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Holiday Party Dos and Dont’s

Mixed group in business meeting

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we make ourselves look really good, or really bad, at the holiday office party.

Given the big impact of your image on career success, I wanted to share a few tips with you.

Holiday Party Dos and Don’ts

  1. Don’t stay home – So often, office holiday parties can cause stress and anxiety. This is normal and you’re probably not the only one feeling this way. But, what’s the worst thing that could really happen if you go? Not going typically has a far greater consequence as you’ll miss out on teambuilding time with coworkers, and facetime with your boss.
  2. Select your guest with care – If you’re going to bring a plus one, be sure it’s someone you trust. You don’t want your guest making a scene that you have to clean up later. And, even if the person is just a friend, realize that you will probably get questions afterward about whether or not you’re dating. It’s typically acceptable to go without a guest, so if you can’t find someone reliable, consider going solo.
  3. Dress appropriately – Just because it’s a holiday party doesn’t mean anyone should dress like they’re going to a nightclub. These are still the colleagues that you’ll be working with again the very next day. Stay away from clothes that are too tight, low cut, or short.
  4. Keep drinking in moderation – Many people find that when they drink, they cross boundaries they wouldn’t normally cross. Whether those boundaries are things they’d say or things they’d do, they aren’t good to cross – especially with colleagues. Keep drinking to 1 drink per hour, max.
  5. Don’t drink and drive – If you can’t drive home, don’t. There are just too many services like Uber and Lyft available to take you home when you can’t otherwise drive. Even a $100 cab ride is much, much cheaper than a DUI and a lost job.
  6. Do not get cozy with coworkers – The company holiday party is not the time to get physical with your colleagues. It’s probably never a good idea, but definitely not at the holiday party.
  7. Be conscious of what you order – Very often, holiday parties happen at a restaurant where you’re able to select your own meal and drinks. Although you want to order something you like, follow the lead of your host when deciding on what price point is appropriate. In all likelihood, it will not be appropriate to order the most expensive steak and the most expensive bottle of wine.
  8. Don’t gossip – Although it can be tempting, try to keep the office gossip to a minimum. Focus on what’s really important.
  9. Keep your manners in check – Office parties are the perfect time to be on your best behavior when it comes to table manners and party etiquette. It is rarely the time to let loose and forget all boundaries.
  10. Don’t take up swearing – Hands down, this is one of my personal pet peeves. The work holiday party is not the time to get liquored up and take up swearing for the first time. I recently witnessed this at a restaurant. A woman had too much to drink and was trying to hang with her male coworkers on many levels, including loud swearing. As a bystander witnessing the exchange, I wanted nothing more than to pull her aside and explain to her that her coworkers do not respect her anymore because of her behavior. They most likely respected her less. Be the same you that you are at work each day.
  11. Thank your hosts – Sometimes, holiday parties can be a drag. You have to find childcare and it feels like an obligation. But, keep in mind that your host went out of their way in planning this special event. Take the time to say thank you.
  12. Have fun – Perhaps the most important DO for a holiday office party is to have fun. Take the time to get to know your coworkers a little more. Get some facetime with your boss. Take advantage of this opportunity that comes just once a year.

Grit to Great

My latest Memphis Daily News column is out, “Grit to Great”

The Memphis Grizzlies have made “Grit and Grind” a common phrase heard today in basketball. The concept of grit, however, extends far beyond the court. In applies in business, life and many other areas.

Grit is defined as “mental toughness and courage.” I recently had the opportunity to interview Linda Kaplan Thaler, the chairman of advertising firm Publicis New York. She is responsible for some of America’s most famous advertising campaigns in the industry, including the Aflac duck, and the daring “Yes, Yes, Yes” campaign for Herbal Essences.

To read the rest of my column, and learn how these things can create success in your life, visit the Memphis Daily News website here.


Keeping your family at bay over the holidays

Whole Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey with All the Sides

The holidays can be stressful, even under the best circumstances. I recently received a question from a reader about the best way to navigate family over the holidays when the topic turns to your career.

There are a few different scenarios that may cause your relatives to ask questions during your next holiday gathering.

  1. You just got a new job
  2. You received a promotion at your current job
  3. You’ve left your job to start a business
  4. You’ve left your job to go to graduate school
  5. You were fired from your job
  6. Your company just had a massive layoff that impacted you and you are now unemployed
  7. Your company just had a massive layoff that did not cause you to lose your job, but has still impacted you indirectly
  8. Your company has been in the news for something negative
  9. Someone in your family needs a job and they’re hoping you’ll hire them

These situations all have the potential to be awkward for one reason or another.

For example, one family member may know more than others. You might not have shared with others because you don’t want them to know all the detail, or because you haven’t had time. Either way, it could cause those in the dark to be offended if the family member who knows brings the topic up.

Sometimes, family members try to ask you questions about your workplace that are considered confidential, or that you’d rather not share.

Other times, they may ask you things that are highly personal. One such question is, “Why were you fired from your job? What happened?”

Another is about a new job. It’s a little nuts to think about, but some family members will actually ask you how much money you’re making at your new job. Isn’t that just crazy?

There’s one thing that all of these examples have in common. They are full of people who aren’t respecting your boundaries.

It may not be on purpose, and may be with good intensions. But, these family members are crossing lines they shouldn’t be crossing. The question really becomes, how do you deal with them effectively?

At the end of the day, you want to handle things in the best way possible. Here are a few tips to help you to survive the holidays when your career is in flux.

