From November through January, just about every corporate office is likely to throw a celebratory holiday party in honor of a year’s worth of hard work and the joyous nature of the season.

These parties can be a lot of fun, a great opportunity to differentiate yourself to your co-workers, but also a potential obstacle course of etiquette.

For those individuals who are either new or returning to the workforce, particularly in the engineering or IT fields, making the wrong move at a holiday party can be a real nightmare. But you don’t need to let those worries ruin your fun. Here are the basics of what you should and should not do at this year’s holiday party.

What Not to Do

First of all, try to avoid talking about work at an office party. These events are meant to be a nice boost for employee morale, and often your co-workers just want to think about something else during a party. Show the office that there’s more to you than your day job. Keep shop talk to a minimum.

Next, no matter how casual the atmosphere may feel, avoid being critical of your job, your company, your co-workers, or your boss at a holiday party. For starters, you’ll bring the mood way down with your negativity, and besides that it’s highly likely that you’ll say something that you would regret being overheard (or shared) with a supervisor.

An obvious don’t is overindulgence. A drink or two can help you loosen up and enjoy the evening, but you’ll need to be an accurate judge of your limits and make sure you are still lucid enough to navigate a professional networking event. Also, never drink and drive.

What You Should Do

Do attend. Don’t let the pressure of an unstructured work event scare you away. Passing on the invitation can send the wrong message. Try to stay for at least 30 minutes and connect with your co-workers in a casual but still professional way. Remember that holiday parties are one of the ways companies share their appreciation for their staff. Making an appearance shows that you recognize the hard work everyone contributes and that you appreciate spending time with them. So enjoy.

Do dress to impress. Holiday parties are a great chance to break out of your normal work attire routine and share your personality through your fashion choices. But remember, this is still a professional event. Dress nicely, but feel free to get festive at the same time.

Wondering what you should talk about at a holiday party? Here’s a great place to start. Be extra gracious and complement your team members for their efforts and hard work over the past year. Think of real examples where you’ve interacted with them and applaud their accomplishments while others are around to appreciate them as well. Be careful not to come across as insincere, but a little schmoozing and good-natured congratulations will help you strengthen business relationships and build connections that can help you succeed in the new year and beyond.

For more resources on workplace behavior, job search tips or finding quality candidates, contact the staffing experts at ACS Professional Staffing Solutions today!