After putting in your hours at work with the colleague who eats pork rinds all day long and the boss who constantly hums off-key show tunes, the last thing you may want to do is spend your after-work hours with such people.
So when you’re given advice to sign up for the company’s community 5k run or Saturday morning at the local food bank, you may respond with something that cannot be printed here.
Relax. Attending such events is a not an international human rights violation, but rather a way to enhance your career.
How? If you’re seen as someone who is supportive of company efforts after hours, it can not only boost your standing with your boss, but with the boss’s boss. In today’s hyper-connected and politically correct world, there are some companies that won’t do business with those that are not demonstrating corporate responsibility. So when the head honchos see you putting in efforts to enhance the company’s community standing, that’s a big plus for you.
Also, your visible support of the employer makes the boss much more willing to invest her energies and resources in you. In other words, she sees you going above and beyond the call of duty by showing up at the event, so she is willing to do the same for your career.
In addition, it’s not every day that you are given a chance to rub elbows with company leaders, and such community events are likely to put bosses in a more benevolent frame of mind. What better time to chat with the CEO and cast yourself in a positive light?
Community events also offer you a chance to get to know co-workers better. You might just learn that the pork-rind fiend is really funny and is willing to use her experience to help you with a difficult project at work.
Still, just as with any career endeavor, it’s a good idea to do some preparation before attending a company-sponsored event.
For example, you don’t want to find yourself standing next to a top executive and have nothing much to say except hello. Instead, put an enthusiastic expression on your face and when the boss asks you how you’re doing, tell him or her how you’ve been working hard and have come up with a great new idea or are working on an exciting project. Don’t waste this opportunity to shine!
Some other ways to make the most of a company gathering:
- Don’t be too relaxed. While you don’t show up in your business khakis to paint a house for Habitat for Humanity, don’t go overboard and wear your beer pong t-shirt. Revealing clothing and super sloppy sweat pants can undermine the professional image you try to set the rest of the week.
- Be ready to mingle. The atmosphere is often more relaxed, so put a smile on your face and take some time to talk to other professionals outside of your department or company. “What brings you to this event?” you can ask. “Is this your first time?”
- Use social media. Show support of the event by posting photos of the event via Facebook or tweeting about the participants. Just make sure you don’t phrase anything in a snarky way or capture leaders in an unflattering photo that would make them uncomfortable if posted online.
- Get information to follow up. While you don’t want to thrust a business card in someone’s face at such a casual event, it’s a good idea to load phone numbers or emails in your smartphone so you can chat with the person later. Bonding over a community event is a great way to deepen connections and expand your network.
- Don’t be a putz. When you attend a company event, don’t complain about the food, whine about co-workers or gripe that you’d rather be playing golf. You should be seen as being supportive of the employer and the event.
Before you automatically dismiss the next sign-up sheet for a community event, consider how it might make you feel to participate. Not only will it be a great feeling to help others, but it can be a chance to put yourself in a positive light and find that your colleagues really aren’t such a bad bunch after all.