Career Advice

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What To Drink At An Office Cocktail Party

what to drink at an office cocktail party2018 Update: We still think this was an interesting discussion on what to drink at an office cocktail party — but you may also want to check out our latest (less judgy) discussion on what everyone is drinking in 2018

The question repeats itself often throughout the summer months: What’ll you have? What can I get you? The subject, of course, is alcohol. Whether you’re there for the summer or for the long haul, you still want to make a good impression at parties. If you’ve ever wondered what to drink at an office cocktail party, we’ve got you covered — behold, The Corporette Guide to Drinking.

Our 2-second tip: The best kind of drink is the one that is sipped infrequently. In other words, try not to get drunk until the after party.

Wine. This is always a safe choice. It may reflect a lack of imagination/decisiveness on your part, however.

Wine Spritzer. This says, “Dieter,” loud and clear. It can be helpful if you’re determined to make it to the after-after party, however, because you’re drinking a weak drink that’s already diluted.

Beer. Again, always a safe choice, although it may reflect a certain desire to “hang with the boys.” We don’t suggest getting this unless you’re actually at a bar and can choose bottle or draft.

Champagne. Party time! Excellent! There is a time and a place for champagne — black tie events, specific celebrations — but in general, champagne can get you drunk far too quickly and leaves the nastiest of hangovers. Also, at mass-catered affairs you’re unlikely to get good champagne, so why bother?

Colored drinks. Most colored drinks are, unfortunately, girly drinks. It also shows that you’re a bit high-maintenance (appletini? really?), especially if the party is at someone’s home or at a bar with limited options. Avoid at all costs. The one exception is the screwdriver: The vitamin C in orange juice is great for energy. If there is a special drink being offered for the party, however, trying it shows that you’re game and open to new suggestions.

Drinks mixed with tonic or club soda. These are great options, provided you’re talking more than drinking. The glasses (generally a lowball or highball glass) are safe, and communicate from afar that you’re not afraid to drink with the group, and that you’ve got a touch of class. Gin and tonic is a great summer drink, as well. If you’re on a diet go for vodka soda with a twist — tastes great and soda lacks the calories that tonic has.

Martini. Go classic here, or not at all. Vodka or gin, with an olive or a twist (or possibly an onion). Nothing colored pink, nothing flavored. Sip — do NOT drink. Only get it served “up” if you don’t tend to make a lot of gestures when speaking.

Whiskey/Bourbon. Like the martini, a classic drink, and like the gin & tonic, it generally comes in a safe glass. Only drink it if you’re familiar with it, though, and can drink it without wincing. This also tends to have a “drinking with the boys” feeling, but it says you’re up for drinking with the executives/partners, not for drinking with the guys on the baseball team.

Rum and Coke. Maybe this is a regional thing, but we say: drinking it is one thing — it’s a dark drink and no one can really tell what you’re drinking. But being overheard ordering it could be embarrassing. After all, isn’t that the choice of most 19-year-olds?

Shots. Unacceptable unless the person in charge starts it. Otherwise, save ’em for the afterparty.

Diet Coke. This drink says that you’re a party pooper and/or a dieter and/or a bad drunk. (Party foul, anyone?) Still, being suspected of being party foul is better than actually being party foul, so do what you need to do.

Current image via Stencil. Original image (2008) via Flickr: photo by DOS82.

For summer interns, summer associates, and at everyone employed at conservative offices like BigLaw, BigFour, and more, business cocktail party etiquette is a real concern. If you've ever wondered what your drink says about you -- and what to drink at an office cocktail party, we've got you covered.

Tuesday Poll: Are flip-flops ever acceptable?

Oh, come on, you knew it was coming: how can we have a blog about office-appropriate attire without addressing flip-flops? We’re going to have a multi-part quiz…

At left: FitFlops WalkStar Sandals – Silver – Womens (from Amazon)



Weekend Round-Up

Case of the Monday's Mousepad
– The WSJ explores the benefits of a feminine leadership style. [WSJ]

– Advice for those just starting out (or, uh, those who never paid much attention when they started out) regarding healthcare, taxes, and more non-fun adult-type stuff. [NYT]

– Tricky: Philip Galanes advises a boss not to tell an assistant to get a pedicure, even if the female assistant is in need of some serious fashion/grooming help. [Social Q’s – NYT]

– White shoe law firms: no longer conservative in the political sense. [The Volokh Conspiracy] If you’re curious about the political leanings of people in your office, go to Fundrace — it tracks any donations made over $200 in a searchable database.

