By Emilia Morano-Williams Grabbing an after-hours drink with your coworkers should mean swapping terrible PR pitches and analyzing that month’s newsstand covers. But you’re on the clock. And that can make conversation awkward.
Fortunately, having fun and acting professional requires little more than staying focused, interested, and smart.
Choose a beverage and stick with it.
It’s common lore that switching types of drinks leads to a killer hangover (and utterly embarrassing phone call with your boss the next morning). Choose a drink, sip it slowly, and remember that happy hour is an excuse to chat as well as drink.
Embrace the ice breaker.
No one switches effortlessly from blocking out coworkers with noise-canceling headphones to instant bonding. So whip out those facts about Italy’s newsstand culture. Ask if anyone is caught up on The New Yorker. Make it a game to discover what interests you share with your coworkers.
Never drink if you’re underage.
There is no alcoholic high great enough to justify getting your coworkers (or—gasp—your boss) in trouble for inadvertently letting you drink. Also, nothing screams intern cliché like getting shwaysted at the office happy hour. Grab your glass of sparkling water with lemon and smile. If you don’t want anyone to know your age, just shrug & say that you prefer not to drink.
Focus on the conversation.
From endlessly beeping phones to watching the clock, it’s easy to get distracted from chatting. But making intelligent comments and observations will help you stand out. The less you think about your escape, the less happy hour will feel like an office commitment.
Meet the other side of the office.
It’s tempting to stick with your team, but magazines are filled with interesting people in every department. Branch out of your comfort zone and find out what Ad Sales does or how the web division functions. You’ve probably entered into an email chain with someone on the other side of the office you’ve only briefly met. Take the opportunity to match a face to the name.