Is your boss hosting an office cookout to celebrate the beginning of summer with your entire team? Or perhaps you and your colleagues decide the beginning of the summer is the perfect time to get together for some social time before people leave for their vacations.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to recognize the potential of the event for your career. Because while an office cookout isn’t meant as any kind of test of your social skills, how you behave at the event can have a considerable impact on how your colleagues and supervisor perceive you—and by extension, on your career.
It’s both business and social
At first glance, an office cookout, barbecue, or picnic might appear to be nothing more than an opportunity to spend some time with your team in an informal setting. Yet as business etiquette expert Arden Clise points out in her article “Seven tips to navigate the company picnic,” you need to strike a balance between having fun and maintaining your professional brand. Why? Because this type of business-social event offers the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills and business etiquette.
Group events are the perfect setting to exercise your soft skills. Socialize with the other guests, including your coworkers’ plus ones. Show your interest by asking questions and listening to what they have to say. If the host has planned any games or activities, participate willingly, but don’t get too competitive. And remember: not everyone is a social butterfly. If you see someone who seems excluded from the group or who’s too shy to join in, make an effort to invite him or her into the activities.
When it comes to business etiquette, it’s mostly common sense combined with a dash of old-fashioned courtesy. Make sure you’re appropriately dressed. If in doubt, ask what the dress code is ahead of time. Bring a gift for your host and his or her partner—flowers are always a safe choice. Be polite, helpful, and patient. Avoid eating or drinking too much. If possible, stay a bit longer so you can help clean up. And don’t forget to thank your host(s) when you leave.
If you keep these points in mind, you can enjoy yourself with your colleagues while simultaneously being memorable for all the right reasons!
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