– Neat: Note that SmartMoney has divided their site into “Life Stages,” including Single, Engaged/Just Married, Families with Young Children (age 0-10) and more. [SmartMoney]

– Miss Manners opines on who can — and can’t — wear white to a wedding. [wOw]

– Wheat pizzas from a box: some are good, some not so much. [WSJ]

Photo above: Case of the Monday’s Mousepad

What To Wear To: Summer Cocktail Parties

what to wear to summer cocktail parties2018 Update: If you’re looking for advice for what to wear to summer cocktail parties, you may want to check out our more recent discussion on what to wear to a business cocktail party — as well as all of our advice for summer work events and summer associate events. (You, uh, may want to avoid some of the advice/dresses below.) 

This is another new feature: “What to Wear To…” — we plan to tackle attire for office events that are outside the office.

It’s the summer. Your office is flush with interns, either from law school or MBA school. In order to impress, the company holds numerous summer events, including <dun dun dunnnh> the cocktail party. Maybe at a restaurant, maybe at a partner or executive’s house/mansion. The question looms: What do you wear?

Honestly, the answer here is usually “a suit.” You simply don’t want to run the risk of looking like someone’s date. Still, there are times when a cocktail dress is appropriate — and when that happens you should strive to be as conservative and as ladylike as possible. In general, this means your dress should not be:

  • shiny
  • satin (it wrinkles anyway)
  • strapless
  • low-cut
  • mini-skirted
  • relying on a safety-pin in any regard
  • appropriate for any of the following activities: being a contestant in a pageant, sleeping, or being a dominatrix [Read more…]

In-Company Networking Events for Women

The WSJ has a story today about how the law firm Weil, Gotshal, & Manges recently had a women’s networking event at Henri Bendel’s, giving everyone $25 gift cards to get them started. Bendel’s agreed to give 10% of the profits to a charity, and Weil agreed to match those profits. (We knew we shouldn’t have cancelled that callback we got from Weil, darnit.) (Photo by pixxiestails, courtesy of Flickr.)

Jillian Bunyan, who had just arrived in New York from “rural Maryland” to intern at Weil, said the evening offered her a chance to interact with women she considered too high-up to approach in the office. “Being here sort of levels the playing field,” she said. While the big bosses at work seemed out of reach, at Bendel’s “you can talk to anybody about designer sunglasses.”

. . .

Two lawyers, Erin Law and Virginia Munoz who were hunting for a watch, agreed that men had the advantage of being able to bond more easily than women. “They can just do it whenever,” Ms. Munoz said. Women, she said, needed a reason to talk to each other. To her, male bonding seems effortless: “Oh you like sandwiches? Me too!”

We’ve already done one poll today, but we’re curious for comments — do you feel that firms should have special networking events for women? Beyond dinners or catered parties, what sort of events has your firm done that you’ve liked and haven’t liked? What sort of events would you like? Have organizers tried to do specialized events (e.g., shopping or spa parties) and been rejected by male managers? Do you feel like there needs to be something to “level the playing field,” as the above quote (from what sounds like a summer associate) suggests — either lots of liquor or two women grabbing the same cashmere sweater?

We have mixed feelings on this stuff. On the one hand, these women-only events feels a bit like those pink computers and Blackberries marketed towards women — false in some important way. But the shopping event sounds like fun bonding — much more fun than trying to balance a weak cocktail with a tiny plate of appetizers.

At Weil, Shopping & Networking Go Hand in Hand [WSJ]

UPDATE: Boo — unless we’re mistaken our comments aren’t working. Double boo. If you like please e-mail us with any comments ([email protected]) and we’ll post ’em when we get ’em up and running as updates to this post. (We promise we will NOT post your e-mail address or name.) Otherwise we’ll let you know when we fix the problem.

UPDATE 2: We’re back in business! Please comment away.

Tuesday Poll: When to Tell a Colleague Her Outfit is Inappropriate

can-you-tell-a-colleague-her-outfit-is-inappropriateLet’s set the scene for you: You enter the break room. One of your colleagues stands there, minding her own business and getting coffee. You notice that she’s wearing a khaki linen skirt that is a bit too short — when she bends over to put the milk back in the fridge you can see everything. When she stands up again you realize that the skirt is see-through, to boot. Your internal debate begins: should you tell her?

Photo at left by DCvision2006, courtesy of Flickr.

We’ve all had that unfortunate outfit mishap where a newly-purchased item of clothing doesn’t quite work out the way you want it to — it’s too low cut, it’s popping open, the skirt is shorter than you thought, etc. Some of these things, you know about — but other times, it takes a good friend to tell you. Would you want someone to tell you? How do you act when someone else’s outfit is inappropriate? (Note that for today’s poll, you’re allowed to choose more than one answer.)


Our tip: Young lawyers are often told to keep a conservative suit in their office, in case there’s a last-minute court appearance. This is not bad advice for all women working in conservative offices — keep a safe outfit (one that you know fits) at the office. It’ll save you when your outfit is accidentally inappropriate, as well as when you spill salad dressing.

Related (kinda): How to Tell Someone They Smell Bad At Work [SpeakStrong]