etiquette Tips That Will Make You Seem More Classy. It's a good read with some good tips!
Photo by Amy Russell Well Cultivated