  1. Limit your visit – If things seems like they’re going to be stressful, limit the amount of time you’ll be spending with family. Communicate your arrival and departure dates in advance, so there are no surprises.
  2. Consider staying in a hotel – It may sound strange, but one of the best ways you can manage holiday stress is by staying at a hotel when you travel. Although staying with family is less expensive financially, it can also increase your stress level when you can’t get away. Having a hotel to escape to can help to reduce stress and improve your sleep while traveling.
  3. Do your homework – If there’s certain information you don’t want everyone to know, but one relative does already know, consider calling that person ahead of time. It will give you a chance to communicate in advance and keep any accidental slips from happening.
  4. Try not to take things personally – Realize that there’s a good chance your relatives are asking you about your job because it’s the only thing they know about that’s going on in your life right now. They could be trying to make conversation, but don’t know what else to ask about.
  5. Set boundaries – Don’t be afraid to tell someone, “I’m really not comfortable to talk about that right now.” Or, “I’d love to talk about this with you – another time.” At the end of the day, your story is yours and yours alone. If you don’t feel comfortable answering questions, you don’t have to.
  6. Create a diversion – Quickly change the subject from your career to some other, more neutral topic. Travel, sports, and food are all safe bets.
  7. Keep your drinking to a minimum – This is always a good idea. But, really – how many times have you heard a story about crazy drama that starts with drinking? Pretty often, right? If you know you’re going to be in a potentially challenging situation, protect yourself by keeping your drinking in check.

Before I end this week’s newsletter, I’d like to revisit the idea of salary. Sometimes, relatives can really go too far. If someone were to ask you how much you make at your new job, you could consider something simple like, “I’m not comfortable to share that.” Or, you could be a little more subtle and say something like, “It’s such a great opportunity. I’m really happy how everything turned out.” Or, “They gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.” There’s really no right answer to this question. At the end of the day, if someone asks you how much you make, they have crossed a boundary. It’s absolutely acceptable not to answer, or to answer in any way that you’d like to.

Remember, your story is yours. You own it; you control it. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. And, chances are good that at least one relative is going to cross a boundary. You can’t change them, but you can certainly choose what to share. And, you can prepare yourself in advance.

Getting Ahead This Holiday Season

My latest Memphis Daily News column is out, “Getting Ahead This Holiday Season”

The holiday season is a fantastic time to reconnect with friends and loved ones. But, the importance of thanking those around you at work should not be overlooked at Thanksgiving or through the rest of the year.

When you’re searching for a new job, success is rarely achieved based on your merit alone. As we all know, applying online rarely gets you anywhere – no matter how smart you may be. Interviews are typically lined up through networking connections.

To read the rest of my column, and learn how to find your next job, visit the Memphis Daily News website here.


Are you really thankful this week?


Are you really thankful this week?

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your loved ones!

As I sat down to write today’s newsletter, I struggled a bit. On the week of Thanksgiving, the obvious topic is about being thankful.

So much of what we accomplish in our careers and in our life is tied to the generosity of others. And, taking the time to thank those people gives us a good feeling inside – and it ensures they want to be helpful to us again in the future. It strengthens our bonds.

This is a fact.

But, the flip side of this coin is feeling underappreciated.

In the past few weeks, I’ve randomly spoken with a number of people who are in a negative situation at their workplace.

It almost feels like a bad relationship. The kind where you wish your friend would break up with their partner, but they just keep going back, no matter how bad things get. It seems they’re always thinking that things will change and get better “if only…”

One of the most important things about at work is feeling appreciated. It can make even an awful workload seem okay. In fact, feeling underappreciated is the number one reason people leave.

We sometimes feel underappreciated because our boss never says thank you. Other times, it’s because we aren’t paid fairly and feel a financial strain at home. Or, we don’t have enough vacation days to visit our family often as we’d like.

To drive the point home, many people would be willing to take less money in salary if they felt more appreciated at work. It sounds crazy on the surface, but how much would you give up to feel a little more appreciated, happy, and purposeful every day? If you could have your dream job, I bet you would. Happiness is worth something to you.

In fact, employees who complain about money are more often than not actually feeling undervalued in some other way.

Don’t get me wrong. We should all be thankful for having a job. We should be thankful for the good things other people are doing for us.

But, sometimes you don’t feel truly thankful. If you genuinely feel taken advantage of, it’s time to listen to yourself.

Things may change. Anything it possible. But, the reality is, the likelihood of change in your current environment is small.

A great way to change how you’re feeling at work is to change where you work. But, when you do find a new job, be careful not to recreate the negative situation you have now.

And, this brings me to my next point. When you’re chasing after your big job offer, don’t make a decision just based on the money. Or the awesome vacation. Or even the distance from your home.

Those things are all important. But, what’s even more important is fit.

Fit’s a hard thing to measure. And, even harder to figure out in the few measly hours you spend interviewing with a company.

The first thing to keep in mind is that interviewing, much like dating, is a two way street. When is the last time you went on a first date and just wished that this stranger might be willing to marry you? I hope never! In the same way, it is as important that you like a company (and especially the hiring manager) as that they like you.

When you go on interviews, listen to yourself. Think about how you feel about the people you meet. Think about how the company treated you. Did they follow through on what they said they’d do? Did the offer look the way you were expecting it to?

Once you find the environment that’s right for you, you’ll no longer spend your days wishing for the “if only.” You’ll start to be truly thankful for those around you. You’ll want to give back and say thanks – on more than just Thanksgiving.

I hope you have a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving holiday! Take a little time to take care of you.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.