Martinis and Professionalism

The Career Couch at The New York Times has some advice for the corporate world that is applicable to the legal profession, especially paralegals, in an article by Eilene Zimmerman entitled, Are Three Martinis Three Too Many?.

Q. You are new to the corporate world and not sure what to do at business functions or after-hour gatherings where alcohol is present. If everyone else is drinking — including your boss — should you drink, too?
Chris Reed

 A. For those new to the professional world, the line between a work event and a social event is often unclear. You may see all the trappings of a party — food, music, even dancing — but any gathering where colleagues are present is business and you should stay sharp and avoid alcohol, said Jody Queen-Hubert, executive director of cooperative education and career services at Pace University in New York.

“Don’t be fooled,” she warned. “You are always being scrutinized by colleagues, so professionalism at all times is a must.”

Cy Wakeman, president of a human resources consulting firm bearing her name in Sioux City, Iowa, says that when it comes to drinking with colleagues, “the risk is very high that something negative will come out of it.” She says that it’s acceptable to have one or two drinks but that it is best to stop there.

“I even advise staying out of photographs with groups of people drinking,” she added, “because it could wind up online somewhere, like Facebook.”

Everyone you interact with while drinking has the potential to affect your career. A colleague today may be your manager six months from now and will likely recall any indecorous behavior.

If colleagues regularly have drinks after work, order what everyone else is having but sip it slowly. “Make it last all night,” Ms. Queen-Hubert said. “Holding a drink without drinking is a way to feel like part of the crowd without compromising your judgment.”

Personally, I am a big fan of martinis, but there is a time and place for them. Work-related social functions, especially lunch, are not the proper time or place for paralegals who want to maintain professional status.

Check out the Times story for more advice on this topic.

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