When working as a D.C. intern, I was introduced to a holy grail: work happy hours. When I was invited to my first happy hour as an intern, so many questions ran through my mind. Can I go if I’m under the drinking age? What should I wear? What if I don’t know anyone? Although they may seem overwhelming, attending these will benefit your career more than you can imagine. Here is your ultimate guide to work happy hours.

1) Keep It Professional

Don’t be fooled by the term “happy hour.” Although this term is cognitively used with drinking and having fun, it’s always best to act professional. Pace yourself by sticking to one drink and keep it in your hand for the night. This makes it more comfortable to approach others without going over-the-top.

2) If You’re Underage

It’s common for interns and young people to attend work happy hours. While they are usually open to people of all ages, check with the location to verify that you can attend if underage. Happy hours are still enjoyable even without drinks – it’s more about the social aspect. 

3) Networking

Happy hours are all about getting to know the people you work with. Chances are, you won’t know everyone at your organization. Instead of clinging onto the people who you do know, use these events as an opportunity for networking. You never know who you’ll meet and what opportunities will come from it.

4) What To Wear

I’m someone who is always stressing about what to wear. Most people who attend happy hours will be coming straight from work, so it’s safe to stick with your organization’s dress code. Business casual or professional is usually the way to go. You will be meeting new people and want to create a dignified image of yourself.

5) The Elevator Speech

The conversation will most likely start with the generic questions such as what you do at work. Always have a short but exciting elevator speech prepared for this. Allow your passion for your work show through your conversation. It’s also important to know who you’re speaking with and what they do in the workplace, so get to know them as well.

READ: 5 Ways To Rock Your Elevator Speech

6) What To Talk About

Do not be afraid to ask questions that are outside of the box as long as they are appropriate. Unique conversations will hold value and make you memorable. Allow the conversation to migrate away from work. Get to know someone for who they are, not just their position at work.

7) Keep the Conversation Short but Sweet

Find a happy medium between quality and quantity. Try to keep individual conversations to about 20 minutes. Stay long enough to get to know a person well, but do not over-burden them with a drawn out conversation. When the conversation starts to dwindle, thank them for their time and exit gracefully. Keep in mind that this is a networking opportunity for them as well and you don’t want to occupy the entire happy hour.

8) The Follow Up

Always follow up with people that you shared conversation with. The next day, send quick emails to those who gave you their business cards and let them know that you appreciated their time. If you want more time with an individual, ask them to get coffee or lunch. This will open up various opportunities for job growth and advice.

Don’t shy away from work socials. These are ample opportunities to grow your network and make a good impression of yourself. It’s easy to get intimidated as an intern or new employee, but don’t let this hold you back.  Get rid of this “intern mentality” and make the best of every conversation – you never know where it may lead.

Jennifer D.
Jennifer Duplessie is a senior at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in political communications incorporating her passion for writing and photography.

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